Friday night marks the final week of the regular season for high school football teams across the state. With the Mideastern Conference standings already solidified, local programs have one final tune-up before playoff brackets are released this weekend.
The latest edition of Sports Round Table, which airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays on the Learning Network, features interviews with the four New Hanover County coaches, along with game highlights from last week’s action. The New Hanover County Schools TV-produced show can be seen on Time Warner Cable Channel 5 and Charter Cable Channel 191. For the latest broadcast scroll down to the end of this story.
This week’s Throwback Sunday showcase features the 2001 State Champion Laney Buccaneers take on New Hanover. Throwback Sundays air at 7 p.m. on Time Warner Cable Channel 5 and Charter Cable Channel 191.
Heading into the season finale for a handful of local teams, New Hanover looks to clinch its first outright league championship since 1994 when the Wildcats head to South Brunswick. Hoggard has found its groove and looks to build off its recent winning streak with a trip to Hampstead for a date with Topsail. Ashley and Laney square off in Monkey Junction, while North Brunswick holds senior night in Leland against East Duplin.
New Hanover (5-0, 8-2) at South Brunswick (0-5, 2-8)
Quarterback Burke Estes has been a force in the spread offense for New Hanover, coming off back-to-back performances that saw the senior throw for five touchdowns and a school record for passing yards.
The Wildcats have won six in a row after reeling off 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of last week’s contest to break a tie game and grab a decisive 51-28 victory.
Estes hit five different receivers for touchdowns in the win, including junior wide out Lamont Howard, who continues to provide the offense with another outside threat to go along with University of North Carolina commit Garrett Walston.
Coach Earl Smith was impressed with his quarterback’s ability to extend plays outside the pocket one week ago, while he’s looking for consistency on the defensive side of the ball.
Nigel Hines had a scoop and score on a fumble recovery against Topsail and junior defensive tackle Jomaious Williams continues to make strides in controlling the line of scrimmage along with Isaiah Crawford.
Junior standout Trequan Age is also expected to be back in the lineup after missing last week’s game because of injury. Keegan Santos has given offensive coordinator Darryl Raynor another weapon in the run game after getting back on the field a few weeks back. He joins Freddie Taylor in the backfield, while Carl Scott has also emerged as a downfield threat in the passing game.
New Hanover has outscored its last six opponents 224-89 and face a South Brunswick team that has dropped seven straight.
Hoggard (4-1, 6-4) at Topsail (2-3, 5-5)
Hoggard used a well-balanced attack in last week’s 34-6 win over Ashley. Rashod Wallace had a big night in the run game to go along with Bryant Sasser and Josh Jones, who continue to split time at quarterback.
Jones hit Hutner Louthan on a 39-yard touchdown pass, while Sasser scored from short yardage to put the Vikings in control early in the game.
Louthan has emerged as the team’s leading receiver this season. The senior tight end has 19 catches for 332 yards and a pair of scoring receptions. He joins a well-rounded receiving corps, with Evan Allegret coming into form after overcoming injuries earlier this season. Mathew Eakins and Collin Hairr have also combined for 31 catches and 461 yards receiving.
Wallace and Tony Allen have also combined for over 1,500 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns as a viable one-two punch in the Vikings’ backfield.
Coach Craig Underwood has had to alter his game plan from a special teams standpoint, with veteran kicker Caleb Kuhne out because of injury. Kuhne has hit 8 of 13 field goal attempts this season, with a 47- yard long shot, and is 24-of-24 on point-after attempts.
Senior William Kandare continues to lead the defense in tackles (35), while Omar Jones has a team-high five sacks. Carson Whitaker has also come along in the secondary, with Will Dykes and Tony Moore on the defensive line.
Topsail was in line for one of the biggest upsets in recent memory last week, going punch for punch with New Hanover before the Wildcats broke away in the fourth quarter.
The Pirates have shown a much improved run game behind freshman D.J. Montano. He needs just 77 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau, with nine touchdowns and 160 carries on the season.
Montano has five 100-plus yard games this season and has helped Topsail garner the top 3A spot among the split Mideastern Conference members.
Drew Gaither and Jacob Floyd have also contributed in the run game thanks to the efforts of a Pirates’ offensive line led by North Carolina State commit Joseph Sculthorpe.
Laney (3-2, 4-6) at Ashley (2-3, 3-7)
Laney is coming off one of its most impressive offensive performances this season following a 28-6 victory of West Brunswick.
The Bucs limited their penalties at the line of scrimmage, while Trevon Greene continues to improve his decision making with the read option. Coach Aashad Yeoman was impressed with Greene’s ability to make game-time adjustments last week, while Imeek Watkins continues to churn yards in the backfield.
Jamius Beckett provides play making ability in all three facets of the game and joins senior Ryan Daborowski as two of the top local players on the defense. Daborowski has been a handful at linebacker, with junior Cayman Csezak serving as the team’s leading tackler.
After back-to-back wins, Ashley has hit a rut having lost two straight games, but injuries on the defensive side of the ball have decimated a largely improved unit led by sophomore tackle Joseph Barbera. The Screaming Eagles had four defensive starters miss last week’s game.
First-year coach Jeff Turner thinks the program is headed in the right direction with nearly his entire offense set to return next season. He believes the process is starting to have its effect on the team from a preparation standpoint and getting his players to understand the sacrifices and work ethic needed to change the culture of a program that has enjoyed limited success since its inception.
North Brunswick (2-2, 5-4) vs. East Duplin (3-1, 7-4)
Last week’s 14-10 setback to Northside was a back breaker for North Brunswick as the Scorpions were in position to finish as runners-up in the 2A East Central Conference.
On senior night at Garry Bishop Stadium, North Brunswick looks to get back in the win column against East Duplin, who dropped last week’s contest 35-10 to first-place Croatan.
The Scorpions will honor 14 seniors in their final home games, including running back Deangelo Walker, defensive end Latrell Hill and senior quarterback Tiger Bryant.