Saturday, December 1, 2007

Vikings run by Spartans

Vikings run by Spartans
Southern cannot stop Hoggard

D. Clay Best, Correspondent
WILMINGTON - Standout junior Sean Sidbury had his usual show, rushing for three touchdowns and another tenth of a mile or so (176 yards on 34 carries), but Wilmington Hoggard senior receiver Luke Caldwell shined in his first appearance in the backfield -- at any level -- and helped spark the Vikings to a 21-6 victory on Friday in the 4-A eastern regional championship.
Caldwell ran for 74 yards on 10 carries out of a formation his teammates dubbed "Hokie 88" sometime late in the week. Caldwell's carries sparked all three of Hoggard's touchdown drives.

With quarterback Mark Crecco still recovering from an injury, Hoggard coach Scott Braswell turned to what he called a single-wing set, with Caldwell taking shotgun snaps from center to get the ball in his standout receiver's hands.

"We just had to figure out a way to get him touches with Mark out of the lineup and [backup quarterback] Brad Busbee struggling passing some last week," Braswell said. "We knew he wasn't going to get 10 touches in the passing game, so we came up with another way to do it."

Caldwell said the formation, which looks similar to the sets Arkansas uses with Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden, debuted in Tuesday's practice, and he thought it was almost a joke at the time.

"But then we worked on it some more on Wednesday and even more on Thursday," Caldwell added.

The Vikings, 15-0 and scheduled to play Winston-Salem Mount Tabor next Saturday at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, were able to tinker offensively in part because of the great field position they held for the majority of the game.

Hoggard started six drives outside of its 35-yard line or better. Southern started just one drive -- its only scoring drive -- inside of Vikings territory.

"Hoggard had great field position all night, and we never got any," first-year Spartans coach Adrian Jones said. "We tried to work our short passing game and see if we could make some things happen because I didn't want to try to throw deep with No. 7 [Sidbury] waiting back there to make a big play."

Sidbury also starts at cornerback for the Vikings and was part of a defensive effort that held Southern to just 92 yards passing on 16 completions (less 5 yards gained per completion).

Hoggard led 7-0 at the break on a 4-yard Sidbury run and seemed to be in control at 14-0 (after a 6-yard Sidbury TD run) with 38 seconds to play in the third quarter, but a rare miscue set up Southern Durham's scoring drive.

Sidbury lost the handle and Spartans senior Zak Blackwell covered the fumble at the Vikings' 40 with 6:42 to play.

Three plays after Southern quarterback Alan Lea scrambled for a 34-yard gain on third-and-10 to keep the drive alive, fullback Travis Savage bulled his way in on a 2-yard run. The missed extra-point left Southern down 14-6 with 5:08 to play.

"Other than the one big play [Lea's scramble], where they caught us on a middle linebacker blitz," Braswell said, "we did a great job of dealing with Southern's speed.

"Southern Durham, to its credit, did a great job of staying in the game given the problems they had with field position."

With Southern in dire need of the ball quickly, Caldwell got things going for Hoggard with gains of 6 and 13 yards, then Sidbury took over.

First, he squirmed his way for a first down on a crucial third down play with 2:22 remaining, then he scored his final, regional title-clinching third TD of the night three plays later.

Hoggard's ability to keep its offense on the field led to a 63-47 advantage in offensive snaps. Southern totaled just 74 yards rushing on the night to Hoggard's 254.

"I've given our kids nothing but credit," Jones said. "They had a great season for a bunch of sophomores and juniors, dealt with a lot of change, getting to know a new coaching staff, and I really feel like we'll be back here."

The News & Observer
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P.O. Box 191
Raleigh, NC 27602

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