Southern junior Jordan Brown scored the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of last year’s 3-AA state championship game.
On Friday he scored another winning touchdown in the final minute, and the stakes may have been just as high.
Brown’s 8-yard touchdown catch with 25 seconds left gave Southern a 16-13 win over 4-A Hillside at N.C. Central University’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, breaking the Hornets’ four-year winning streak in the city’s biggest rivalry.
“Winning the state championship is huge,” Southern coach Darius Robinson said. “But unfortunately in order for you to get the respect in our state, in our city, in our region, we have to win a game like this. So it’s on the level of a state championship because that’s a great team over there.”
The Southern-Hillside rivalry always seems to come down to the final possession — the last seven meetings have been decided by a total of 31 points — and Friday’s meeting was no exception.
A 1-yard quarterback keeper from Nas Forte-Ferguson put Hillside ahead 13-9 with 3:02 remaining, but Southern responded with a 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to record the win. Wake Forest-bound quarterback Kendall Hinton (22 of 36, 241 yards) hit West Virginia-bound William Cameron for a 24-yard gain on third-and-10 from midfield with 1:04 left, and an 18-yard completion to Kaleb Barfield got them to the 8.
On third-and-goal, Hinton threw to Brown in the flat, and the junior broke three tackles on his way to the end zone.
“We’ve always been below these guys and finally we get the feeling to be on top,” Brown said. “It feels great.”
Hillside returned the ensuing kickoff to its 39, and after Southern was penalized for having 12 men on the field, the Hornets had one more play from the Spartans’ 42. Marcus Krah caught a swing pass and made it to the 9 but he was brought down as time expired.
“We prepared ourselves for situations like this,” Robinson said. “What we did all in the offseason — you have to do one more rep in the weight room, you have to run one more sprint, you’ve got to mentally think and prepare yourself for situations like this.”
Southern opened the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown scramble by Hinton with 2:27 left in the first quarter. Leonardo Orozco never got a chance to kick the extra point because the holder couldn’t come down with the snap, but Orozco was able to make a 34-yard field goal in the final second of the half to give the Spartans a 9-0 lead.
It was the third straight scoreless half for Hillside, which lost its opener 12-0 to New Bern, and continued a shutout streak for Southern, which won its first game 41-0 over Capitol Christian Academy (Md.).
Hillside finally broke both streaks midway through the third quarter. After a 17-yard punt set the Hornets up at the Southern 47, Jamal Currie-Elliot ran for 43 yards and then scored from four yards out to make it 9-7.
The Hornets had the chance to take the lead later in the quarter when Markus Cruthfield returned a fumble 49 yards to the Spartans’ 21. But one play later, Jeremy Griffis intercepted an overthrown pass in the end zone to keep Southern ahead.
Hillside had another great chance to go ahead in the fourth quarter when a fumbled snap on Southern’s attempted punt gave it the ball at the 11. This time, a Hornets run up the middle was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the 2.
“It’s a game of adversity, and those that respond are the ones that are going to be victorious,” Robinson said.
Hillside finally broke through on its next possession. DaeShawn Stephens came down with a jump ball for a 46-yard gain to the 1, and Forte-Ferguson punched it in.
But that just set up more heroics from Brown, who caught an 80-yard pass with 57 seconds left and Southern down 31-30 in last year’s title game.
“We had a bunch of mistakes, so we went six quarters scoreless, and we finally broke through that, but we just need to finish,” Hillside coach Antonio King said. “We had the game, we had them in a third-down situation, we just didn’t finish.”
SOUTHERN 16, HILLSIDE 13
Southern |6 |3 |0 |7 — 16
Hillside |0 |0 |7 |6 — 13
S — Kendall Hinton 19 run (kick failed), 2:27
S — Leonardo Orozco 34 field goal, :00.3
H — Jamal Currie-Elliot 4 run (Amir Jones kick), 5:49
H — Nas Forte-Ferguson 1 run (pass failed), 3:02
S — Jordan Brown 8 pass from Hinton (Orozco kick), :25
RUSHING — Hillside, RiQuaz Brannon 15-44, Jamal Currie-Elliot 13-89, Riquan McCall 2-3, Nas Forte-Ferguson 3-(minus 11), Marcus Krah 1-4. Southern, Jordan Brown 9-7, Kendall Hinton 16-36, Aaron Hirsch 1-12, William Cameron 5-22.
PASSING — Hillside, Nas Forte-Ferguson 8-16-1 134. Southern, Kendall Hinton 22-36-0 241.
RECEIVING — Hillside, DaeShawn Stephens 4-81, Brannon 2-(minus 4), Miles Kelly 1-24, Krah 1-33. Southern, Jeremy Griffis 1-15, Brown 7-55, Jason Henderson 3-50, Cameron 5-74, Hirsch 2-24, Kaleb Barfield 2-25.
Records — Hillside 0-2, Southern 2-0.