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Bears turn away Vikings' best punches to bounce Hoggard

New Bern quarterback Josh Taylor slips between Hoggard's Parker Whitlow, 54, and Julius Reynolds. (Photo by Byron Holland/Sun Journal)

NEW BERN | For one half Friday night, Hoggard's defense was very good. For one quarter, New Bern quarterback Josh Taylor was better.

Taylor broke open a close game in the third quarter, sparking the Bears' 41-17 defeat of shorthanded Hoggard in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 4A football playoffs.

"At halftime, they made some adjustments," Hoggard coach Scott Braswell said. "And we didn't have any more adjustments to make."

Taylor finished the game with 217 rushing yards and four touchdowns, three of them in the decisive third quarter.

New Bern needed Taylor to step up as Hoggard's defense slowed the Bears for much of the first half by crowding the line of scrimmage and blitzing on almost every down.

"We were just trying to show multiple looks and mix it up," Braswell said. "I thought the coaches had a great plan."

The Vikings' special teams even produced a lead in the second quarter. After Tai Apisa blocked a New Bern field-goal attempt, Nathan Conway returned it 80 yards for a touchdown to give Hoggard a 8-7 advantage.

"Our guys came to play," Braswell said. "We came to play and we competed. We just played a very good football team tonight."

But Hoggard's aggressive defense came with a price. Hoggard's blitzes dared New Bern (12-0) to throw the ball, and late in the second quarter, the Bears finally found a groove. With two passing touchdowns late in the second quarter, they retook the lead at halftime.

Hoggard (9-3) had a chance to regain momentum after returning the third quarter kickoff to the New Bern red zone and getting a quick field goal, but Taylor took over.

The senior quarterback ripped off scoring runs of 49 and 31 yards, and had a 60-yard run to set up his third rushing touchdown. In that quarter alone, Taylor had seven carries for 172 yards.

"All we have to do is call his number," New Bern coach Bobby Curlings said. "It seems like when we do need to have a big play he's going to do whatever it takes to make it happen."

With the win, New Bern gets another Mideastern Conference rematch, hosting New Hanover in the third round next week.

Despite the season-ending loss, Braswell said he was pleased with what the Vikings accomplished, making the second round of the playoffs despite a number of injuries. On Friday, Hoggard's two leading rushers and leading receiver were all out.

"That's the kind of team they are," Braswell said. "It's a cliche to say that they were a joy to coach, but every coach enjoyed coaching them."