Nash Central’s defense held off a powerful Durham Hillside offense for the better part of two quarters.
The Bulldogs stayed close as the heavy underdogs, but before too long, the reality of playing with an offensive line filled with nothing but freshmen and sophomores took its toll.
Nash Central’s offense was held to a standstill while Hillside possessed the ball for the majority of the game, and eventually, the Bulldogs’ defense wore down in Hillside’s 40-0 victory Friday at Nash Central High School.
“That has been the tale of our whole nonconference schedule,” Nash Central coach Kevin Crudup said. “... Even against these guys, it should have been 13-0 at half. It’s young kids and our numbers.”
Nash Central (0-6) forced the Hornets into three turnovers on downs in the first half, but with plenty of chances, Hillside (3-2) outpaced the opposing offense.
Hillside quarterback Nas Forte-Ferguson threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Trevion Thompson on the Hornets’ first drive, then hit DeAndre Harper with a 32-yard score less than a minute into the second quarter.
The Bulldogs mostly kept the Hornets from hitting deep passes, however, and had the game at a manageable 13-0 with two minutes remaining in the first half.
“We focused on the long ball because we knew they had a bunch of deep runners,” Nash Central running back/cornerback Khalil Macklin said. “They had big backs that can catch the ball, too. That’s what we were on.”
The Nash Central offense was pinned inside its 15-yard line near the end of the half, and when it couldn’t move the ball, Hillside started on the Bulldogs’ 34-yard line. The Hornets scored in three plays against the exhausted Nash Central defense to make the score 20-0 at halftime.
“It’s just a fatigue issue that comes in at the end of the game,” Crudup said. “There’s not too much we can do about it but keep grinding.”
An interception return for a touchdown on the Bulldogs’ first play of the third quarter all but ended any hopes of a comeback.
Nash Central was without senior center Hollis Harris, the leader on the offensive line, due to a concussion.
Crudup and Macklin both gave credit to the young line, but it was overmatched against a team that was ranked in the 4-A top 10 earlier this season.
“We’re coming along, but we have a lot of work to do,” Macklin said. “(Hillside) is just a great team. Can’t do nothing about it.”
The Bulldogs obtained five first downs – two came by way of penalties – and were outgained, 373-130.
Nash Central’s challenging out-of-conference schedule now is finished, leaving the team with a bye before the conference opener Oct. 11 at Rocky Mount High.