They said it could not be done. A Greenville County high school winning the "Big 16" AAAA State Championship was considered impossible given the comparable assets opposing "Big 16" schools have over those schools in the Greenville school district. Head Coach Greg Porter and the Hillcrest coaching staff and program proved them all wrong by running the gauntlet on the way to the State Division I-AAAA State Championship. Not only did Hillcrest perform this feat with less resources, they did it with no "Star" players and they did it by defeating Dutch Fork, a vaunted two-time defending champion, by a 47-17 margin. This was a game in which Dutch Fork was the run-away favorite to win the game.
The Rams were not even thought to have a chance. Even at the "Champions Weekend" press conference held last Monday in Columbia, all the attention and questions were directed at Dutch Fork Coach Tommy Knotts and his players. So much so that Coach Porter had to stop the questioning and plead to the reporters present to ask a few questions of his players. It's an amazing story and the Greenville News' Bob Castello captures Coach Porter's reflection in his December 9, Greenville News article. Click HERE to read this article.
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COLUMBIA – Hillcrest wasn't about to let a 10-0 deficit get in the way. These Rams had come too far.
These were not the Rams of the past. These were the Rams of the past two years, the Rams who expected more of themselves.
So when Collin Sneed threw a pick six to give Dutch Fork a 10-0 lead, well, that just wasn't good enough.
"It was upsetting, because I knew we could play better than that," Sneed said. "So I just needed to come to the sidelines, talk to our coaches, get level-headed and start playing football like we usually do, and that's what you saw. We came out there, our defense stopped them the next three quarters, our offense got on a roll and we couldn't be stopped."
And Hillcrest (14-1), which had won exactly two playoff games in its first 56 seasons, won its first state championship in its 57th. The Rams routed defending champion Dutch Fork 47-17 Saturday night in the Class AAAA Division state final at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"I've been wanting this all my life, ever since rec league," senior defensive back Marco Westfield said. "I played with everybody growing up. I'm happy, man. I'm speechless."
"Unbelievable, unbelievable," said Hillcrest coach Greg Porter. "Words can't even express how big this is, not only for our program and our community, but for Greenville County football.
"We live in a county where football is not really pushed that hard in so many ways, and tonight we were able to overcome a lot of stereotypes and myths to say that we can win a state championship, but you're going to have to work."
The Rams had to work from behind, and Sneed's 79-yard touchdown pass to Brian Spurgeon on the first play of the second quarter provided a good start.
"They were playing man, and they really weren't respecting me, so we went deep and me and Collin made a play," Spurgeon said.
The point-after kick was blocked, and it was 10-6.
Stephen Davis scored on a 45-yard run to give Dutch Fork a 17-6 lead. That was the last scoring play for the Silver Foxes (12-3).
J.D. Ballenger bolted 67 yards for a touchdown, and even though Sneed's two-point conversion pass failed, the Rams were within 17-12.
Then, on Dutch Fork's next possession, Westfield picked off a pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown, and the Rams had the lead for good.
"I couldn't believe it," Westfield said. "When it dropped in my hands, I just saw a touchdown. I had to go. I knew I was going to score."
That was the last play of the game for Silver Foxes quarterback Tate Fant, who had been injured earlier but had returned. Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said he assumed Fant had suffered a concussion.
"We just floundered around with two backup quarterbacks," Knotts said. "We could never run the ball, which is our forte."
"I hate to use the analogy of animal smelling blood, but I think we started attacking a little more, because we knew they became one-dimensional," said Porter.
Meanwhile, the Hillcrest offense excelled, scoring in the third quarter on Sneed's 23-yard pass to Grant Lawtor, Spurgeon's 45-yard punt return and Ballenger's 3-yard run. Thomas Sullivan added a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"The wheels came off and it kept getting worse," Knotts said. "The guys didn't really take them seriously till it was too late. I told you they were a great football team."
"Ever since January of last year, we've been working toward this goal of getting here," said Sneed. "We've been talking about playing in Willie B on Dec. 6, so it feels unreal."
They didn't just play in Willie B. That wouldn't have been good enough. They became champions here.
Riverside's Cate Ambrose was chosen by the Coaches Association for Women's Sports (CAWS) in South Carolina as the Cross Country Runner-of-the-Year for 2014. This is an exceptional honor for Cate and adds to her recent first place finish as individual champion in the Girls SC State Cross Country Championships. Cate will be honored on February 1st in Columbia.
The Hillcrest Rams stunned number one seed Ft. Dorchester 20-0 in the State Division I-AAAA semi-final game. The game was surprisingly one-sided as the Ram defense held the vaunted Patriots of Ft. Dorchester to just 90 yards of total offense. Hillcrest, on the other hand, piled up 360 plus yards of offense to score its three touchdowns. This is in light of the fact that the Rams fumbled the ball two times inside of the Patriot 10-yard line. This is the first time in school history that Hillcrest will play for a football state championship. It is also only the sixth time a Greenville County school has reached the championship game in over fifty years. Hillcrest will now play the Dutch Fork Silver Foxes at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, 6 December. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 PM. Click HERE to read Greenville News' Scott Keeler's write-up of the game.
Riverside Girls 2014 AAAA State Cross Country Champions
Riverside Boys Cross Country 2014 AAAA State Champions
Riverside Boys & Girls Cross Country 2014 State AAAA Champions
Cate Ambrose 4A Individual Cross Country Champion 2014 with Coach Eric Cummings-4A Boys & Girls Coach of the Year
The Eastside girls and boys cross country teams both came in second place at the SC State Cross Country Championships in Columbia. Their nemesis was powerhouse Hilton Head HS in both races. Click HERE to see all results of the SC State Cross Country Championships
On Saturday at the USC Natatorium, the Riverside girls and boys team composed a monumental twin-sweep of the State AAAA swim championships. Coach Eddie Hughes has built a swimming dynasty at Riverside coaching the boys and girls team. He has guided these teams to fifteen total state championships since swimming began as a competitive sport in the late 1990's. The girls team--in winning its tenth championship--outpaced Ft. Mill 419 to 351.5 and the boys team--in winning its fifth championship--did likewise with an impressive 363 to 260 margin over Ft. Mill. Click HERE to see the article with pictures in the Greenville News' Bob Castello's report.
Hillcrest has never in its school history played in a semifinal football game. On Friday night, the Rams mangled the Lexington Wildcats with a 52-14 romp vaulting them into the State Div.I, AAAA semifinal. They will travel to Fort Dorchester HS next Friday night. Click HERE to read the Greenville News article by Scott Keeler.
Bill Utsey, Director of Athletics
301 E. Camperdown Way
Greenville, South Carolina 29601
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