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Wildcats can't dig out

New Hanover's Ward Coleman throws a pass against Conway (S.C.) during a Carolinas Kickoff Clash game at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium in Myrtle Beach on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. (Photo by Paul Stephen)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | An agonizing wait for the 2013 football season ended for New Hanover with Conway’s opening kickoff precisely at 8 p.m. on Saturday night. In the nightcap at the Carolinas Kickoff Clash, the short kick slammed off the chest of an up man into the waiting arms of a charging Tiger.

The play proved to be the ominous start to a forgettable debut, a 32-14 loss at Myrtle Beach High School’s Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. Conway sophomore Cortez Brown scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns on that first possession, and the Wildcats never fully recovered.

“We came into this week with the wrong mental attitude,” coach Kevin Motsinger said. “When we got here, we were kind of flat. We didn’t have the excitement that we should’ve had about being here in this contest the first game of the year.”

Coming off a Week 1 bye, New Hanover (0-1) didn’t get the chance to ease into the season. Conway, which opened its season with a loss last week, pounded the ball on the ground behind Brown and junior DeAndre Hickman (24 carries, 69 yards).

Taking direct snaps in a Wildcat formation, Brown showed a nose for the goal line, scoring on three short runs in the first half. His 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal put the Tigers (1-1) up 20-0 with 3:52 left in the opening half. He finished with 94 yards on 19 carries.

After graduating 43 seniors, New Hanover moved the ball, at times with a new-look offense but struggled to sustain drives. While junior Ward Coleman is a returning starter under center, none of the skill position players had logged many meaningful varsity snaps before Saturday.

Coleman completed 12 of 29 passes for 158 yards with three interceptions. Senior Ramone Simpson provided a versatile threat out of the backfield with 98 rushing yards and 41 receiving yards. He scored the team’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run with 4:33 left in the third quarter.

In a halftime interview broadcast over the stadium loudspeaker, Motsinger apologized to his team’s fans for the lackluster effort.

The Wildcats responded by scoring the only touchdown of the third quarter. They later drove into Conway territory with a chance to make it a one-score game, but the Tigers sealed the victory with back-to-back touchdowns 18 seconds apart in the fourth quarter, including an interception return score.

“I didn’t have our kids prepared, mentally, to come out here and do what we needed to do,” Motsinger said. “I want to apologize for all the folks that have come and drove this far to see this because this was absolutely embarrassing.”

Conway (S.C.) 32, New Hanover 14

In Myrtle Beach, S.C.

New Hanover 0 0 7 7 - 14

Conway 8 12 0 12 - 32

First Quarter

C – Cortez Brown 2 run (Brown run) 8:42

Second Quarter

C – Brown 5 run (run fail) 11:56

C – Brown 1 run (pass fail) 3:52

Third Quarter

NH – Ramone Simpson 4 run (Kieran Aab kick) 4:33

Fourth Quarter

C – Bryan Edwards 13 pass from Ethan Smith (pass fail) 5:45

C – Damonique Owens 36 interception return (kick fail) 5:27

NH – Trequan Age 28 run (Aab kick) 1:22


Individual Statistics

Passing: New Hanover – Ward Coleman 12-29-3 158, Burke Estes 0-2-0; Conway – Ethan Smith 10-19-0 66, Cortez Brown 0-1-0.

Rushing: New Hanover – Ramone Simpson 14-98, Terron Piedra 6-28, Trequan Age 1-28, Malachi Mosley 2-9, Jamius Beckett 1-0, Coleman 3-1, Estes 1-(-1); Conway – DeAndre Hickman 24-69, Brown 19-94, Smith 2-(-5), Martwain Bellamy 3-3.

Receiving: New Hanover – Simpson 4-41, Travon Holliday 4-67, Parese Williams 3-53, Karon Reid 1-12; Conway – Bryan Edwards 6-59, Ikeem Coles 2-8, Marco Phifer 2-(-1).