RALEIGH, N.C. – It didn’t take long, one minute to be exact, for the Dudley Panthers to seize control of the 4A State Championship Game against Cape Fear. Dudley took the reins on the third play from scrimmage as Hendon Hooker lofted a pass down the left sideline to Nigel Fitzgerald who hauled it in and sprinted 79 yards for the opening score and as he took off, so did the Panthers, never to look back.
Fitzgerald and Hooker connected one other time on the night as Hooker hit Fitzgerald on a seven-yard back shoulder throw in the end zone in the closing second of the first half as the Panthers stretched the lead to 34-0. Dudley went on to capture the school’s fourth championship in six appearances in an NCHSAA Championship game, knocking out Cape Fear 54-0.
Hendon Hooker was brilliant at quarterback for the Panthers. Hooker threw three touchdown passes in the first half alone. He accounted for six touchdowns in total, 3 on the ground and 3 in the air as he threw for 221 yards and rushed for another 89 yards on the night on his way to M.V.P. honors in the game, voted unanimously by the assembled media.
Zareik Rush had a two touchdown night for the Panthers as well, accounting for 120 yards rushing with scores of 25 and 52 yards.
The Dudley defense was solid as well, holding the balanced Cape Fear attack to just 108 yards on the night. Nigel Peele was named the Most Outstanding Performer on the defensive side of the ball with seven tackles on the night and a pass break up.
Cape Fear struggled mightily all night long with the Colts dual-threat quarterback Justice Galloway-Velasquez held under 100 yards of total offense on the night for the first time this season. Galloway-Velasquez was named the Colts Most Outstanding Offensive Performer with 110 yards through the air and -15 on the ground as he was under siege all night by the Dudley defense.
The Colts concluded their year 15-1, the best season in school history, winning 10 or more games for the first time in a year as a program. They were the undefeated champions of the Mid-South 4A Conference.
Dudley wrapped up their year at 15-1 on the season, finishing second in the All-Metro 4A behind Page who also reached a State Championship Final. The Panthers won their first State Championship since their 2013 victory over Scotland County in the 4A title game.