Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD — The northside football rivalry between Hillcrest High School and Central High School has been in existence since 1958.
However, with a new wrinkle tossed into the tradition-rich mix, Friday marked something anew, as the “Northside Classic” was born: a trophy bearing both team helmets and name plates commemorating each year’s winner.
The inaugural bragging rights went to the host, as Hillcrest secured its first win of the season in the 54-12 final.
The Hornets set the tone from the onset, as freshman running back Tyrell Hurd exuded field vision and utilized the patience of a seasoned veteran, and senior Jordan Ausler bounced off defenders en route to his touchdown.
“I just did what I could,” Hurd said. “When the team works together, we win.”
Hillcrest opened up with an aerial assault as Ausler hauled in the 48-yard touchdown reception from sophomore signal-caller Mike Floyd.
And it was all downhill from there for the Hornets — who have a faced mountain of adversity so far in ’19.
Last week, eight starters were out.
Previously before that during Week 2, three players (Trevor Goodman, Nick, Gonzales, and Colby Baker) went down with torn ACLs, and another went down with a broken foot.
“It has been tough. We have just been working, keep practicing. We are going to make it,” Hurd said, who finished the night with three rushing touchdowns.
The Hornets used balance en route to the win, as the defensive front created havoc in the backfield, as junior Stacy Sealey blocked a punt and found the end zone on the scoop-and-score.
Sealey also tallied one sack.
Hurd contended that sustaining a balanced attack was vital in the win: a win that yielded 54 points — 42 more than the Hornets average.
“It was really, really important,” Hurd said. “If we keep the intensity up, then we can keep going.”
Hurd opened up the passing lanes, as junior Gunnar Brooks hit the seams and slants, and Floyd used his versatility in avoiding the rush, as he put the Hornets up 13-0 on his 15-yard scamper.
Hurd’s 50-yard run was made possible by his willingness to stay upright, and the special teams unit ability to convert the onside kick.
Hurd deferred the spotlight to his offensive linemen — who were opening holes big enough Hurd could go old-school — utilizing a spiral move in order to bounce off defenders.
Said Hurd: “You just have to trust your line. It helps a lot; they can [create] the holes.”
The Hornets closed out the opening quarter with a commanding 34-0 lead.
Brooks opened the second quarter with a 15-yard scoring scamper, and Floyd and company perfected the quick count in an effort to keep the chains moving.
Brooks built an added rapport with Floyd as the game progressed, hauling in the 27-yard touchdown.
Down 54-0 at half, the Bulldogs could have rolled over and lived to fight another day.
But they didn’t have in them, as sophomore Isaiah Harvey reciprocated with his scoop-and-score en route to the 70-yard touchdown during third-quarter action.
Quarterback Logan Ahearn found the end zone with 15 seconds remaining from 9-yards out.
As for the victors, the win comments on the resolve of the Hornets — who authored 408 yards of total offense.
The win served as the ideal birthday present for second-year Hornets head coach Justin Gerald.
“This is a good one,” Gerald said referring to his birthday. “It is my birthday, but this is a good win for the team. Starting what we started tonight with the trophy, the Northside Classic, it’s a good start to it. It turned out to be a good birthday.”
Gerald said the former record between the two programs favored the Hornets, 26-17-1.
“We wanted to get back to it,” Gerald said regarding the rivalry. “Every other year, we may not [have played] each other in the past, but now, I think, we will play each other every year. It is great to start something like this, and you can get your team up; get them excited for something more than what they do every Friday night. It was nice to have some extra motivation coming into the game.”
Staff sergeants escorted the trophy to the field, and even kept a watchful eye over the hardware during the game.
“Seeing [them] come out with it, and really seeing the trophy in person, it is nice. That is a nice trophy. It should never leave here. That is the mindset we want.”