New Hanover crushes Rose in season opener
Posted August 18
Greenville, N.C. — An expected opening night barnburner between a pair of perennial playoff powerhouses turned out to be more of a house fire Thursday at Greenville Rose High School.
Visiting Wilmington New Hanover broke open a tight game with 28 points in the first six minutes of the third quarter and clobbered the Rampants 62-21 at the Minges-Farley Athletic Complex.
Reclassification dropped both teams down to the 3A level this year after qualifying for the 4A playoffs last season.
“We came here to win, but we definitely didn’t expect to win like this,” said New Hanover coach Earl Smith. “I was concerned about our conditioning and the humidity; we had plenty of energy and pulled away in the second half and answered those concerns.”
Junior quarterback Blake Walston completed 13 of 22 passes for 237 yards and 3 TD’s and added a rushing touchdown for the Wildcats.
New Hanover piled up 569 total yards in the contest, compared to Rose’s 187. The Wildcats also held a 25-8 first down advantage.
Rose trailed just 27-14 at the half before a disastrous six-minute stretch in the third quarter turned the game into a laugher.
New Hanover scored on its second offensive play of the quarter, and then returned a fumble for a TD less than a minute later for a quick 14-point turnaround.
The Wildcats followed that up with scores on their next two possessions, sandwiched around a Rose TD drive, and just like that the rout was on.
New Hanover led 55-21 at the 6:38 mark of the third quarter.
"We didn’t respond very well to adversity,” Rose coach Dave Wojtecki said. “They punched us in the mouth at the start of the second half and we didn’t have an answer. We didn’t execute, we didn’t tackle well, and we blew too many coverages.”
Rose also turned the ball over three times and handed the ball to the Wildcats in prime scoring position on another occasion with a high snap over the punter’s head.
The key moment, aside from New Hanover’s third quarter outburst, may have come late in the second quarter with the Wildcats clinging to a 21-14 lead.
Taking over at its own two-yard line with 5:41 left in the half, New Hanover marched 98 yards in nine plays, twice converting long third downs, before Walston connected with Wiz Vaughn on a 23-yard scoring strike just before intermission.
"That was a big momentum changer,” Smith said. “They had just gotten to within one score and had us pinned deep. Blake made some very good decisions on that drive, and the momentum seemed to carry over into the second half.”
Vaughn terrorized the Rampants for 146 total yards (58 rushing, 88 receiving) and two TD’s. Tailback Jabez Howard ran for 114 yards, all but six in the second half.
Rose quarterback Grant Jarman tossed a trio of TD passes, completing 11 of 23 attempts for 155 yards.