The Orange football team handed Hillside its first conference loss since 2009 on Friday night. In the process, the Panthers captured its 21st consecutive regular season road victory, completed a sweep of all four of its opponents from Durham and remain tied for first in the Big 8 conference.

Yet for those who were in Russell Blunt Stadium, they wasn’t the lasted memory as Homecoming night faded into Saturday.

Make no mistake, there was animosity between the two teams going into Friday night. even though the two teams hadn’t played in over 20 years. Tensions in the preceding JV game Thursday night started brewing before kickoff when almost all Hillside players took a knee during the national anthem, leading to a predictable backlash afterwards from some on social media.

Then a near tragedy struck when Orange’s Thys Oldenburg suffered a head injury and head to be taken to Duke Hospital in an ambulance. Oldenburg incurred bleeding on his brain and remains at Duke Hospital as of Saturday morning.

The game concluded with a fight between four players during an extra point in a 35-0 Orange victory, leading to four ejections.

This served as a lead-in for the first Orange-Hillside game since Hillside moved into its new school in 1995 on Fayetteville Street. First place was on the line in the Big 8 Conference, as was Hillside’s 48-game conference winning streak (mainly from its days in the 4A PAC-6 Conference) and likely its six consecutive conference championships.

All of that took a backseat when Orange running back Marvante Beasley carried the ball on the first play of the second half. Beasley cut between right guard Jeremiah Bailey and tackle Daylan Alston when he slammed into Hornets linebacker Brendon Edgerton.

It appeared Beasley and Edgerton each lowered their heads and they slammed into each other near midfield. Edgerton got up immediately, but Beasley remained motionless.

Orange Coach Van Smith had just watched this exact scene 24 hours earlier with Oldenburg. Now, he was seeing it again with a senior running back determined to not only surpass his 1,000 yards rushing from last season, but earn a college scholarship. Last weekend, Beasley visited Appalachian State.

An ambulance was called, but Hillside Coach Ray Harrison thought the moment needed something more. He told his players to go over and join the Orange players in a prayer for Beasley.

As the Hillside players walked over, the Orange fans rose to applaud them.

“We felt like we needed to instill certain characteristics that we want to see them develop as young men, “said Harrison. “We’re all brothers in football, regardless of whether it’s Orange or Hillside. We’re still brothers.”

“We get caught up in this game and we think we’re coaching football,” said Orange Coach Van Smith. “But we’re coaching kids. And it’s all about these young men, teaching them life lessons and keeping them safe.”

True to his gregarious nature, Beasley rose his arms as he road away on the stretcher into the ambulance to applause from both teams.

“It meant the world for me to come over to us and pray like that,” said Smith.

Beasley had tingling throughout his legs. Medical personnel assured Beasley he was being placed on the board for precautionary reasons.

“He was arguing with them that the tingling felt normal,” said Smith. “He said that he felt fine and wanted to get up. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen.”


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