WILMINGTON — With the Wildcats trailing by six early in the fourth quarter on Thursday, Keegan Santos made a strong cut up the middle and went 74 yards for the touchdown. Westley Gaines then tacked on the extra point to give New Hanover a 21-20 victory over Laney at Legion Stadium.
The win puts the Wildcats one step closer to clinching back-to-back division crowns, improving to 2-0 in conference and 4-3 overall. Meanwhile, Laney saw its four-game winning streak snapped, falling to 2-1 in league play and 5-3 on the year.
Both teams battled through heavy rain and gusty winds during most of the night. Laney was eager to prove its might and Imeek Watkins rushed for over 100 yards in the first half with the game tied 7-7 at the break.
New Hanover got on the board first as Blake Walston guided the offense downfield early in the second period and used a big effort from Lamont Howard to fight his way through a pair of tacklers on a three-yard bubble screen to put the Wildcats in front.
The Bucs responded on the next possession as Watkins guided his unit on a 73 yard drive and six yard touchdown to level the score. Watkins had eight carries on the nine play drive, finishing with 18 rushes for 103 yards in the first half.
Malcolm Hill found the end zone midway through the third quarter on a 60-yard touchdown reception after Walston found the senior receiver wide open down the far sideline for the easy score. After throwing a pair of interceptions last week, Walston took care of the football on Thursday. The sophomore quarterback completed 17-of-24 attempts for 198 yards. Hill and Howard combined for 10 catches and 114 yards receiving.
Laney opened the playbook in the second half and went to the air for the game tying score as Sidbury hit Jason Billingslea for a 19-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to make it 14-all headed into the fourth quarter.
— Joe Catenacci (@JoeCats19) October 7, 2016
Things seemed to be bouncing Laney’s way early in the final frame when Sidbury put the Bucs in front for the first time all game with 10:53 remaining in regulation. The sophomore was stripped in the back field, but the ball bounced off the turf and right back into the hands of the second-year playmaker. Sidbury went 42 yards for the score, but the point after attempt was blocked, which proved to be the difference maker.
Two plays later Santos found the big hole and used good vision to make the cut back for the 74 yard touchdown just 50 seconds after Laney went ahead. Gaines converted all three extra points in the win. Santos had eight carries for 99 yards, while Freddie Taylor made four catches for 29 yards.
Laney had one more chance to pull off the comeback, but a big sack on third down sealed the Bucs fate. Laney (2-1, 5-3) looks to bounce back at home against Hoggard on Friday, Oct. 14.
New Hanover (2-0, 4-3) heads into a match up against West Brunswick (3-0, 7-1) in Shallotte. First-place in the Mideastern Conference will be on the line as both teams are unbeaten in league play
New Hanover- Blake Walston, 3 yard pass to Lamont Howard, (PAT, Westley Gaines) 10:26
Laney- Imeek Watkins, 6 yard run, (PAT, Justin Hoffman) 7:32
New Hanover- Blake Walston, 60 yard pass to Malcolm Hill, (PAT, Gaines) 6:07
Laney- Sherod Sidbury, 19 yard pass to Jason Billingslea, (PAT, Hoffman) 3:29
Laney- Sherod Sidbury, 42 yard run, (PAT blocked) 10:53
New Hanover- Keegan Santos, 74 yard run, (PAT, Gaines) 10:03