Oct 25, 2008
CHAPEL HILL — Hillside went to Chapel Hill and forced the Tigers to play the Hornets’ style of game Friday night.
The Tigers were up to the challenge but fell just a bit short as Hillside claimed a 34-31 victory. The teams are now in a three way tie with Southern Durham for first place in the PAC 6 standings.
Hornets quarterback Corey Gattis had a great night, turning in several big plays and completing 11 of 17 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 78 yards and a score on 10 carries.
Desmond Scott, the other half of the Hornets dynamic duo, did his part too. Scott collected 120 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving.
In a game that had just one turnover — a fumbled snap on a fourth down play — both teams displayed their talent and tenacity.
From the outset, Hillside (7-1, 4-1) mixed the r un and pass well. The Hornets kept the Chapel Hill defense off balance and used their speed whenever possible. The Hornets spread the Tigers out and made them chase from sideline to sideline, using plenty of screen plays and swing passes. And when the opportunity presented itself, they threw the football down the field.
Hillside coach Ray Harrison knew his team needed to take advantage of their speed.
“We knew once we get them going sideline to sideline, they’re not very deep”, he said. “We wanted to tire them out, which we did.”
The Hornets' defense bottled up Chapel Hill running back Steven Moore, holding him to negative yardage in the first half. After grabbing a big lead, the Tigers were forced to throw much more than they normally do. Quarterback John Haus nearly led his team back.
Chapel Hill opened the scoring late in the first quarter. The Tigers (6-3, 4-1) capitalized on a short field and Haus found wide receiver Drew Stoltz for a 27-yard touchdown pass. He broke out of the pocket to his right on what appeared to be a broken play. Stoltz caught the ball at about the three-yard line and clipped the end zone pylon for a 6-0 lead. The point after by Justin Kircher made it 7-0.
Hillside countered quickly with a 90-yard drive that took just 2:15, and it was capped off with a beautiful 43-yard pass from Gattis to Shaun Mallory, who was wide open inside the 10-yard line.
Gattis said the Hornets knew they could beat Chapel Hill’s secondary, especially early in the contest.
“We found a weakness in their defense and we attacked it," Gattis said.
When the defense forced a three-and-out, the Hornets offense went 52 yards in 2:16, with Scott finding the end zone on a 23-yard screen pass. Hillside led 14-7 at halftime.
On Hillside's first possession of the third quarter, Gattis showed off his big play ability as he took an innocent looking handoff through the line of scrimmage and broke into the secondary, blazing his way down the right sideline for a 51-yard score.
Reeling from surrendering 21 unanswered points, the Tigers responded with sustained drive and cut the lead to 21-10 on a 37-yard field goal by Kircher.
The Hornets then delivered what appeared to be the knockout blow. Senior defensive back Chris Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. The point after was no good, but Hillside had a 27-10 cushion with 6:03 left in the third quarter.
With that, Haus took to the air and began to rally his team. He completed four of seven attempts on the next drive, using three different receivers including Kyle Duffy, who took an 11-yard pass to the end zone to make it 27-17.
The Tigers momentum nearly dissipated when they committed a roughing the kicker penalty on a Hornets punt, but they recovered and forced a change of possession. As the third quarter drew to a close, the Tigers made another attempt to establish the ground game with Moore and this time it paid off. Aided by two 15-yard penalties, Moore carried the ball eight times for 39 yards and scored from a yard out to tighten the battle at 27-24.
Hillside burned some clock but couldn’t score and had to punt the ball back to the Tigers with six minutes to play. The Tigers couldn’t gain a first down and had to punt the ball away, hoping their defense could give them one more shot late.
It didn’t happen.
Gattis and Scott made sure of it, as they were the only two Hornets to touch the ball on a 58-yard drive that ended with Scott diving into the end zone on third and goal from the 2-yard line. The touchdown gave them a 34-24 lead.
Chapel Hill refused to give in and scored with under a minute left on a three-yard run by Moore, but a desperation onside kick was covered by Hillside with just seconds remaining and the Hornets ran out the clock.
Scott credited the opposition with playing until the final horn.
“We knew this game wasn’t over," he said. “We knew they were going to come out and play hard. Not only for themselves, this was their senior night, and for Atlas.”
Of major concern in the game for Chapel Hill was the number of penalties being flagged. The Tigers committed a flurry of them in the second half, including unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls.
“Those personal fouls…that put us in the hole," said Chapel Hill coach Isaac Marsh. "You take away a couple of those … we’re in a better predicament out on that field. We gave up three big plays and we haven’t done that since the Smithfield game. We have to go back to the drawing board and do the things that work for us.”
In addition to being a battle for first place, the game was also an emotional one for Chapel Hill, their fans, and even some members of the Hillside squad. Atlas Fraley was remembered on senior night. Fraley was Gattis’ cousin and Gattis made a point to visit with Fraley’s family during the halftime ceremony where a framed No. 90 jersey was presented to them.
“I knew I had to do it for my cousin," Gattis said. "He wouldn’t want me moping around here not doing anything. He was always proud of me playing football. It was hard with him not here.”
At the conclusion of the game both teams circled around the No. 90 painted on the mid-field stripe as they and the crowd at Culton-Peerman Stadium observed a moment of silence.
Looking ahead to the final weeks, Harrison was upbeat.
“Now we just want to win out the rest of our games and into the playoffs with some momentum," he said. "We stumbled against Southern … but I think we got our mojo back.”
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