New Hanover Wildcats ready to defend 3AA football championship

New Hanover football playoff run

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The New Hanover High School football team is the defending 3AA state champion, and the Wildcats aren’t ready to give up their crown.

As hard as they worked to win it all, the players say they know repeating is maybe even more of a challenge.

“It’s always difficult,” said senior Holland Baynard. “You have to put it behind you and focus on this season. The season you are playing is the season at hand. That’s what you have to focus on to make it.”

The Wildcats, who take on Dudley at home in the second round of the state playoffs Friday night, have had to refocus a few times this season, first after starting 1-2, and then after losing to rival Hoggard 38-0.

“We got the wakeup call in the Hoggard game,” said coach Earl Smith. “We played three games in that eight-day period. We had to grow up real fast and get it together.”

Senior quarterback Blake Walston said he believes the Wildcats are playing their best football of the season.

“Last game showed us a little something,” Walston said of a 35-20 win over Topsail in the first round of the playoffs. “I think if we play like that, we’ll be unbeatable.”

Smith said even though New Hanover is playing well at the moment, his squad will need to be firing on all cylinders Friday.

“They are typical Dudley,” Smith said of the Panthers. “Very athletic, well coached, very big. They have two of the biggest defensive tackles I have ever seen. We just need to make sure we execute and outquick them some.”

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