Wide receiver Trevion Thompson primps as the Hillside Hornets football team of Durham, North Carolina, heads to an early season away game at Nash Central High School. Heading into the 2013 season, the Hornets bring a history of dominating the North Carolina PAC-6 conference, with 23 straight conference wins. Thompson, a senior and nationally top-rated college recruit, has been one of the driving forces behind the team's winning record.
Junior My'Kal Taylor warms up on the field at a late afternoon practice. As the days grow shorter, the team continues to train hard to keep up their winning streak and keep focused on the ultimate goal of a state championship.
Coach Quinn Barnham gives direction to tight end Malik Evans before heading onto the field. Barnham, like more than half of the current coaching staff at Hillside, is an alum of the school. After going on to play for both Penn State and the Detroit Lyons, Barnham recently transitioned to coaching. "There's something special about Hillside," he says. "I love connecting with the players and showing them that it's possible to go to the next level, regardless of where you come from."
Junior safety Jalon Bethea surveys the field as the Hornets head into their homecoming match against Jordan High School. The game is the first of the team's official 2013 conference season.
Trevion Thompson runs the ball for a touch-down. Thompson, a nationally-ranked senior, began playing football at age 9, moving from quarterback to wide receiver during his time at Hillside. "It's great to be part of a winning program. I love having the opportunity to get out there and compete every day," says Thompson.
Senior KJ Covington greets a friend outside the stadium after Hornets' blow-out victory over Jordan High School during the school's homecoming celebrations. As the oldest historically black high school in the state, Hillside has a rich homecoming tradition that brings together many local alums.
Meshach Webb spots Zeke Simmons during the team's bi-weekly weight room sessions. Football is a year-round activity for many players, and weight training will continue even after the end of the regular season.
The Hillside squad prepares for the first round of play-offs with a locker room dance party before heading onto the field for warm-ups. Coach Linquan Jones, a 2007 Hillside alum, says, "This is family. Once you're here, you're here. Guys will keep coming back for the love of the game."
Sophomore Dontae Edwards listens to Coach Antonio King critique last week's game during a Monday afternoon film study session. Edwards, a starting tight end on the squad, is one of the few underclassmen to make this year's varsity team.
Wide receiver Ray Green (center) and players from Hillside's offensive line take a serious tone at the team strategy meeting before heading to Knightdale for the second round of state playoffs. The match marks the first playoff game where the Hornets are outranked by their opponent.
The Hillside Hornets take the field for their playoff game against Knightdale. The Hornets won their first, and only, state championship in 2010, and have been undefeated in their conference for the past several years, racking up 28 straight conference wins. But as head coach Antonio King says, "You always want more for the kids, you want them to experience that state game."
Ahead by four points at the halftime break, Hillside prepares for a tough second half. Because Knightdale is ranked higher, the game happens on their field, leaving Hillside with no home locker room to retreat to.
Sophomore tight end Dontae Edwards takes a quick break on the bench in the final quarter of the game. With Hillside leading by just 5 points at 10-15, the game is still far from over.
Coach Kerry Bacon takes a quiet moment with quarterback Nas Forte-Ferguson. Hillside's lost against Knightdale, 16-15, ended their season and crushed any dreams of a state championship. Head Coach Antonio King addressed the tearful team, "It hurts like hell. It's supposed to, if you're here for the right reasons. I love each and every last one of you."