WILMINGTON- Lightning in the area delayed the game for 45 minutes in the third quarter, but it did not stop defending Mideastern Conference Champions New Hanover High School from coming from behind to beat Hoke County 38 – 20 at Legion Stadium on Friday night.
“Any time you get your first win, it’s important,” said New Hanover Head Coach Earl Smith, who won the 250th game of his high school coaching career. “I’m proud of our guys. We’ve still got some young guys, but they’re trying to grow up fast.”
Inexperience on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball were sometimes obvious for the Wildcats, as fumbles, dropped balls and missed tackles kept Hoke County in the game in the first half. The Bucks took an early 6-0 lead, but junior running back Wiz Vaughn’s three first-half touchdowns helped New Hanover go into halftime with a 21-14 lead. They never trailed again.
“He’s the type of young man who, when he gets in the secondary, it’s hard to beat him one-on-one,” Smith said of Vaughn’s quickness and athleticism. “I’m proud of the offensive line, too, for opening up some holes for him.”
Vaughn, who started his varsity career last year against Hoke County and went on to have an outstanding sophomore season, continued his offensive prowess from where he left off at the end of last season. He was efficient on Friday, rushing five times for a total of 55 yards and two touchdowns as well as tallying 50 receiving yards on three catches for two touchdowns.
New Hanover’s biggest changes this year are on offense, where they lost last season’s leaders Burke Estes (quarterback) and Garrett Walston (tight end) to graduation. While Vaughn and other returnees from last year’s potent receiver and running back corps such as Keegan Santos (who also scored a touchdown for the Wildcats on Friday), Lamont Howard and Javeon Hall will help make up for the loss of Walston, Estes’ replacement is less certain. Currently, junior Francis Meehan and sophomore Blake Walston, Garrett’s younger brother, are splitting time under center. On Friday, Meehan went 4-4 for 121 yards and two touchdowns, while Blake Walston went 6-10 for 90 yards.
“They’re both getting better. They’re both making some mistakes, but they’re young and they’re both trying,” Smith said. “They both give us two different things that make them hard to handle [for opponents].”
The Wildcats travel to South Carolina next weekend to take on Myrtle Beach High School.