DURHAM — Clayton put a scare into Hillside in the first round of the state 4A playoffs, but the Hornets made the big plays in the second half to survive 36-30 on Friday night.
Dontae Thomas-Williams ran for 254 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Trevon Thompson caught two touchdown passes, and defensive back Kalen McCain had two interceptions, including one in the end zone with 39 seconds remaining to seal the win for Hillside (9-2).
"Just a great high school football game," Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski said. "For the first round of the playoffs, I don't think you could ask for much more than that."
Except, of course, a victory. Clayton (7-5) led 23-21 late in the third quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Nick Christensen. But Thomas-Williams darted 54 yards for one score and 60 for another as the Hornets took command, 36-23.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times early," Hillside coach Antonio King said. "Three turnovers: that's what gave them their points. And not seeing a Wing (offense) and only having a week to prepare for it gave us a couple fits, but we stayed strong."
After a Jace Brown TD run, Clayton had a chance to take the lead after the second of two Thomas-Williams fumbles. Sam May converted one fourth-down play ion a tipped pass to Anton Watson, but his second fourth-down pass was intercepted.
Clayton stunned the Hillside crowd as Rodney Rowe scored on the Comets' first play, a 41-yard scamper that followed a short Hornet punt.
The Comets then turned a Hillside fumble into another score, this one an 11-yard pass from Sam May to Eric Hoy, and with 3:12 left in the first quarter, the favored Hornets were down 13-0.
Hillside righted itself with an 80-yard drive capped by a Raquaz Brannon 5-yard run to cut the lead to 13-7.
After another Hornet fumble, Clayton went up 20-7 as May scored from 1 yard out on fourth down.
Talented receiver Trevion Thompson cut the lead to 20-14 as he caught a short pass from Nas Forte-Ferguson, broke two tackles and scored from 30 yards out.