DUSTIN HAYDEN

Croatan quarterback Dustin Hayden, seen here earlier in the season against Richlands, rushes for two scores and throws for another on Thursday in the 48-6 win at Pender. (Contributed photo)

BURGAW — The Croatan football team continued to run roughshod over its 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference on Thursday with a 48-6 win at Pender.

The Cougars (5-1) are 5-0 in the conference and only one game has been remotely close, a 24-21 win over Southwest Onslow.

Since then, the Cougars have shut out Dixon 59-0, Heide Trask 54-0 and Richlands 44-0 in addition to the trouncing at Pender (1-4).

“Our defense has been playing really well,” said Croatan coach Andrew Gurley. “(Defensive coordinator) Dave Boal and our other defensive coaches do a good job every week getting us ready. We’re tackling well, and the guys are just playing well as a team.”

The game was played on Thursday rather than Friday in observation of the Good Friday holiday as a preface to Easter on Sunday.

Quarterback Dustin Hayden and running back Colton Sullivan scored two rushing touchdowns apiece. Brayden Stephens and J.J. Pritchett each ran one in.

Hayden also connected with receiver Dakota Gray for a passing touchdown.

The six touchdowns came after a slow start for the offense that went three-and-out the first three drives.

“The defense started well,” Gurley said. “We had three takeaways on their first three possessions, and that gave us the momentum.”

Pender came into the game off a 16-8 win over Heide Trask. The Patriots scored their lone touchdown in the second quarter on a fourth-and-9 pass in the red zone from quarterback Antonio Bea.

“Their offense is tough to prepare for, tough to defend,” Gurley said. “They have a lot of formations and run some motion. Our guys did a good job staying disciplined and finding the football.”

The Cougars have already secured a playoff spot as the top team from the 2A portion of the Coastal 8, but they have a shot at going undefeated in conference play for the first time as a program on Friday with a home game against East Carteret (4-1).

“We got a big one next week,” Gurley said. “East is a good team. We have to stay hungry and keep rolling.”

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