Strong defense leads way to 14-7 victory

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Hillsborough’s opportunistic defense, led by junior cornerback Marterrence Holloway, forced three turnovers and held Gaither to a single touchdown as the Terriers beat the Cowboys 14-7. Hillsborough moved to 2-0 for the season.

Holloway had his first multi-interception game, picking off two passes and a third that was called back for a penalty. “It’s a great feeling,” Holloway said. Senior safety Leon Gatlin also intercepted a pass in the first half.

“We knew the [Gaither quarterback] threw the ball up in the air a little bit,” defensive coordinator Earl Garcia III said on the interceptions. “So we told our guys the whole week that if we pressure, he’s going to throw the ball up, and that’s what happens.”

Hillsborough’s interior defense also played well, limiting Gaither’s offense for most of the night. “Defensively, we played strong tonight,” said senior linebacker Armand Chalk. “Even when they came back 7-7, we still had that dog fight in us.”

The defense did give up a big run early in the second half, however. Gaither running back TJ Williams broke through a hole up the middle and made it 64 yards before he was chased down and tackled from behind by Gatlin. That tackle saved a touchdown, as Hillsborough kept Gaither out of the end zone on the next four plays. “They feel very comfortable on the goal line,” Garcia III said on his defense. “It’s the long ones we’ve got to stop.”

Gaither scored its first and only touchdown on the next drive, taking over on the Hillsborough 39 yard line after an interception.

While the defense largely shut the Cowboys down, the offense struggled at times to execute. “We started off kinda shaky, but the team came together,” said quarterback Tyler Thomas. “We need to work on execution and being on the same page.”

Incomplete passes slowed the offense down throughout the night, but Thomas did find a rhythm on the third drive. After going three and out on each of its first two possessions, Hillsborough reached the end zone on a 9 yard pass from Thomas to running back Drequan McCullough. “I think we came out kinda lackadaisical, and they just came out with some authority,” said senior running back Duran Bell.  “They shut us out [in the beginning] until we ended up having a really good game.”

Hillsborough scored again late in the fourth quarter to take the lead. “We always tell out players we’re going to score before the half and before the end of the game because of our conditioning factor,” said head coach Earl Garcia. “I believe that that had something to do with it.”

Senior Caleb Youngblood had delivered a big run to set up the score. “We put the ball in his hands on third down to win the game,” Garcia said. “He hit that inside reverse and got it down there and won the game for us.” Youngblood played quarterback last year, but made the switch to wide receiver this year and played much of the game with the ball in his hands. “Caleb is a great mixture,” Garcia said. “[He’s] one of my favorite terriers of all time.”

Youngblood’s run set up a nine yard, game-winning touchdown for Bell, who bruised his quad early in the first quarter. “The game was on the line,” Garcia said. “We had a chance to get it, and we did.”

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