DURHAM — Purnell Swett has been on the losing end of many close games this year.
The trend continued Friday night in arguably the most exciting — and most improbable — finish of the first round of the NCHSAA Playoffs, as Swett fell to Durham Hillside, 38-32, in overtime.
The Rams squandered an 18-6 first-half lead.
In the game’s closing moments, Swett and host Hillside were tied at 26-26 with 25 seconds left when Hillside threw an interception that was picked off by Juwan Jones and returned 25 yards for a go-ahead touchdown to put the Rams up 32-26 with 19.2 seconds left.
Somehow that was still enough time for Hillside to respond.
The Hornets used a good kick return and an ensuing first down to set up a game-tying hail mary touchdown pass in the waning seconds, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra session, the Rams missed a field goal and the Hornets followed with a 25-yard touchdown run by Khris Fransis to claim the overtime victory.
Swett’s loss makes the heralded Southeastern Conference 0-5 on the night.
Lumberton’s season ends to Cary
CARY — Lumberton couldn’t get its offense going in a 27-7 loss to Cary in first-round action of the 4AA state playoffs Friday night.
The Pirates (7-4), who finished the season on a four-game losing skid, fell in a 13-0 hole to the Imps at halftime and never recovered.
Lumberton’s lone touchdown of the night came on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Montrae Strother to senior wideout Dorian Davis early in the fourth quarter.
Until Friday, the Pirates had not lost in the first round of the state playoffs since 2007.
BY MARK DONOVAN
DURHAM — Reigning state 4-A champion Hillside is known for its thoroughbreds, and against Purnell Swett on Friday, they proved to be “mudders” and miracle workers as well.
The Hornets capped a wild final 25 seconds of football with a 41-yard game-tying touchdown pass from Collyn Anderson to Trevion Thompson as time expired, weathered a barely missed 36-yard field goal attempt in overtime and won it 38-32 on Khris Francis’ 10-yard run on the next play.
Hillside (10-1) trailed 18-6 at halftime on the slippery field, then stormed back with three straight scores to take a 26-18 lead on Francis’ third TD of the night, a 14-yard run with 10:04 to play in the fourth quarter.
Swett (5-6) wasn’t done. The Rams pulled even on a 3-yard run and two-point conversion run by Travon Clark with 4:02 to play and weren’t done.
The visitors appeared poised to put it away, driving to the Hillside 28 with a first down and 28 seconds to play. But Swett quarterback Chase Armstrong’s pass was intercepted by Hillside’s Aaron Krah at the 12.
As the home crowd settled into thoughts of overtime, Hillside coach Antonio King took a riverboat gambler’s tack. Instead of killing the clock 88 yards from paydirt, Anderson swung a pass out to the right flat.
Two-way star Juwan Jones jumped in front of the Hillside receiver and picked off the pass, scoring his second TD of the game without being touched on the pick-six with 21.3 seconds left.
A conversion run failed, but the shellshocked home crowd saw Swett apparently seal the upset with a 32-26 lead.
The Rams were forced to kick off from their 25 because of a celebration penalty, and Hillside got it back at its own 46 with 16.3 seconds left.
Francis ran left for 13 yards to the Swett 41, and the clock stopped with time for one last play.
Anderson dropped back, had time and found a streaking Thompson on the fly in the back right corner of the end zone.
Tied. Shock. Awe.
King gathered his troops to come up with an extra-point strategy to win the game after a celebration penalty moved the point-after mark to the 18. The long pass failed, and it was on to OT.
Swett went first, getting four downs from the Hillside 10. Armstrong fired an incomplete pass through the end zone, then another out of bounds at the 5. On third down, Armstrong was sacked by bullrushing Hillside defensive lineman Dwight Campbell for an 8-yard loss to the 18.
Swett turned to kicker Nakota Locklear, whose only previous attempt on the night was a point-after try that was wide right and, apparently, short.
Locklear was bettter on the 36-yard field goal try, but it hit the lower left corner, bouncing off both the crossbar and the left post.
Then it was Francis’ turn. The junior star picked his way right and into the end zone on first down to end it 38-32.
The final 10 yards gave Francis 177 on 35 carries and brought him to 1,954 on the season.
Hillside 38, Purnell Swett 32
H—Khris Francis 12-yard run (pass failed), 11:07
PS—Juwan Jones 12-yard pass from Chase Armstrong (kick failed), 10:25
PS—Armstrong 1-yard run (run failed), 0:44
PS—Armstrong 1-yard run (run failed), 7:09
H—Francis 3-yard run (run failed), 8:19
H—Dontae Williams 37-yard run (run failed), 3:45
H—Francis 14-yard run (Anderson pass to Trevion Thompson), 10:04
PS—Travon Clark 3-yard run (Clark run), 4:02
PS—Juwan Jones 17-yard interception return (run failed), 0:21
H—Thompson 41-yard pass from Anderson (pass failed), 0:00
H—Francis 10-yard run (no PAT attempt)
RUSHING—Hillside, Khris Francis 35-177, Julian Belton 2-1, Collyn Anderson 3-(minus 15), Dontae Williams 5-56. Purnell Swett, Dillon Hunt 14-46, Juwan Jones 4-18, Travon Clark 9-42, Chase Armstrong 9-12.
PASSING—Hillside, Anderson 21-112-1. Purnell Swett, Armstrong 24-179-1.
RECEIVING—Hillside, Francis 1-(minus 1), Trevion Thompson 3-62, Kelvin Wright 1-6, Joshua McNeil 2-40, Javien Knight 1-5. Purnell Swett, Dillon Hunt 2-13, Juwan Jones 4-96, Thomas Hunt 2-31, Tyrell McDonald 3-29.