Nicholson, Nottingham plow through Hopewell
HAMILTON » Dionte Nicholson is still a braceface and only a sophomore, but it is time for Mercer County football fans to start getting acquainted with Nottingham’s star running back if they haven’t already.
Nicholson carried the rock 37 times Saturday afternoon for a career-high 265 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-7 win versus Hopewell Valley, continuing a torrid start to the season. He already has well over 1,000 yards in his short Northstars career, and barring injury, it is not even half over.
“I’m not going to say it’s what I expected, but when we work hard, good things happen. I just feel like the hard work that I’m putting in is paying off,” Nicholson said. “That all goes to Coach (Jon) Adams. He has us running like crazy in practice, and it’s paying off. In practice I’m like, ‘Ahhh, I don’t feel like running. I don’t feel like running.’ But at the end of the day when we come out here to play, it all pays off.”
Although Nicholson runs behind a veteran offensive line which opens plenty of holes, oftentimes he is breaking tackles and extending plays to consistently pick up chunk yardage, putting Nottingham in manageable secondand third-down distances.
“He runs hard and he just does not go down,” senior guard Bryce Fremgen said. “Whoever tries to tackle him, he’s not going to go down easy.”
Nicholson’s bruising running style overwhelmed Hopewell by the second half. Up 6-0 with the ball to begin the third quarter, Nottingham handed the ball off to the sophomore four straight times during a 63-yard march into the end zone. Not even two minutes drained off the game clock.
Quarterback Logan Barber completed a pass in the flat to Christian Angelucci, who skipped in for a two-point conversion that extended the Northstars’ lead to 14-0.
“It was a great adjustment by our offensive coordinator, coach (Ross) Maddalon. He said to run weakside power,” Fremgen said. “We just ran it like four times that drive, and we just pounded the ball down their throat. It was a hole in their defense. We picked it up, and we capitalized on it.”
Nicholson scampered for close to 200 yards in those final two quarters, including a 38-yard burst behind a textbook block from Fremgen which freed him into the open field.
With 1:56 remaining, an 18-yard touchdown by Nicholson put the game out of reach at 21-0. Alix Oge accounted for seven of those points with two field goals and an extra point on the day.
Hopewell’s lone score was a late 77-yard touchdown pass from Jack Demareski to Russell Ingling.
“In the first half I was kind of rushing things, and I wasn’t waiting for the play to develop,” Nicholson said. “Me and Bryce, we had a conversation and he told me if I be patient and read my blocks, I’ll be fine.”
But the unsung hero on Saturday was Nottingham’s defense, which set the tone in the first half by restricting Hopewell to threeand-outs on two of four drives.
After the offense’s touchdown to begin the second half, the defense responded by forcing a turnover on downs in four plays.
Nkemdi Eke and Ridge Pierre were among the Northstars who had their way with the Bulldogs at the point of attack. Eze recorded a third-down sack and then a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter alone.
“We’re just strong up front,” Fremgen said. “Front seven played extremely well today. The secondary came and made plays, too. It’s just a big team defensive win today.”
Consider it an aced exam in steamy conditions for the Northstars (2-1), who have now won two straight and hope to get rolling after what was the first of four straight home games. Meanwhile, Hopewell (0-2) heads home looking for answers before hosting Notre Dame on Friday.
“It’s a game of conditioning, right? Whatever team was more conditioned on this hot day was going to come out on top,” Fremgen said. “It’s just hard-nosed football. It’s Nottingham football.”
Nottingham’s Dionte Nicholson rushed for 265 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against Hopewell.