Led Wildcat charge to beat Topsail
HAMPSTEAD — The Topsail offense had all sorts of momentum heading into halftime against New Hanover Friday.
The Pirates scored on back-to-back possessions to close the second quarter, and a 14-0 New Hanover lead dwindled to 17-14 at the intermission. However, the Pirates' offense didn't score another point thanks to an adjustment made by the New Hanover coaching staff.
The Wildcats shifted linebacker Colby McCaskill down to the defensive line, where he played right on top of the Topsail center. McCaskill, quicker than any offensive or defensive linemen on the field, was a wrecking ball. He disrupted plays and combined with the other bodies up front to pitch a second-half shutout as the Wildcats claimed a 38-14 victory.
"It's called our bear front," said New Hanover head coach Earl Smith. "Basically, we're coming up with three linemen. We use it in short-yardage, but we decided to try to use it and help us off tackle."
One look at the stats show just how successful the adjustment turned out. Topsail star running back Noah LaValle had 73 yards at halftime, and he finished with 89.
Aside from the schematic change, New Hanover's defense played with a different mindset over the final two quarters.
"Being relentless," linebacker ZyKwan McQuillan said. "Coach (John) Fuller always talks about being relentless, being unstoppable and never giving up. I think we did that tonight."
McQuillan was one of three Widcats to have interceptions Friday. Jalen Gore and Rasheed Rogers also picked off a pass, and Rogers returned his takeaway 65-yards for the first touchdown of the night.
New Hanover has forced nine turnovers in its last two games, with six coming against West Brunswick Monday. If the defense is finally turning the corner, it's coming at just the right time for the Wildcats.
"They're definitely getting better," Smith said. "I think they've made some big momentum plays for us in the past two games, and that's huge with the playoffs starting next week."
-- Jackson Fuller
What's next for Sidbury?
If Laney had pulled off the upset against Hoggard, the Buccaneers might have had a shot at the postseason. Instead the crushing 24-20 defeat marked the final game for its seniors.
One of those upperclassmen included Sherod Sidbury, the program's three-year starter at quarterback.
"I was emotional before the game and now that it's over it's really hitting me," said Sidbury, who first played varsity on defense as a freshman.
His two touchdown runs Friday were bookended by two turnovers: one that resulted in a 99-yard interception scoring return by Tayshaun James and a lost fumble on the Hoggard 26 during a potential game winning drive.
Sidbury knows those up-and-down moments have resulted in plenty 'what might have beens.' While the last three seasons have shown admirable results — 19-17 with two playoff appearances — there have also been opportunities missed in narrow defeats to MEC rivals New Hanover and the Vikings, as well as a second round single-point loss to eventual 4AA state champion Wake Forest in 2016.
He takes it all in stride.
"Every day is a (good) memory for me," Sidbury said.
Friday was a chance to end on a high note and prove Sidbury is one of the better talents in Southeastern North Carolina, yet coach Ashaad Yeoman believes his signal caller has already proven his abilities. After all, he noted Western Carolina has shown interest in Sidbury among other colleges.
"He's worked hard since he's been here, and we're looking forward to seeing his future," Yeoman said.
-- Owen Hassell