The top-seeded Hough Huskies punched their ticket to the N.C. Western 4A Regional Final with a 26-14 win over the East Forsyth Eagles on Friday. East Forsyth had not allowed a single point the duration of the playoffs — until Friday.
A couple of three-and-outs and stellar defensive play by both teams had the score deadlocked at zero with a few minutes remaining in the first quarter.
It wasn’t until Hough all-state sophomore Nolan Hauser kicked a 20-yard field goal late in the first quarter that the stalemate was broken.
The second quarter was a different story. Hauser kicked two more field goals in the second quarter, and Hough found the spark it needed. With 5:34 remaining in the second, immediately following an Eagles defensive stop, Hough’s Brandon Palmer spied the running back and dropped back to secure the interception. He followed a few key blocks to the end zone for a pick-six.
“What got us going was our coaches first of all,” Palmer said. “I saw the running back coming out, and so I said he was fixing to do a route and the quarterback was getting ready to throw it. So, I dropped back.”
Palmer sparked a string of great defense with this play as the Eagles did not score again till late in the fourth quarter.
Hough coach Matt Jenkins was pleased with his team’s performance but knows there are things to work on in preparation for their rematch with Chambers next week in the regional final.
“We ran the ball well all night but just couldn’t get in the (end) zone,” Jenkins said. “We didn’t throw it as well as we hoped, but we will fix that and get ready for next week.”
Each quarterback had an interception in this game. Hough tallied five sacks on the game and East Forsyth had three. For teams that averaged more than 40 points a game during the regular season, a low-scoring affair might not have been expected. But, these two defenses are two of the best in 4A and it showed tonight.
Three who made a difference
Hough Defense: Huskies defenders lived in the Eagles’ offensive backfield all night long. They forced two turnovers, both of which ended in scores. It was a performance that coach Jenkins and company will look to replicate moving into the final weeks of the playoffs.
Nolan Hauser, Hough: The Huskies’ field goal kicker only had one blemish on the night as he went 4-for-5 on his field-goal attempts. His long was 48 yards in the second quarter. His lone miss came on a tip at the line of scrimmage.
JT Smith, Hough: Smith totaled 93 yards on the game and had the lone offensive touchdown for the Huskies. When the team had their backs against the wall, it was Smith who got the nod from Jenkins and company, and he was able to deliver first down after first down coming down the stretch to close the game out.
▪ This was the first time all playoffs that the Eagles have allowed points. This proves how stout the Huskies are, and have proven to be over the entire season and post-season. Despite the Eagles’ swarming defensive line, Husky quarterback Tad Hudson was able to extend plays and make things happen for his team.
▪ Next week’s matchup for the Huskies against Chambers will be the second between the two of the season. Hough took the first round, 16-10, and will need another great performance if they hope to knock off the defending champs.
▪ Neither team had over 60 yards of total offense at the halftime break. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when East Forsyth was able to eclipse 100 yards of offense.
Hough will host 10th seeded Chambers next week in the regional final of the NC 4A playoffs while East Forsyth finishes its season 11-2.
Hough: 3 13 3 7 — 26
East Forsyth: 0 7 0 7 — 14
H - Nolan Hauser 20 yard field goal
H - Hauser 37 yard field goal
EF - Quan Porter 2 rush (Andrew Conrad kick)
H - Hauser 48 yard field goal
H - 16-yard interception return by Brandon Palmer (Hauser kick)
H - Hauser 21 yard field goal
H - JT Smith 11 rush (Hauser kick)
EF - Porter 8 rush (Conrad kick)