Friday Night Redux - Wildcats' defense pays off in win


New Hanover's defenseman Khalil Morris tips a pass play intended for Southeast Raleigh's Ezra Jeffers Friday night as the Wildcats keeps defensive pressure on the Bulldogs. (Photo by Photo by Jeff Janowski)


 

One thing that New Hanover has done very well this season is pressure the quarterback, and the Wildcats showcased that skill against Southeast Raleigh on Friday night.

While the Wildcats’ offensive numbers often grab most people’s attention, New Hanover’s defense has been effective as well.

New Hanover’s defensive front has been able to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks all year, despite rarely bringing extra pressure. That success continued on Friday. The Wildcats had three sacks and kept Southeast Raleigh’s quarterbacks scrambling.

“We have gotten better in the secondary, we’ have gotten better up front and our linebackers have played so well all year long,” New Hanover coach Kevin Motsinger said. “That allows us to bring a lot of pressure.”

Motsinger added that the pressure helped cover up some of New Hanover’s mistakes as well – Southeast Raleigh’s faster wide receivers did get open downfield, but the Wildcats pressure prevented quarterbacks DeMonte Spence and Cameron Marshman from finding them.

“Chasing both those quarterbacks around tonight, if we hadn’t been able to do that, holy smoke,” Motsinger said. “The thing is, we’ve had a ton of pressures and that’s just as important as a sack.”

Pender outmuscles Wallace-Rose Hill

Mighty Wallace-Rose Hill had defeated Pender in 10 of its previous 12 match-ups, but things changed dramatically Friday night when the visiting Patriots dominated the Bulldogs 40-20 to advance to the second round in the 1AA football playoffs.

Wallace-Rose Hill, which prides itself on physical play, was manhandled by the Patriots unheralded offensive line and had no answers for Pender’s triple option, especially quarterback Nicky Wells and fullback Sam Dixon, who combined for 316 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

The Bulldogs, who captured seven conference titles in a 10-year span, including a pair of state championships, also was known for special teams. But Pender’s Devin Hansley raced 83 yards for a touchdown with the second-half kickoff.

Winning, Wells said, reinforced coach Tony Hudson’s confidence in the team, even though Wallace-Rose Hill shut them out in the second half in a 28-14 defeat in the regular-season meeting in Burgaw.

“We knew we had this in us,” Wells said. “Coach told us the reason we lost the last game was because we beat ourselves. In this game, we did not beat ourselves.”

Pender (6-5) did not fumble and the lone blemish was a desperation interception just before intermission.

“I told our kids we were fortunate to beat them at their place,” Bulldogs coach Joey Price said.

On Friday, the Bulldogs had 220 yards total offense and threw two interceptions, but never forced Pender to punt.

Wells said he read the option better than in the first meeting, but the Bulldogs did not blitz as much either.

Price said Wells was masterful in following Dixon on belly dives before pulling the ball out and racing around the ends for yardage.

“The fullback (Dixon) was a beast sometimes,” Price said. “We had him wrapped up and he looked like he was going down and he just kept running.”

The Bulldogs finished 7-5 and suffered first-round losses for only the second time in 12 years.

After graduating the bulk of last year’s 13-2 squad, Price figured 2012 was going to be a learning experience. Although the squad showed improvement, he believes the team was lucky to win seven games, including six of eight down the stretch.

The Bulldogs (7-5) were the third-seed in the Mideast pod and came within a two-point conversion in a 21-20 loss to James Kenan last week of being the Tri-County Conference’s top representative.

“I am not making excuses or anything, but losing to James Kenan took a lot out of our kids because they think they put about as much as they could into it,” Price said. “I think it took them to about Wednesday to realize they have another football game to play. It was just too little too little.”

 

-- By Powell Latimer and Chuck Carree