For the second straight year J.H. Rose handed the New Hanover football team a season-ending setback following a 28-14 victory at Legion Stadium on Friday night.
The Rampants clinched the East Regional title and a spot in next week’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A Championship. New Hanover saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end as the Wildcats closed its run at 12-3 overall.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time, but to me this is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had,” said New Hanover Coach Earl Smith. “With the adversity they’ve seen through the year, it took them awhile, but they bought in. I told them at halftime change happens in life. The most successful people handle that change and that’s something we’ve been doing all year. The seniors set a great example for the younger guys all season and we’ll be back.”
Facing a two score deficit heading into the second half, New Hanover had their backs against the wall without Burke Estes at quarterback. The senior injured his throwing hand early in the ballgame, but played through the pain on a chilly night until Garrett Walston took over in the huddle to start the third quarter.
Walston and company were able to pull within seven after the University of North Carolina commit found Lamont Howard on a 34-yard touchdown pass, but Clemson University signee Cornell Powell proved to be a difference maker down the stretch for J.H. Rose.
With the Rampants leading 21-14, New Hanover used a six-minute possession to get within striking distance until the drive stalled thanks to a sack by Rakym Chapman on 4th and 11. J.H. Rose then moved the ball across midfield and Powell took a 34-yard jet sweep around the edge to put the game in check at the 4:13 mark of the final frame.
“Even when things went wrong our guys continued to move onto the next play tonight,” said J.H. Rose Coach David Wojtecki. “New Hanover was able to get back in the game in the second half and I thought we came out a little flat, but they should be very proud of their team.”
Powell finished with two total touchdowns, including a 62-yard catch and run to make it 21-7 late in the first half. A nine-yard pass from Ryan Goodwin to Caleb Edwards put J.H. Rose on the board, capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive after the Rampants received the opening kickoff.
Following back-to-back punts on the first two possessions for the Wildcats, Tre Age took a draw play 58 yards on 3rd and 4 to tie the game seven-all.
Interceptions by Josh Blackmon and Carroll Brisbon in the first half helped New Hanover stay in the ballgame, but the offense lost some of its explosiveness with Estes sidelined. The Wildcats had just 161 yards of total offense in the first half and were limited in the passing game after the break.
E.J. Harris had a nine-yard touchdown with 7:56 to play in the second quarter to put Rose in front 14-7, while forcing New Hanover to four punts and a pair of turnovers on downs in the opening 24 minutes of action.
Harris finished with 22 carries for 160 yards. Goodwin completed 11 of 23 attempts to seven different receivers, with 214 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“It was really tough losing Burke [Estes],” Smith added. “He was hurt on the first series, but we almost pulled it out. I think it says a lot about this team. Guys have been working hard both ways and it’s just unbelievable to see that.”
Age closed his final game in black and orange with 131 rushing yards on 21 carries. Howard had two receptions for 42 yards and one score. Walston went 4 of 10 in the passing game, with 36 yards on the ground and one reception.
J.H. Rose faces Charlotte Catholic in the 4A state title game at BB&T Field on the campus of Wake Forest University on Saturday, Dec. 12.
J.H. Rose 7-14-0-7=28
New Hanover 7-0-7-0=14
J.H. Rose- Ryan Goodwin, 9-yard pass to Caleb Edwards (PAT, Ryan Nease) 8:35
New Hanover- Tre Age, 58-yard run (PAT, Josiah Eason) 2:58
J.H. Rose- E.J. Harris, 9-yard run, (PAT, Nease) 7:58
J.H. Rose- Ryan Goodwin, 62-yard pass to Cornell Powell, (PAT, Nease) 4:05
New Hanover- Garrett Walston, 34-yard pass to Lamont Howard, (PAT, Eason) 9:49
J.H. Rose- Cornell Powell, 34-yard run, (PAT, Nease) 4:13