Three rushing touchdowns from Dominique Graves and another solid performance from the Wildcats defense were key in Eastern Guilford’s 31-12 rout of Durham Hillside in the first round of the NCHSAA 3-AA playoffs on Friday night at Tommy Grayson Field.
The Wildcats established the run game and jumped out to an early lead, scoring on their opening drive. Dominique Graves made one pass attempt on the 10-play drive that began on the Hillside 26 yard line. With little more than four minutes burned off the clock, the Wildcats were on the board 7-0 after Graves trotted across the goal line from one yard out.
Hillside responded, however.
The Hornets embarked on a 17-play drive that burned all but 26 seconds from the first quarter. An Eastern Guilford personal foul penalty moved the Hornets from mid-field into the red zone, and the Hornets used 5’10 230-pound back Tyhijar Green to bowl over the Wildcats defensive line and score. Eastern blocked the PAT attempt, and remained in the lead 7-6 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
The Wildcats were forced to punt for the only time in the first half to begin the second quarter.
Eastern’s defense forced Hillside to go three-and-out after the punt, and the Hornets set up in punt formation. Hillside punter Myles Dillon received the snap and completely missed the ball, fumbling on the play. Dillon recovered the fumble, but the play resulted in a turnover on downs giving the Wildcats first-and-ten from Hillside’s two yard line.
Eastern needed just three plays to score their second touchdown of the night. Once again, Graves ran the ball, this time from four yards out for the score.
The Wildcats led 14-6 after the Graves touchdown and were looking for breathing room.
A 31-yard completion from Graves to Nic Cheely to begin the Wildcats next drive put the team inside Hillside territory, where the run game of Christian McMullen led the Wildcats into the end zone. His final run of the drive from six yards put Eastern ahead 21-6.
The Wildcats defense came up big on Hillside’s final two possessions of the first half and kept the Hornets off the board.
The fact that both teams combined attempted only one pass in the third quarter was indicative of the success of the run game.
Hillside received the opening kickoff of the third quarter and embarked on a 12-play drive that resulted in their second touchdown of the night. The Hornets’ star quarterback, Randy Trice, Jr., broke through the goal line with 5:26 to play in the third to make the score 21-16.
After 10 plays of their own, the Wildcats’ attempt at a 26-yard field goal was successful, increasing their lead to 24-12.
Eastern added a fourth quarter touchdown by Dominique Graves and the Wildcats’ defense held strong as Cheely intercepted Trice Jr. to seal the Eastern Guilford win.
Dominique Graves took advantage of his big offensive linemen and the success on the ground to get the win.
“We felt like we could take advantage of running the ball,” Graves said. “It was wet all week and we didn’t get to practice throwing much, so running was our game-plan coming in.”
Graves credited the defense with helping contain the Hillside threat.
“I always feel confident in our defense,” he said. “After I threw an interception before the half, there were 26 seconds left, and they held their own and got a stop to keep the score 21-6.”
Eastern head coach Doug Robertson credited the run game and his defense after the victory.
“We felt like we had to run the football to win this game,” Robertson said. “Our offensive line, running backs, and quarterback really did a nice job of that tonight.
“Later in the halves our speed on defense really started to wear them down. We started getting to the quarterback and hitting (Green) in the legs and bringing him down instead of up high where he was getting yards against us early.”
Eastern Guilford will play D.H. Conely in the second round on Friday night, and Robertson believes that he will develop a game-plan that will be effective.
“We’re glad to get out of this game with a win. That’s what the playoffs are about,” he said. “Regardless of who our next opponent is, Northern or D.H. Conely, we will put the film in and figure out what we need to do to attack those guys.”
The Wildcats advance to (10-2) overall and will host D.H. Conely, who beat Northern Guilford by a score of 59-10 in the first round, Friday night in Gibsonville at Tommy Grayson Field in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-AA playoffs.
(EG) Dominique Graves 1 run (Collin Smith kick)
(Hi) Tyhijar Green 3 run (kick failed)
(EG) Graves 4 run (Smith kick)
(EG) Christian McMullen 6 run (Smith kick)
(Hi) Randy Trice, Jr. 1 run (pass failed)
(EG) Field Goal Smith 26
(EG) Graves 4 run (Smith kick)
Dominique Graves: (2-6) 32yds, INT; 19 car, 75yds, 3TD
Christian McMullen: 15 car 97yds, TD
Nic Cheely: 2 rec 32yds; INT on DEF