Football preview: New Hanover, West Brunswick set to square off for conference lead is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

New Hanover (2-0, 4-3) at West Brunswick (3-0, 7-1)

Possession of first place atop the Mideastern Conference is on the line Friday night in Shallotte as a pair of unbeaten teams inside the league square off when New Hanover visits West Brunswick.

The Trojans are riding a five-game winning streak and have yet to be tested in a game since dropping since suffering its only setback of the season in a 23-0 defeat at North Myrtle Beach on September 2.

New Hanover has won three in a row after a grueling non-conference slate, with a pair of emotional wins against Laney and Hoggard moving into their first road trip beyond the Wilmington city limits in about a month.

Bubba McCray has over 1,200 yards rushing this season.
Bubba McCray has over 1,200 yards rushing this season.

Bubba McCray has carried a West Brunswick offense averaging 286 yards rushing per game. Quarterback Owen McDowell is coming off his first 100 yard passing game as the Trojans seek more balance, but look for West Brunswick in large part to stick to the ground and pound game with a strong push at the line of scrimmage.

McCray had just seven touches and over 100 yards rushing during the first half of last week’s route over South Brunswick. The senior has over 1,200 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns this season. Maliek King (41 carries, 172 yards) and Tariq Thomas (31 carries, 248 yards) also bring a nice mix of power and speed to the Trojans’ offensive scheme.

A matchup to look for at the line of scrimmage will be New Hanover’s defensive front led by Jomaious Williams and Khalil Toney versus a West Brunswick offensive line featuring plenty of size up front. Thomas and the Trojans’ secondary will also be tested against the plethora of players at the skill position New Hanover has and their potential to find the end zone.

New Hanover’s offense has found its rhythm and committed zero turnovers last Thursday in a 21-20 victory against Laney. Blake Walston completed 17-of-24 passes in the win and two touchdowns. Francis Meehan is also back to full strength after missing the Hoggard game because of injury and was taking more reps at quarterback during practices this week.

Wiz Vaughn is on every opponents radar for his big play ability, but wide outs Lamont Howard (31 catches, 515 yards) and Malcolm Hill (nine catches, 157 yards) have an opportunity to stretch the field each week and use their athleticism to make plays in the passing game.

Grant Daley has a team-high 90 tackles this season for New Hanover.
Grant Daley has a team-high 90 tackles this season for New Hanover.

Keegan Santos (54 carries, 323 yards) continues to get a brunt of the carries on the ground, while Javeon Hall (47 carries, 204 yards) has proved to be a hard-nosed runner who can move the chains and extend drives. Jyree Tayler and Freddie Taylor are also a pair of skill players West Brunswick needs to keep an eye on as New Hanover utilizes several different options in their offensive spread.

The Wildcats have controlled the special teams’ game during their recent run of success. Alex Sniffen has booted a pair of coffin corner punts over the last two weeks inside the opposing team’s five-yard line. Westley Gaines has been consistent in the kicking game as his extra point last week was the deciding factor in a one-point win.

Led by Grant Daley and his team-high 90 tackles, New Hanover’s defense has also stepped up in conference play. Linebackers Nas Brown, Troy McCaskill and Jahann Simmons should have a busy night trying to stop the area’s leading rusher.

West Brunswick needs to get off to a good start to prove to themselves they can hang with New Hanover’s big play threat. The Trojans don’t want to get behind big early and have to get out of what they do best and that’s running the football. Like most football games, turnovers, getting off the field on third down and the defense that tackles best will ultimately sit alone atop the conference following Friday’s match-up.

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