OCEAN — A win this Friday at home versus Pender will tie the longest winning streak in school history at six.
A win the following Friday at East Carteret will tie the program record for regular season victories at nine.
It’s been that kind of season for the Croatan football team.
“It’s been quite a ride,” senior captain, tight end and defensive end Zach Hoy said as he reflected on his team’s 7-2 start. “The last Croatan team to start like this was in 2015. We’re playing some really good football right now, so it’s going to be exciting to watch.”
That 2015 squad set the standard that all future Croatan teams will be judged by … until this one came along.
The 2015 team won the first and only conference championship in school history by tying for the top spot in the old 2A East Central Conference with East Duplin and Northside-Jacksonville.
The Cougars ended up going 10-3 that season with their first-ever playoff win.
“I remember every game was like a playoff atmosphere, everyone was excited to go see them play,” Hoy said. “And I think it is like that now.”
A win this Friday will also help this year’s team match the best 18-game stretch in program history, matching the 14-4 mark that the 2015 and 2016 teams combined to make.
After finishing last season on a 6-2 run, which included hosting and winning the first-ever home playoff game, Croatan has gone 7-2 this season to go 13-4 in its last 17 games.
“It’s quite unbelievable,” Hoy said. “We’re known for other sports at Croatan, but we’re known for football now. We’re getting up there. We knew we had something special coming into the season. We thought we could do something big, and so far, it looks like we’re a playoff contender. We’re almost there.”
It’s hard to pick which side of the team has been more spectacular during its five-game winning streak, its offense or its defense.
After averaging 139.3 rushing yards per game in the first four contests, the Cougars have averaged 316.6 in the last five.
“This summer, we knew our offense would work, it would just take a couple of games to get it down,” said Hoy. “Honestly, I didn’t think we would be this dominant, but then once we started to buy into the program, it all seemed to fall into place. We started to run the ball, and no one has been able to stop us since.”
A 6-3, 240-pound tight end, Hoy has been an instrumental blocker in the split-back veer attack. He also leads the team in receiving with 115 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
The defense has been equally as dominant.
Croatan has given up only 10.8 points during its five-game winning streak and 12.4 during a 4-1 run in the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference. The team will likely trail just league champion Southwest Onslow (10.8) in points given up in conference play when it’s all said and done.
In their last five games, the Cougars have surrendered only 136.2 yards per game and 70 rushing yards per contest.
And they haven’t been beating up on just scrubs either.
Last Friday, they defeated a Richlands squad that came into the game on a four-game winning streak, going 4-0 in the Coastal 8 during that time, and averaging 42.8 points per game during the stretch. Three weeks ago, they dispatched a Dixon team that two weeks earlier trailed Southwest Onslow by a competitive 28-21 score at halftime before eventually falling 49-28.
“Those games, we went in and our coaches gave us a really good idea of what they were going to run,” Hoy said. “They turned us loose. We played base defense against them and responded no matter what they threw at us.”
Croatan showed its defensive versatility, beating a pass-happy Dixon team 34-13 and a run-heavy Richlands squad 28-21.
“We knew Dixon was a passing offense, and we shut that down to make them run,” Hoy said. “Richlands, we knew they were a running team, so we wanted to shut that down to make them pass.”
Hoy doubles as a defensive end and ranks third on the team in tackles (36), second in tackles for loss (seven) and third in sacks (2.5).
“I like defense more,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun. There is a lot less responsibility, and your errors are covered up there. You can go on instinct. You have one or two key reads, then you find the ball.”
A standout baseball player who hit .522 last spring with 39 RBIs in 23 games, Hoy isn’t sure if he’ll play sports at the next level. He has a 4.43 GPA and hopes to attend N.C. State and major in computer engineering.
Here are a few of Hoy’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Top Gun.”
Favorite TV Show: “Trailer Park Boys.”
Favorite Cartoon: “Family Guy.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Toby Keith.
Favorite Song: “American Ride” by Toby Keith.
Favorite Book: The Maze Runner by James Dashner.
Favorite Team: Baltimore Ravens.
Favorite Athlete: Lamar Jackson.
Favorite Vacation: Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Favorite Hobby: Fishing.
Favorite Subject: Math.
Favorite Quote: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” – Reese Bobby.
Favorite Food: Pizza.
Favorite Drink: Water.
Favorite Restaurant: Ruddy Duck.
Favorite Season: Fall.
Favorite Teacher: Mr. Cory Efland.
Favorite Sport: Football.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Hydrating.
Favorite Website/App: YouTube.
Favorite Follow on Twitter/Instagram: Qualified Captain.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: John Cena, Tom Brady, Trevor Wallace, Charlie Sheen and Justin Tucker.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Cameron Barnett, Sam Hoy, Cameron Boone, Jake Hayes, Mitchell Steele and coach Johnathon “Bean” Rigsby.
Items For A Deserted Island: Matches, knife, duct tape, tarp and a hat.