By Emmanuel Morgan
CORNELIUS - Hough High’s football team beat conference rival Vance 24-14 on Nov. 8. The win improved Hough’s overall record to 10-1 and caused Vance to fall to 6-5. Hough’s record in the MECKA 4A conference moved to 5-1, and Vance’s conference record fell to 3-4.
“I’m excited for the kids — first 10-win season for the football program — and I am excited for my players,” Hough coach Bobby Collins said.
Neither team could assert its dominance in the first half. Things began to change near halftime.
Vance launched a drive from its 45- yard line after a Hough punt, and methodically drove as Hough’s defense had no answer. On the eighth play of the drive, Kydrian Green punched the ball in for a three-yard touchdown with one minute, 58 seconds remaining in the half.
On the next possession Hough quarterback Josh Stilley connected on a pass to Caleb Hines for 29 yards on the first play of the drive, placing Hough near midfield.
After two 10-yard rushes by Mark Fields and a screen pass from Stilley to Tylan Murrell gave the Huskies excellent field position, and field goal unit was called onto the field. Vance’s defense made an inexcusable mistake by jumping offsides on the field goal attempt, giving Hough a first-and-goal. The Husky offense capitalized when Stilley threw an eight-yard touchdown to Will McIntyre, tying the game 7-7 with nine seconds left.
Early in the third quarter, Vance’s defense was penalized for face-masking and a brawl ensued.
Coaches desperately pulled their players away from the scene and the referee’s yellow flags filled the frostbitten air. Hough soon after took a 10-7 lead on Tim Gawert’s field goal.
Hough caught a break on its next possession. Stilley threw an interception to Vance’s Elijah Westbrook, but what would have been a 59-yard return for a touchdown was called back by a clipping penalty.
Vance’s offense settled and ran the ball effectively behind Oquan Bratton, Barry Gray, and Kydrian Green. The Cougars drove to the Hough 1-yard line, but missed a short field goal with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Vance’s Davon Spencer scored on a short rush with 3:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, which gave the Cougars a 14-10 lead.
It was do-or-die time for Hough, which hasn’t lost at home this season.
Murrell scored a touchdown on a 47-yard run with 2:29 remaining. Teammates and the student section leaped for joy as their running back made the biggest play of his season. Hough led 17-14.
Hough’s defense stiffened and caused a turnover on downs with 1:57 left. The demoralized Vance defense could only watch as Murrell scored on a 10-yard rushing play, enlarging the gap to 24-14.
“We had our opportunity to win the game, but the kids didn’t give up, and we remained in the ball game when no one expected us to,” Vance coach Keith Wilkes said.