Several varsity and junior varsity football players from Hillside High School relax and joke with one another during halftime in a game against Clayton High on Nov. 16, 2018. The game against Clayton was Hillside's first game in the playoffs, which ended with Hillside as victor at a final score of 16-7. Looking at his players, head coach Ray Harrison reflected on his time in high school: "What I see in my players… I see myself as a young kid. I want them to know I’m available as a coach to guide them, mold them and create a space where they can feel comfortable to be themselves," he said.
Shemare Brown helps his teammate put on his chest and shoulder pads before a game against Orange High on Oct. 12, 2018 in Hillsborough, N.C.
Senior Antonio Beatty, middle, and senior SaVaughn Hadersbeck, right, make their teammate Myles Dillon laugh on the sidelines during practice at Hillside High school in Durham, N.C. on Sept. 26 2018. Michael Garcia, the team's photographer and former footballer, said that what he's seen during his four years at Hillside has been something special: "These guys all love each other. They may fight, they may argue, but at the end of the day, they’re a family. And like Coach Harris said: one team, one unit, one goal," he said.
(From left to right: Jordan Griffith, senior tackle and guard; Brandon Green, sophomore defensive tackle and guard; Larry Mcdonald, senior wide receiver). Players prepare for their game against Southern Durham on Oct. 5, 2018.
Damian Harris, junior quarterback, runs for the touchdown against Clayton High on Nov. 16, 2018. The Hillside Hornets won their first playoff game against Clayton 16-7.
Fans pose for a photo with Hillside High's mascot during a homecoming game against Northern High on Oct. 19, 2018.
David Madzivanyika, senior defensive end and outside linebacker, embraces his teammate after a victory against Northern High in the second round of playoffs. The final score was 26-13.
Hillside footballers run in celebration toward the scoreboard for a photo after a victory (26-13) against Northern High in the second round of the 3AA NCHSAA state playoffs on Nov. 23, 2018. After the win, head coach Harrison encouraged his players to soak in their hard work paid off: "I just want the guys to enjoy the ride, enjoy every moment of practice, even when they're weightlifting, 'cause these are memories they’ll remember forever," he said.
Senior outside linebacker, Allen Everett, left, leans against junior varsity player Donald Moore during halftime at a game against Orange High in Hillsborough on Oct. 15, 2018. The Hornets won the game 22-15.
Coach Harrison, far right, seems optimistic about the formative impact his coaching will have on his players later in life : "I hope that these young men understand and learn from me how to be a great dad, a great husband, a great coach, a great colleague ... and that they understand the importance of leadership. I hope these guys just grab something, just one little nugget of something during their time at Hillside that can help guide them on a positive path in life," he said.
Senior linebacker, Tavis Rhodes, takes a moment of pause during a game against Clayton High on Nov. 16, 2018. Despite being down 7-0 in the first half, the Hornets came back for a win against Clayton, 16-7 to continue on to the second round of playoffs.
After every game, win or lose, the Hillside team comes together in front of their fans, friends and families to sing their alma mater. Senior Trajen Womack lost his composure as the boys' voices resounded together; though their cries were cheerful and full of hope, accepting a loss that cut short their chances at the championship came with great difficulty. Coach Harrison offered words of wisdom for his team for times of loss: "In regards to being a young man, it's important to understand that you’re going to have some trials and tribulations that you’re going to have to face. But the most important part is what you do after you face that trial or tribulation— how you get up and stand up and fight back," he said.
Senior outside linebacker, David Madzivanyika, steps off the field at Hillside on Sept. 26, 2018 after a long evening of practice and drilling. Coach Harrison says he hopes that his players look back on their time at Hillside— their time on the team— with fondness: "What I want them to remember is the friendships and camaraderie they shared within the team... How their collective minds and bodies and spirits came together to have a successful season," he said.