The 12th installation of the Hilliard Davidson-Hilliard Darby rivalry in high school football featured a lot of the predictable: ferocious defense, tight-to-the-vest play-calling and few mistakes.
But leave it to Davidson coach Brian White — who earned a reputation as a riverboat gambler with gutsy calls during the Wildcats’ 2006 and 2009 state championship wins — to upset the apple cart Aug. 31.
On fourth-and-2 at Darby’s 37-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, White pulled one of his tricks out of the bag. On a brilliantly choreographed play-fake, quarterback Carson Felicetty scampered around the right end for a touchdown that gave the Wildcats a 14-0 victory before a sellout home crowd.
“We were waiting for a situation just like that when we really needed a first down or a big play in a game like this,” White said. “Hats off to Carson. It takes a lot of guts to completely turn your back to the defense and play that out so well. (Running back) Jordan Hicks and the line did their job perfectly as well.”
Felicetty came to a complete stop in the backfield as the action focused on the middle of the field.
“We’ve only run it in practice a few times, and only against the scout team,” Felicetty said. “It was just designed for just the right situation, and this was it. Coach said to count one one-thousand, two one-thousand before taking off. To go for it twice on that drive is all about attitude and confidence.”
Davidson’s defense did the rest in securing a second consecutive shutout. Darby managed just 86 yards and six first downs in the game.
“Our philosophy is 11 hats to the ball,” senior linebacker Ethan Royer said. “We’re gonna make anybody earn it against us. It was a very physical game, but I think we got the better of them at the end, and that’s what matters.”
Darby (1-1) beat Davidson 9-6 in overtime in 2017, ultimately keeping the Wildcats out of the playoffs. Davidson (2-0) leads the series 8-4.
“We’ve been thinking about this and waiting for this night for 365 days,” said Felicetty, a senior. “This is a huge game for our program and our community.”
On its opening series, Davidson drove 59 yards in 11 plays to get on the board. Jordan Hicks took an option pitch and raced 20 yards to the end zone.
That was all the scoring until Felicetty’s fourth-quarter dash.
Darby had one solid scoring opportunity, driving to the Davidson 18 in the third quarter. However, Jacob Mowell’s line-drive try for a 39-yard field goal hit the crossbar.
“I’m extremely proud of the way our defense played,” White said. “Darby plays so physical and tough, but we matched their passion. I thought we did a good job of not letting them get into a rhythm. We still made more penalties and mistakes than I would like, but we’re 2-0, and that’s a good place to be.”
Darby coach John Santagata said his team couldn’t find a solution to Davidson’s fast, swarming defense.
“I love their linebackers. They’re really sound and disciplined,” Santagata said. “Our defense played well for the most part, but our offense just couldn’t get anything going. We executed ever more poorly than we did in the opener, and that’s not supposed to happen.”
The winning team in this hard-hitting rivalry has topped 21 points only once. The losing team has never topped 14.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final HILLIARD DARBY 0 0 0 0 0 HILLIARD DAVIDSON
7 0 0 7 14