By Cliff Mehrtens
CORNELIUS – It was a perfect confluence that allowed Josh Stilley to set Hough High passing records Friday night.
Good protection. A bevy of sure-handed receivers. A strong, accurate arm.
The results were gaudy for Hough, which crushed rival Hopewell 42-13 in the MECKA 4A conference opener for both teams. Stilley passed for a career-high 294 yards and six touchdowns, including three to wideout Caleb Hines.
Hough improved to 5-0. Hopewell slipped to 1-4, but seemed eager to make things interesting when it took a 6-0 lead on Dominique Heath’s one-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter.
That’s when Stilley and Hough’s passing game took over. The touchdowns came quickly and often were huge gainers.
“The long ball was opening up nice tonight,” said Stilley, a senior whose been a starter since he was a freshman. “Caleb Hines was able to run past them and I just put it out there. Carl Tucker had some good pick body plays. It was just good execution by the offense.”
Stilley’s first scoring pass was a 64-yarder to Hines over the middle. The second was a 68-yarder to Carl Tucker on the second play of the second quarter. The third scoring pass was Stilley’s perfectly lofted 29-yarder to running back Tylan Murrell, who’d slipped behind a defender into the end zone.
The crusher for Hopewell came late in the first half when Hough safety Akeem Barringer made a diving interception at the Hough 48. One play later, Swilley connected on a 46-yard touchdown pass to Hines for a 28-6 lead.
Hough capitalized on three first-half turnovers. Brandon Cassarino recovered a fumble, and Anthony Sherrill and Barringer each had an interception.
Corey Bell’s 28-yard punt return set up Stilley’s fifth touchdown pass, an 18-yarder to Corey Sutton early in the third quarter. Stilley capped his record game with 35-yard connection with Hines 20 seconds into the fourth quarter.