Hendon Hooker accounted for six touchdowns and was the Player of the Game in the 4-A NCHSAA State Championship game as he led the Dudley Panthers to a 54-0 pounding of the Cape Fear Colts on Saturday night at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
The Dudley Panthers received the opening kickoff, after Cape Fear won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second-half, and it didn’t take long for the scoring to start for Hooker and the Panthers. Only a minute into the first quarter he found Nigel Fitzgerald for a 79-yard touchdown, and after a failed PAT kick, the Panthers led 6-0.
2:21 later, Hooker ended a three-play 36-yard drive with a 19-yard rush for a touchdown and found Thomas Young in the end zone for the two-point conversion. The Panthers lead was 14 in their first two possessions.
Things didn’t get any easier for Cape Fear from there. In fact, they got much, much harder.
DJ Crossen caused a fumble on the next drive for the Colts after only one play, which led to yet another Dudley score. Hooker hooked-up with Zareik Rush from 25 yards on the second play of the drive and Kenji Patterson’s PAT attempt was blocked. Dudley led 20-0.
The second quarter saw two more Dudley touchdowns, a 12-yard Hooker run, and a 7-yard Nigel Fitzgerald pass from Hooker. The Panthers were 1-2 on two-point conversion attempts in the quarter, when Hooker found Thomas Young to make their lead 34.
At halftime the Panthers needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion for a running clock due to a 42 point lead. There would be a running clock in this game.
The running clock didn’t come on the first Panthers’ score of the half, however, as Hooker’s pass was just out of the reach of his receiver. You can’t fault him for that, though. He was probably winded from the 38 yards he had just run into the end zone for the touchdown.
It was only 1:01 after Hooker’s touchdown when DJ Crossen intercepted a Justice Gallaway-Velazquez pass and returned it 28-yards for the score. The Panthers led 47-0, and the clock wouldn’t stop the rest of the night, with the exception of timeouts and touchdowns.
Zareik Rush capped off the scoring, taking off 52 yards and making the Dudley lead 54-0. The Panthers starters were removed from the game after Rush’s touchdown, and we even saw Hendon Hooker’s freshman brother, Alston Hooker, take snaps in the championship game in which his big brother would be the MVP.
The Panthers’ defense was dominant to say the least. Interceptions from Miles Berry, Miles White, and DJ Crossen’s pick six, along with Brion Seagraves’ fumble recovery, were the highlights in the defensive stats. However, the entire defense played a part in shutting out the Colts, something that hadn’t been done all season, as Cape Fear averaged 40.5 points per game before Saturday night’s loss.
“It’s a great feeling to win any game,” a humble Hooker said when asked how it felt to win the state championship. “I consider all my teammates my brothers,” he added “It’s nice to start him off with a ring,” he said of winning with his blood brother on the roster.
Dudley head coach Steven Davis was elated with the win.
“Not quite (how I intended my game-plan to workout), but, I’ll take it,” Davis said. “My coaching staff did a great job watching film and breaking it down, and the guys went out there and executed tonight and we came out with a big win.”
Zareik Rush was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player from the Western Region team, and was all smiles in the press conference.
“It feels good,” he said. “I’d like to thank Coach Davis for coaching us really well this week. When my name was called I was going to get in the game and make an impact, and that’s what I did,” Rush added.
Nigel Peele was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player from the Western Region team.
Dudley played completely dominating football, and Cape Fear head coach Jake Thomas spoke of how dominating the Panthers were on both sides of the ball.
“We ran into a great Dudley team; they were better than us, they were more physical than us, and they did a better job of executing tonight than us,” Thomas said. “Hats off to them.”
The Panthers are the only team to bring the championship hardware back to Greensboro/Guilford County out of the three teams who played for State Championships today.
When Dudley head coach Steven Davis was asked if he was the best team in the ‘Boro now that he had a state championship win, and the only team to beat his team—Page—didn’t, his answer put the exclamation point at the end of the title: “We’re the best team in the State.”
(DUD) Nigel Fitzgerald 79 pass from Hendon Hooker (kick failed)
(DUD) Hooker 19 run (Thomas Young pass from Hooker)
(DUD) Zareik Rush 25 pass from Hooker (kick blocked)
(DUD) Hooker 12 run (pass failed)
(DUD) Fitzgerald 7 pass from Hooker (Young pass from Hooker)
(DUD) Hooker 38 run (pass failed)
(DUD) DJ Crossen 28 interception return (Kenji Patterson kick)
(DUD) Rush 52 run (Patterson kick)
Hendon Hooker: GAME MVP- (11-16) 221yds, 3TD, INT ; 12 car 89yds 3TD
Zareik Rush: (Media Voted Dudley Offensive Outstanding Player) 6car 120yds, TD ; 2rec 51yds, TD
Nigel Fitzgerald: 3 rec 105yds, 2TD
DJ Crossen (Pick six)
MEDIA VOTED BEST PERFORMANCES ON DUDLEY TEAM:
Offense- Zareik Rush
Defense- Nigel Peele
PLAYER OF GAME- Hendon Hooker