Ni­chol­son, Not­ting­ham plow through Hopewell

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Greg John­son gjohn­son@tren­to­nian.com @greg­p_j on Twit­ter

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.”

GREGG SLABODA — TREN­TO­NIAN FILE PHOTO

Not­ting­ham’s Dionte Ni­chol­son rushed for 265 yards and two touch­downs Satur­day against Hopewell.

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