WILMINGTON — The final date of the regular season is here for high school football programs in the area and as the push for a Mideastern Conference Championship is sorted out it looks like a pair of familiar foes will once again be atop the division moving into the state playoffs.
New Hanover and Hoggard face very winnable matchups on Friday night with identical 4-1 records in league play. While the Wildcats hold the tiebreaker following a win over the Vikings this season, both teams would earn a share of the division title if they grab victories in the regular season finale. Because New Hanover owns the win from the rivalry game, the Wildcats would get top seed from the conference moving into the 4A playoffs.
Topsail (2-3, 4-6) at Hoggard (4-1, 5-5)
Hoggard is playing some of its best football heading down the stretch and that’s exactly where you want to be moving into the postseason. Senior night in Viketown on Friday will give the Hoggard program and supporters time to recognize a number of big contributors to the team.
Some of the players include: running backs Tony Allen (121 carries, 641 yards, six TDs) and Rashod Wallace (132 carries, 723 yards, six TDs). Labib Ismail, Pantelis Poulos and Alex Halkias have anchored the offensive line along with tight end Patrick Morrison. Collin Hairr (18 catches, 250 yards, four TDs) and Chet Radack (22 catches, 353 yards, three TDs) are two vital assets to the Hoggard passing game.
Keon Bradley, Josh Bell, Cullum Crowley and Chris London highlight the Vikings’ senior class on defense. Crowley is second on the team with 59 tackles, including 19.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Winners of three straight, Hoggard welcomes Topsail to Shipyard Boulevard as the Pirates look to bounce back following a 46-17 setback to New Hanover one week ago.
New Hanover (4-1, 6-4) vs. South Brunswick (0-5, 1-9)
The Wildcats lived up to its goals of scoring a defensive touchdown this past Friday as New Hanover scored twice on defense in a 46-17 victory over Topsail.
Sophomore Blake Walston has started to settle in at quarterback, while nearly every skill position had a chance to showcase play making ability one week ago in a game where the black and orange put up over 500 yards of total offense.
Grant Daley and Nas Brown are two players New Hanover will get back next year at middle linebacker. They lead the Wildcats in total tackles, while special teams play continues to be a key component to the team’s success. Westley Gaines is 33-of-37 on point after attempts, while Alex Sniffen has 30 punts, averaging 43.5 yards.
New Hanover’s best football is still ahead of them and Friday’s match-up against South Brunswick should provide another opportunity to get a plethora of players touches on the offensive side of the ball.
Wiz Vaughn has rounded into form over the past two weeks, while Lamont Howard and Malcolm Hill give the Wildcats a pair of key receivers on the outside. Jyree Taylor has become a big asset in the passing game at tight end, while Keegan Santos and Javeon Hall do work in the run game.
New Hanover has 26 seniors on the team set to play in their final regular season home contest. Some of the final year players include: Keegan Santos, Jyree Taylor, Freddie Taylor, Javeon Hall, Jomaious Williams, Khalil Toney, L.J. Ballard, Lamont Howard, Malcolm Hill
Ashley (1-4, 3-6) at Laney (3-2, 6-4)
Laney is coming off its biggest win of the season after a dominating 34-14 performance on the road last week. The Bucs will also take time to highlight its seniors leading up to kick off on Friday night against Ashley.
Running back Imeek Watkins has been a staple in the Laney backfield since his freshman season. He’s coming off a 100-plus yard game with three touchdowns and in line for another big night on the ground.
The Bucs fierce defense, allowing just 12.5 points per game this season, is dominated by players competing in their final season for the blue and gold. Up front, Ryan Daborowski, Travone McGhee, Lewis Powell and Dionte Hicks have ravaged the line of scrimmage. Cayman Czesak is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, with Eli Boone, Kymel Bloodworth and Trevon Green navigating the secondary.
Center Alex Willis and full back Austin Nalley have also been big contributors on offense as they look to make an impact for Laney moving into the playoffs.
Ashley also has several big-time performers likely playing in their final high school football game, including quarterback Jacob Reed, Caleb Parker, Corey Whaley and Sean Ross.
North Brunswick (3-1, 7-3) at East Duplin (4-0, 9-1)
North Brunswick got a taste of its own medicine in last week’s setback to Northside after allowing a special teams touchdown to get their opponents on the board as the Scorpions fell 27-7 in Onslow County.
The boys from Leland still have a chance to earn a share of the East Central Conference crown, but North Brunswick needs to go on the road and knock off a tough East Duplin football team.
The Panthers own a 4-0 mark in league play and 9-1 overall record. They’ve allowed just one touchdown in four conference games, outscoring opponents 427-58 during its eight-game win streak.
Both teams are at its best when they’re running the football. East Duplin is averaging 336 rushing yards per game. North Brunswick was slow out of the gate last week and will need to control the clock, finish drives and limit penalties if the Scorpions want to pull off a huge road win in its regular season finale.