DURHAM – In a back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change hands five times, New Hanover got the better of A.C. Reynolds, 27-17, capturing the school’s fourth NCHSAA State Championship in football.
Both teams exhibited great balance offensively, with A.C. Reynolds slightly outgaining the Wildcats 353-330 in the game. Wiz Vaughn opened the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run with 4:30 to play in the second quarter, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. He added another touchdown later with 6:07 to go to help New Hanover pull away to a 27-17 lead.
Vaughn was the championship M.V.P. scoring twice and picking up 74 yards on 18 carries. He also hauled in six receptions for 50 yards on the night.
A.C. Reynolds answered Vaughn’s score with 1:12 to go before half when Alex Flinn found the end zone on a 10-yard run. The Rockets took the lead for the first time in the early third quarter on a 29-yard field gol by Cole Tanner.
New Hanover’s next play from scrimmage saw Blake Walston hit Cole Tanner for a 75-yard pass for score, putting the Wildcats back in front 14-10 with 8:40 to go in the third. Reynolds marched their next possession 9 plays and covered 55 yards as Nathan St. Onge found Talon James from 8-yards out for touchdown giving the Rockets a 17-14 lead.
New Hanover answered the bell again, going 8 plays and 63 yards as Walston went across on the ground from one yard out, putting the Wildcats in front for good at 20-17. Walston was named New Hanover’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player with 206 yards passing, completing 12 of 22 attempts. He had two touchdowns, one through the air and one via the running game.
Defensively the Wildcats were led by Francis Meehan who had six tackles and an interception in the game. He was named New Hanover’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Frank Torres took home the same award for A.C. Reynolds, making 3.5 tackles and breaking up a pass. I’dre Bell was the Most Outstanding Offensive player for the Rockets, rushing for 75 yards on 13 carries and catching seven passes for 56 yards.
New Hanover won the school’s first state championship since 1951, their fourth overall. The Wildcats won back-to-back championships in 1927 and 1928. New Hanover also holds a Division II championship from 1983.
West (A.C. Reynolds) Most Outstanding Defensive Player – Frank Torres
West (A.C. Reynolds) Most Outstanding Offensive Player – I’dre Bell
East (New Hanover) Most Outstanding Defensive Player – Francis Meehan
East (New Hanover) Most Outstanding Offensive Player – Blake Walston
Championship M.V.P. – Wiz Vaughn