Sports Round Table: New Hanover football playoff preview; interview with Laney soccer is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

There’s just one Wilmington school still alive in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association football playoffs as the New Hanover Wildcats play host to Durham-Hillside at Legion Stadium on Friday, November 27.

Coming off a fourth quarter comeback and 24-17 victory over West Johnston to advance in the 4A bracket, New Hanover has their work cut out for them heading into round three.

Tre Age. Photos courtesy- Rodney Williams
Tre Age. Photos courtesy- Rodney Williams

The latest edition of Sports Round Table, which airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, caught up with New Hanover Coach Earl Smith, Hoggard Coach Craig Underwood and Laney Soccer Coach Jamie Noble following the Bucs’ run to the 4A state title match. Watch the broadcast by scrolling down to the end of this story.

Sports Round Table features game highlights from round two of the state tournament and Laney’s 2-nil setback to South Mecklenbubrg, while getting input and analysis from the three head coaches.

No. 2 New Hanover (11-2) vs. No. 3 Durham-Hillside (10-2)

One of the goals for a high school football team in North Carolina each year is to keep their season alive through Thanksgiving weekend. Down to the final eight in the state, New Hanover takes the field against a Hillside squad filled with talent at the skill positions.

The Hornets defeated Hoggard 42-14 last week and make the trip to the Port City looking to end another Wilmington school’s hope of moving on in the playoffs.

Wiz Vaughn. Photo by Joe Catenacci
Wiz Vaughn. Photo by Joe Catenacci

While the Wildcats earned a seven-point victory over West Johnston, New Hanover did not play their best football and Coach Smith emphasized throughout practice this week the importance of playing a complete game from start to finish. Trailing by three to begin the fourth quarter, the Wildcats ran off 14 unanswered points against West Johnston to grab the win.

Garrett Walston faced double coverage throughout most of the contest and held to just two catches, though his receptions came at huge moments in the final frame. Quarterback Burke Estes struggled to find his receivers down field, but used a 10-yard scramble into the end zone to tie last week’s game 17-17 with just a few minutes gone by in the fourth quarter.

Wiz Vaughn and Tre Age were explosive on the edge, while Lamont Howard continues to show playmaking ability at wide out. The junior had a 69-yard touchdown reception last week and Josiah Eason has become an asset in the kicking game, hitting a 35-yard field goal in round two, with a couple of touchbacks.

Defensively, the Wildcats will once again be tested as Durham-Hillside brings a steady dose of division I talent. The Hornets scored the game’s first 35 points against Hoggard thanks to three touchdown passes by quarterback Chauncey Caldwell. The six-foot, three-inch, 221 pound junior completed 11 of 16 passes for 261 yards and used several big plays down field to grab the win.

Lamont Howard. Photo courtesy- Rodney Williams
Lamont Howard. Photo courtesy- Rodney Williams

Running backs Abdul Adams and Jamaal Elliott have also been a force on the ground for the 10-2 Hornets, with Daeshawn Stephens standing at six-foot, two inches at the wide receiver.

Hillside has outscored its opponents 456-143 and takes a nine-game winning streak into Friday’s contest. They have allowed just 23 points in two playoffs games this season.

The New Hanover defense has come a long way since dropping back-to-back games against Scotland County and Havelock, but the Wildcats will be without Grant Daley on Friday night. The sophomore middle linebacker broke his leg in last week’s win and underwent successful surgery earlier this week.

Classmate Nas Brown will have his work cut out for him at middle linebacker, coming off a 12-tackle performance against West Johnston. Ronnie Beatty has also been steady at the safety position, with ability to help stuff the run, while acting as a key member in the Wildcats’ secondary.

Jamious Williams, Isiah Crawford and Ka’twon Hill did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage last week and need the same effort on Friday to help stop a Hillside team that has won six straight PAC-6 Conference Championships.