Patriots line up to start winning

Devin Hansley and the Pender offense piled up 447 rushing yards against Wallace-Rose Hill in the playoff opener. (Photo by Photo by Paul Stephen)

The Pender football team has shoved its way into the second round of the state high school playoffs, and the Patriots aren’t ready to stop yet.

Pender has been on a late-season tear for the past three weeks, and opposing coaches say the same thing: The Patriots’ line play has been dominant.

With a triple-option running attack, Pender doesn’t confuse opposing defenses. The Patriots slam into them. In its three-game winning streak, Pender has scored 112 points and held opponents to only 37. 

After Pender manhandled longtime nemesis Wallace-Rose Hill 40-20 in the first round of the Class 1AA playoffs last week and piled up 447 rushing yards, Bulldogs coach Joey Price said the Patriots’ offensive line “wore us out.”

Pender coach Tony Hudson said his team hasn’t changed anything on the field, but attributed the late-season spark to the team’s regular-season loss to Wallace-Rose Hill. After an up-and-down start to the 2012 season, Hudson said that game gave Pender (6-5) a glimpse of its potential.

“We realized how close we were to being good,” Hudson said of the Patriots’ 28-14 loss to the Bulldogs on Oct. 12, a game which was tied at halftime.

“And guys kind of dialed it in. That’s something the team did themselves. Obviously the coach wants to take credit, but we don’t play. And the team decided they wanted to dial it in and go for it.”

Hudson added that the Patriots have continued to improve each week, and that the players are more familiar now with the offense. But the most important difference between going home and moving on in the playoffs for Hudson is the Patriots’ senior class.

“My seniors just aren’t done playing,” Hudson said.

Senior lineman Kymothy Murphy agreed, and said the Patriots have bought in to Hudson in his second year as the team’s leader.

“Last year, when he first got here it was like we didn’t want him. For one he came from a rival school that didn’t have a good record for winning,” Murphy said of the former Trask assistant.

“That’s probably one reason why last year our season went so bad (The Patriots went 3-8). … This year everybody has come together and let him coach. So I think we’ve come together in terms of learning and liking each other.”

The strength of Pender’s momentum and line play will both be tested on Friday, when the Patriots travel to Three Rivers Conference champion Red Springs (9-3).

The Red Devils’ offense is pass-heavy and high-scoring, something that Pender hasn’t seen all year. Quarterback Blake Greene has more than 2,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing for a team that has scored at least 46 points eight times.

“It’s going to be tough one, I ain’t gonna lie,” Hudson said. “They’ve got some athletes all over the field, especially their quarterback.”


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Playoffs Week 2

Games around the Wilmington area Friday for the second round of the NCHSAA playoffs. All games start at 7:30 p.m.

Class 2A: South Granville at South Columbus

Class 2A: E. Randolph at E. Bladen

Class 1AA: Pender at Red Springs

Class 1AA: Union at James Kenan

Class 1A: South Stanly at East Columbus