Hoggard slips past Trojans

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

WILMINGTON—Coach Jimmy Fletcher sighed.

“It hurts,” he said after the Hoggard Vikings rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Fletcher’s West Brunswick football team 20-10 on a rainy Friday night.

“I’m going to tell you,” he said, “it hurts.”

West led 10-3 early in the fourth quarter and faced third down at its 10. That’s when quarterback Ryan Hill sprinted 90 yards for an apparent touchdown and a 16-10 lead over the defending state champion Vikings.

A holding penalty nullified the score, and then everything unraveled.

Two plays later, Hoggard scored a safety on a punt that was dropped and rolled out of the end zone.

On their ensuing possession, the Vikings moved the ball 50 yards in five plays, scoring on a 10-yard run and a two-point run. The scores put Hoggard ahead for the first time, 13-10, with 6:59 left.

On West’s next possession, it fumbled on second down. Hoggard took over at the 25 and scored six plays later on a 13-yard run. The extra point gave the Vikings a 20-10 lead with 3:29 left and clinched the stunning victory in the first conference game of the season for both teams.

“West Brunswick outplayed us,” Hoggard coach Scott Braswell said after his team’s 19th straight home victory. “There were just a couple of key plays where momentum turned our way.

“West Brunswick is so close to turning the corner right now and learning how to win those games. I give coach Fletcher and his staff and the West Brunswick players tremendous credit for the way they played tonight. They outplayed us.”

Fletcher, too, said he was proud of the way his team played.

“I told them they had great heart, great character,” he said. “It was a great effort by those guys.

“A couple of breaks—and we would have had it.”

Braswell said his team never gave up, even though the Trojans had played better football for the first three quarters.

“Our guys have won some championships,” he said. “They have an idea of what it takes. We made the plays and stepped up in the fourth quarter to win it.”

West punted on its first three possessions but was able to break through for a field goal on its fourth possession.

The Trojans took over at the Hoggard 46 and Jordan Buffkin gained 16 yards on first down. He gained 9 more to the 27, and Charlie Brown carried twice, putting West at the Hoggard 18. The drive stalled there, but Corey Bell kicked a 39-yard field goal, the longest of his career, with 6:15 left in the half.

Hoggard was able to match those points after it blocked a Trojan punt at the 20 with 2:40 left in the half. The West defense held Hoggard to a net 4-yard gain—Isiah Williams and Alfy Hill stuffed a running play on third down—and Hoggard converted on a 32-yard field goal to tie the score 3-3 with 52 seconds left in the half.

Fletcher said his team did not use any different schemes on offense or defense in the first half. It was just a matter of confidence.

“We had told them all week,” Fletcher said, “we can play with them, we can win. I think they believed it. For the first time they really believed they could go play with these guys. Football is such a mental game. I think our kids went out there and they believed (they were the better team) for almost the whole four quarters.”

The Trojans continued their stellar play through the third quarter.

On their first possession, at their 29, the Trojans moved the ball to the Hoggard 35. On the drive, West faced a fourth-and-1 at the 50—and instead of puntin, Fletcher let Ryan Hill run a sneak for the first down.

“They did a great job,” Fletcher said about his linemen. “We challenge them all week that we had to win it up front. And I felt for three and one-half quarters, we did. I felt they controlled the line of scrimmage a lot this game.”

Runs by Ryan Hill and Buffkin moved the ball to the 35, where West punted—and that set up West’s first touchdown. Hoggard took over at its 10 and on third down threw a pass. Defensive back Bradley Bell saw it all the way.

“I was in the right position at the right time and I got the pick,” he said, “but I couldn’t score on it.”

Bell ran the ball to the 15. Two plays later, Hill scored on a 10-yard run. Bell’s extra point put West ahead 10-3 with 2:27 left in the quarter.

West then stunned the Vikings on the kickoff, as Bell recovered a fumble. That put West at its 45 with 2:45 left in the quarter—and with all the momentum. West had to punt after three plays, but the West defense forced Hoggard to a three-and-out. In the series, Quan Bates nearly had an interception, and Ted King stuffed a running back on a third-down run.

Hoggard’s punt left West at its 5 early in the fourth quarter—and that’s when everything changed.

“The penalty hurt big-time,” Fletcher said. “And after the safety, I was beginning to get scared. But they fought hard, they really did.

“We had some other opportunities. Hoggard is a great football team. They do a great job. Coach Braswell does a great job.”

“We played good,” Bell said, “but it just didn’t come through for us. We played good in everything.”

And that’s what Fletcher wants to hear from all of his players.

“I told them if we give that kind of effort the rest of the year, we got a chance to some really good things.

* * *

West, 2-3 for the season, plays a home conference game 7:30 p.m. Friday against White Oak. New Hanover beat White Oak 27-16 Friday. The Vikings are 0-1 in the conference, 2-4 overall, and have lost three straight games: 14-7 to Southwest Onslow, 12-0 to Havelock and 27-16 to New Hanover.

MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at sports@brunswickbeacon.com.