DOVER — Perhaps the greatest sign that fourth-year Strawberry Crest has indeed arrived could be found Friday night in how Hillsborough exited.
On an evening rife with self-destruction and spitting rainfall, the Terriers (3-0, 1-0) left the Chargers’ field with neither a rout nor romp. They neither humiliated nor annihilated.
To the contrary, they survived.
On a night when the sky’s steady drizzle wouldn’t go away, neither would the upstart Chargers (2-2, 0-1), who made it a one-possession game early in the fourth but could get no closer in a 32-24 defeat.
“The first thing is, let me praise Strawberry Crest. Those guys played hard for four quarters like we knew they would,” said Terriers coach Earl Garcia, who observed one of the more unsightly contests (nine total turnovers, 171 penalty yards) of his four-decade career.
“We self-destructed, we’ve got to get a lot better. We can’t give up 18 points against anybody and Strawberry Crest played so darned hard, they’ve got to be commended.”
Subtract their special teams gaffes — no converted PATs, a Terriers safety on a snap that sailed out of Crest’s end zone, a foiled fake punt — and the Chargers might have been in position for the upset of 2012.
As it stands, they’ll have to settle for the fact their West Coast-type passing attack initially gave the Terriers fits. Though stymied a bit when Hillsborough went exclusively to a nickel coverage, sophomore quarterback Tristan Hyde (19-for-34, 163 yards, four TDs) shined at first.
After Nigel Harris’ 40-yard touchdown run on the game’s fifth play, and the ensuing two-point conversion, gave Hillsborough an 8-0 lead, Hyde directed a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 5-yard pass to Karel Hamilton.
A fumble on Hillsborough’s ensuing possession set up a 7-yard Hyde-to-Hamilton TD, giving Crest an early 12-8 lead. Harris went off from there, scoring on a 48-yard run, then a 4-yard TD following a Crest fumble, to give Hillsborough a 24-12 lead after one period.
Harris had 112 yards and three TDs on six carries after 12 minutes. He finished with 145.
“It was just great blocking by the O-linemen, hitting the hole, and basically just wanting to get something done,” Harris said.
The Terriers eventually increased their lead to 30-12, and took a 32-18 lead on the safety to open the fourth quarter. But Hyde, who was picked three times and sacked at least three times by University of Florida commitment Jordan Sherit, wasn’t quite finished.
After Cedric Bellard’s interception near midfield, Hyde drove the Chargers 60 yards in five plays, hitting brother Josh twice (for 35 yards) before connecting with Alex Carswell for a 10-yard TD with 8:10 to go.
Crest could get no closer. It was whistled for an illegal forward pass on a fake punt on its final possession, and Hillsborough’s run game — which amassed 285 yards — ran out the clock from there.
“No matter what the circumstance, as long as I’m the head coach at this school, we’re gonna fight, we’re gonna play hard and give effort and have good attitude until that clock says four zeroes on it,” Chargers first-year coach John Kelly said.
“My boys are disappointed. We felt like we could win tonight and we had the opportunities, but the better team did win the game tonight.”