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Wildcats' season-ending loss to Bears follows previous script

Josh Barrett (right) tries to keep Ward Coleman up after throwing an interception as New Bern hosts the New Hanover High School football team Friday Nov. 16, 2012. (Photo by Staff photo by PAUL STEPHEN)

NEW BERN | New Bern powered past New Hanover on Friday night early and often and ended the Wildcats' season with a 49-35 victory in the third round of the Class 4A state football playoffs.

Jacquin Watkins rumbled for 231 yards on 21 carries and sparked a dominating New Bern running attack. The Bears, ranked No. 2 in the state, finished the game with 346 rushing yards compared to New Hanover's 95.

"They were the better team tonight," New Hanover coach Kevin Motsinger said. "And hats off to Coach (Bobby) Curlings and those guys, and we're pulling for him."

With New Hanover's defense spread out to stop the Bears' option offense, New Bern handed the ball off to Watkins up the middle. He responded with 135 first-half yards and a score as New Bern (13-0) ran out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.

New Hanover (10-2) was only able to run six plays in that stretch, and the early scores deflated the Wildcats.

While New Bern's offense piled up the yardage, New Hanover's struggled. The Wildcats' first three drives ended in two punts and an interception.

"That's hard," Motsinger said. "I didn't draw it up that way. We made too many mistakes early."

New Hanover's only first-half touchdown came following a New Bern fumble that Caleb Fuller recovered and ran back to the New Bern 15.

Even when New Hanover's offense did find traction, penalties and turnovers held it back. The Wildcats had 10 penalties and four turnovers.

Ward Coleman finished the game with 253 passing yards, but threw three interceptions as New Hanover tried to pass its way back into the game.

It was a familiar night for the Wildcats, who also fell behind 28-14 against New Bern at halftime in the teams' regular-season meeting. New Hanover ended up committing seven turnovers in that 63-34 loss on Sept. 28.

"We made too many mistakes tonight against a good team," Motsinger said. "And we just couldn't overcome them. I don't really have an answer."

New Hanover did score back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter on a long pass to Trevon Brown and a fumble recovery to pull within 14 points.

But New Bern responded with another touchdown to make the score 42-21 and put the pressure back on New Hanover.

New Hanover's next drive ended in a turnover on downs and, when the Bears added another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, the lead was too large to overcome. New Hanover added two late touchdowns by Montrell Baldwin to complete the scoring.

Despite the loss, Motsinger said the Wildcats' accomplishments in the past two years shouldn't be overlooked. New Hanover has gone 20-5 over that span, with the five losses to either New Bern or Scotland, which won the 4A state championship in 2011.

"Everyone talks about our athletes, but they don't talk about how hard they work and how much better they are," Motsinger said. "If they hadn't done that then we wouldn't be here tonight. They should be so proud of everything they've done."