The midseason push is underway for local high school football programs as the schedule heads into week seven on Friday night. Kick off across the area is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The featured match up this week has the New Hanover Wildcats (0-0, 2-3) travelling crosstown to face the Hoggard Vikings (1-0, 2-4). The surging West Brunswick Trojans (1-0, 5-1) and Laney Buccaneers (1-0, 4-2) both look to continue the momentum with winnable games at home. Ashley (0-1, 2-2) also faces North Brunswick (0-0, 3-2) in a non-conference match up in Monkey Junction.
New Hanover (0-0, 2-3) at Hoggard (1-0, 2-4)
This longtime rivalry has been circled on the schedule since releasing conference dates for the 2016 season. Throw out the records, stats and previous matchups anytime these two familiar foes clash. Both teams played a competitive non-conference slate and picked up wins last week to gain confidence with plenty to play for as the league schedule gets underway.
Hoggard had no trouble in a 50-13 victory against South Brunswick in week six. Scoring points in the red zone and limiting big plays on defense continues to be vital part to the Vikings success. New Hanover, which put up some 500 yards of total offense last week, got back to getting the ball to its skill players with sophomore quarterback Blake Walston taking the snaps in last week’s 49-21 win at home over Purnell Swett.
While both programs have plenty of play makers on both side of the ball, a good match up to look for Friday night will be in the trenches. Hoggard senior offensive lineman Labib Ismail and company look to control the line of scrimmage against recent Shrine Bowl selection Jamious Williams and Khalil Toney.
Williams and Toney will be asked to clog up the middle for New Hanover, while linebackers Grant Daley, Nas Brown, Troy McCaskill and Jahann Simmons need to play with the ferociousness seen during the last few games against a Hoggard offense averaging 223 yards rushing per game.
Junior Francis Meehan appears to be healthy for the Wildcats so Hoggard’s defense will likely see two different players taking snaps throughout the night in the New Hanover backfield. Wiz Vaughn is one of the most electrifying players in the area any time he touches the ball, rushing for over 200 yards against Purnell Swett. Vaughn has amassed 483 total yards this season as a threat in the running and passing game. Keegan Santos (39 rushes, 197yards, 3TDs) gets a brunt of the work load in between the tackles, while Lamont Howard (20 catches, 406 yards, 2TDs) has the ability to stretch the field at wide out.
Defensively, New Hanover posted a shutout last week during the first half of play. The Wildcats front seven has been tested against some pretty strong opponents through the first five games, which should have them prepared to go up against a solid Hoggard offensive line, with running backs Tony Allen and Rashod Wallace taking most of the carries.
Hoggard has an experienced quarterback in Josh Jones and the junior has aided the duo of Allen and Wallace in the run game. The trio has combined for 1,168 yards rushing this season, while Allen and Wallace have combined for 11 touchdowns. Tre Houser has been one of the most underrated playmakers for the Vikings through six games, but the junior wide out continues to make an impact on offense. Houser has 12 receptions for 238 yards and gives Hoggard a threat in the return game.
Chet Radack has developed into a possession receiver and the favorite target for Jones in the passing game with a team-high 15 catches. Jones has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes (57-of-97) for 720 yards and six touchdowns. Tight end Patrick Morrison also brings a third element to the Hoggard air attack, with the ability to lower his shoulder pads and provide key blocks up front.
On defense, Cullum Crowley has emerged as an important part to the Vikings’ defensive front. After transitioning from safety to outside linebacker last season, Crowley look comfortable and improving each week as the team’s defensive captain. Keon Bradley and Reece Moulton will be tested this week at corner back along with the rest of the Hoggard secondary.
When both teams match up as evenly as these two programs, turnovers and special teams often times plays a big part in the end result.
The winner of this game has decided the Mideastern Conference Champion in each of the last three seasons. New Hanover won last year’s contest 30-13, but Hoggard has gone 11-3 against the Wildcats including a pair of playoffs wins since 2004.