New Hanover and Hoggard finally kicked off on Tuesday night after a weekend of heavy rain, flooding and school cancellations as the Wildcats used contributions from all three facets of the game to pick up a 30-13 victory at Legion Stadium.
With the home team leading by 10 headed into the fourth quarter, Tre Age sprinted into the end zone from 42 yards out on the longest play from scrimmage and took a 95-yard kickoff return for the score to put the game away.
“It’s been a crazy week having played last Monday and then having all the delays, but just really proud of our guys for hanging in there,” said New Hanover Coach Earl Smith. “We had some big plays on the defensive end and Tre Age was tremendous tonight. He’s been injured with the shoulder, played only one series against Purnell Swett and his effort helped a lot.
Senior quarterback Burke Estes was efficient in the passing game for the Wildcats, completing 14-of-19 pass attempts for 250 yards and one touchdown, while University of Georgia commit Garrett Walston made four receptions for 91 yards and one score. Estes hit six different receivers, including junior wide out Lamont Howard, who finished with a team-high six catches for 122 yards.
Hoggard had a tough time getting the offense going early, with just six snaps over the opening 12 minutes of action and an interception on the first play of the second quarter.
New Hanover had favorable field possession to start the opening drive of the game after Wiz Vaughn took the kickoff to midfield and after a 27-yard double-screen to Walston on 2nd and 15, Josiah Eason hit a 24-yard chip shot for the early edge. The Vikings were forced to punt after a three and out and Javeon Hill capped a 10-play, 83-yard drive over five minutes with a two-yard touchdown for the two-score advantage late in the first frame.
Following the Nigel Hines interception, the Wildcats were able to convert on the turnover as Estes hit Walston on a skinny post for a nine-yard score and 16-0 lead.
“The turnover was huge, just a big play by Nigel [Hines],” Smith added. “Our defense is buying into what we’re trying to do and they stepped up especially in the red zone tonight.”
Trailing by 16, Hoggard found their legs on offense and started moving the chains behind sophomore Josh Jones. Jones took a majority of the snaps at quarterback for the Vikings, who converted on their third possession of the game with a 32-yard field goal by Caleb Kuhne to get on the board.
Jones hit Hunter Louthan on a 25-yard pass down the seam to set up the attempt by Kuhne, who also hit a 38-yard kick late in the first half to make it a 10-point game at the break.
“We had some drives we needed to finish and the defense has to get off the field on third down,” said Hoggard Coach Craig Underwood. “Those are two big things we can take away from tonight. It’s a frustrating loss in a big game, but I just challenged the kids to bounce back and come to work tomorrow.”
The Vikings’ offense was able to gain some momentum to start to third quarter and moved the chains on fourth and two to keep the drive alive on the opening possession of the second half, but two missed field goals during the period gave Hoggard an uphill battle heading into the final 12 minutes of action.
Following the long run by Age to make it 23-6 in favor of New Hanover, Jones hit Louthan on a five-yard touchdown to close the gap to 10 with 7:42 remaining when the senior return specialist seized the energy with his 95-yard score on ensuing kickoff to give the Wildcats a 1-0 mark in conference.
Louthan had five catches to lead the Vikings receiving corps, but New Hanover held the duel threat of Rashad Wallace and Tony Allen to just 88 combined yards on the ground for a Hoggard team that was averaging 200 yards rushing per game. Jones finished his night completing 8-of-16 pass attempts and 41 rushing yards.
“We felt good with Josh tonight and he was part of our game plan all along,” said Underwood. “He’s had a couple of really good weeks of practice and both teams were limited with practice over the last few days. It was the first time we ever had four days off and then having to show up and play a game, but they dealt with the same thing so now it’s an open week to get healthy and focus on fundamentals moving through the off week.”
Nas Brown had a big night for the Wildcats on defense, with six tackles, while Jomiaous Williams played a huge role in stopping the run game and also finished with a tipped pass.
New Hanover improved to 1-0 in conference and 4-2 overall. Hoggard dropped to 1-1 in league play and 3-4 overall. The Wildcats have a quick turnaround with a road game at Laney on Friday, October 9.
New Hanover 10-6-0-14=30
New Hanover- Josiah Eason, 24 yard field goal, 8:29
New Hanover- Javeon Hall, 2 yard run, (PAT, Eason) 1:19
New Hanover- Burke Estes, 9 yard pass to Garrett Walston, 10:20
Hoggard- Caleb Kuhne, 32 yard field goal, 6:33
Hoggard- Caleb Kuhne, 38 yard field goal,
New Hanover- Tre Age, 42 yard run, (PAT, Eason) 10:58
Hoggard- Josh Jones, 5 yard pass to Hunter Louthan, (PAT, Kuhne) 7:42
New Hanover- Tre Age, kickoff return, (PAT, Eason) 7:26