Mideastern Conference leaders New Hanover, led by a regular-season school-record breaking 407 passing yards from senior quarterback Burke Estes, went on the road and shut out Ashley 34-0 Friday night to remain unbeaten in conference play.
The game started off slow, with the first score of the game not coming until six and a half minutes left in the second quarter.
“We came out flat,” said New Hanover Head Coach Earl Smith. “The defense did what they needed to do the first half. The offense couldn’t get it going.
“I think we took it a little lightly after a couple of big wins. I think we learned a lesson tonight.”
After heading into halftime leading 7-0, the New Hanover offense emerged in the second half. With both their running and passing games on point, the one-two punch proved too much for the Ashley defense.
The Wildcats’ first scoring play of the third quarter started with a 30-yard rush by running back Keegan Santos. That led to a 35-yard pass from Estes to wide receiver Lamont Howard for a touchdown with nine minutes left in the quarter. Santos would later run the ball in for a touchdown from two yards out to put his team up 21-0 going into the fourth.
The Screaming Eagles, who had won two games in a row going into Friday’s matchup, had no answers for New Hanover’s high-powered offense. Estes connected with standout tight end Garret Walston, a senior who has committed to the University of North Carolina, for a 17-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Howard then sealed the win with a long 53-yard touchdown on third and 5. He finished with 9 catches for a total of 208 yards and 3 touchdowns. Both Santos and Walston recorded over 80 rushing yards each.
New Hanover, now 4-0 in conference play and 7-2 overall with two games left to go, will ride their 5-game winning streak into next week’s matchup against Topsail. It will be senior night, their final home game of the season.
“If we do what we’re supposed to do and play the way we’re capable of playing, we should be alright,” Smith said of their final two games. “We just can’t come out flat.”
Ashley’s record dropped to 2-2 in the Mideastern Conference and 3-6 overall. They pay a visit to rival Hoggard next Friday night.
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