The 2015 high school football regular season is in the books and now the attention for a handful of local teams turns to the single elimination state playoffs beginning on Friday night.
On the latest edition of Sports Round Table, the four New Hanover County head football coaches sat down with Joe Catenacci to dissect the last game on their schedule, while previewing the postseason matchups. Ashley Head Coach Jeff Turner spent time recapping his first year on the sidelines for the Screaming Eagles after guiding his team to a 3-8 overall mark and 2-4 record in conference.
Turner talked about the support he’s received from fans across the Wilmington community and the excitement starting to build for a program that was winless the year prior to him taking over as head coach. Ashley will have a majority of its offense returning next season and Turner believes the foundation from a preparation standpoint has been laid for the future.
Watch his interview along with game highlights by scrolling down to the bottom of this story. Sports Round Table airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays on the Learning Network. This week’s Throwback Sunday features the 2013 matchup between Hoggard and Laney. Throwback Sundays air at 7 p.m. on Time Warner Cable 5 and Charter Cable Channel 191.
4AA- No. 14 Laney (5-6) at No. 3 Wake Forest (11-0)
Laney won back-to-back games to close the season, but travel to unbeaten Wake Forest for a date with the 11-0 Cougars.
Imeek Watkins rushed for over 150 yards in the regular season finale and Jamius Beckett had two scores.
Wake Forest has outscored its opponents 460-67 this year, while sophomore running back Devon Lawrence has rushed for over 1,100 yards and 19 touchdowns. Three other players have also either reached or are approaching 500 yards on the ground.
4A- No. 2 New Hanover (9-2) vs. No. 15 Knightdale (6-4)
New Hanover earned a two-seed in the 4A playoffs as the 2015 Mideastern Conference Champions. The Wildcats went 9-2 overall and look to build off a seven-game winning streak heading into Friday’s matchup against No. 15 Knightdale.
In 11 games, Quarterback Burke Estes has completed 195 of 282 pass attempts for 2,581 yards. He had a 69 percent completion percentage during the regular season, with 25 touchdowns passes to just five interceptions.
Garrett Walston, Keegan Santos and Javeon Hall each have eight touchdowns this year, while Tre Age has 822 all-purpose yards and 11 scores. Wiz Vaughn has also proved to be a valuable asset with seven total touchdowns to go along with 192 rushing yards and 344 yards receiving.
Walston finished the 11 game regular season schedule with 53 catches, totaling 816 yards.
New Hanover could play a couple of home games over the next few weeks should they advance. Knightdale went 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the Greater Neuse River Conference. The Knights have dropped three straight heading into Friday’s matchup.
No. 6 Hoggard (7-4) vs. No. 11 E.E. Smith (7-4)
Hoggard posted a 5-1 mark in league play and enter Friday’s contest against E.E. Smith winners of four straight. The Vikings had a tough non-conference schedule this season, with games at Charlotte Christian and Seventy-First, including a home win 24-21 over Clinton.
Coach Craig Underwood thinks the team is peaking at the right time heading into the playoffs, with Bryant Sasser and Josh Jones splitting time at quarterback. The junior/sophomore tandem has thrown for over 1,550 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while juniors Tony Allen and Rashod Wallace continue to provide a one-two punch in the backfield.
Allen has 886 rushing yards this season and 11 touchdowns. Wallace gives Hoggard big play ability with 835 yards on the ground and five trips to the end zone. Both running backs have nearly the exact same amount of touches through 11 games.
The Vikings have a wealth of options in the passing game, with receivers Collin Hair and Evan Allegret leading the pack. Tight end Hunter Louthan has become the most sought-after target in the arsenal and Tristan Kandare gives Hoggard another threat in the flats at fullback.
Underwood has been most impressed with his defense of late, posting their first shutout of the year in the regular season finale, thanks to the efforts of Will Dykes, Tony Moore, Omar Jones and Will Kandare. The defensive line has a ton of postseason experience, with Carson Whitaker and Brandon Ray showing improvement in the secondary.
E.E. Smith will take the ride from Fayetteville after finishing 7-4 overall and 3-3 in conference. The Golden Bulls have a pair of 1,600 yard rushers, including senior quarterback Vaughn Covington and junior Unique Johnson.
3AA- No. 16 West Brunswick (5-6) at No. 1 Terry Sanford (10-1)
The Trojans dropped three straight to close the season and travel to Fayetteville on Friday for a date with Terry Sanford, the top seed in the 3AA East Region.
The Bulldogs have used a balanced attack this year, averaging 208 yards rushing and 150 yards passing per game.
3A- No. 5 Topsail (5-6) vs. No. 12 Fike (6-5)
Topsail earned a home game to open the 3A playoffs after finishing the year 5-6 overall. The Pirates played New Hanover and Hoggard tough in the final two games of the regular season.
Fike will make the trip from Wilson to Hampstead on Friday after finishing fourth in the Big East 3A Conference. The Demons were outscored 340-320 this year, but have three players with seven or more touchdowns.
2AA- No. 13 North Brunswick (5-5) at No. 4 Clinton (8-2)
North Brunswick closed the year 5-5 under first-year coach Larry Brock and have the tall task of heading to Clinton to face the defending 2AA East Regional Champion Dark Horses.
Clinton is led by longtime head coach Bob Lewis and rely heavily on Division I prospect Ryheem Skinner. The junior has 1,597 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns this season. The Dark Horses dropped just two games this season, a 24-21 setback to Hoggard in week three, and a 28-14 loss to the defending 1A State Champion Wallace-Rose Hill Bulldogs.