When coach Greg Porter got Hillcrest into the playoffs for the first time in 2012, his Rams came up against a Dutch Fork team that was on the rise. Two seasons later, it’s Hillcrest (13-1) that is on the rise heading into Saturday’s Class 4A, Division I championship against the defending champion Silver Foxes.
That loss – a 49-21 first-round drubbing – put Porter and the Rams on course for this rematch.
“It was a turning point for us, there’s no doubt about it,” Porter said. “The thing I remember about that game is how big the tight end was. I remember the running back was running extremely hard that night, and I knew in order for us to continue to compete on this level, we had to make a strong emphasis on the weight room, strength and conditioning and the weight room.”
“In order for us to do something out of the box, something that the other schools are not doing, we had to do something special in the weight room, be more committed and raise the level of expectation,” he said.
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That same plan is what had gotten Dutch Fork to where it was then – on the way to its first of three consecutive state title games.
That’s part of what makes the Rams a big threat to Dutch Fork.
“I think the loss in 2012 spurred them on to get to this point, and you can tell that they are very motivated,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said.
“I can remember being in coach’s situation, where you have a fear a losing. When you do lose, you’re fueled and you’re driven by the fact that you lost,” he said. He recalled promising – and delivering – gridiron payback to a team that defeated one of his better Harding (N.C.) squads. “Hopefully, Coach doesn’t have that attitude.”
At that, Porter laughed, but his intentions are clear.
The Rams finished 5-7 in 2012. The next season, they went 11-2 and won a region championship. Now, the coach is keeping his team focused on what comes next.
“I try not to think about what we have accomplished, how far we have come,” Porter said.