By LARRY HENRY JR.
AUDUBON — Luke Hoke might not be the tallest or even the biggest wide receiver in South Jersey, but he makes up for it with speed, agility, and hard work. Just ask the Maple Shade High defense.
Hoke, a senior at Audubon, enjoyed a career day on Thursday in a 31-0 home victory over the Wildcats. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound wideout totaled 257 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on 11 touches as Dan Reed’s squad won its season opener.
“I was really proud of the team for their effort and character they showed all game,” Reed said. “I saw a lot of family in the team today, stepping out there and picking each other up throughout the game. A lot of unselfishness in moments that got a bit heated.”
Audubon (1-0, 0-0 West Jersey Football League Colonial) struck first by scoring on its third offensive play. Junior quarterback Breyson McCracken found Hoke across the field and Hoke did the rest, racing 87 yards for a 7-0 Green Wave lead.
After Dylan Hoff pounced on a Maple Shade fumble on the ensuing offensive series, Hoke was at it again, this time taking a McCracken handoff 35 yards for a 14-0 Audubon lead with less than six minutes to play in the first quarter.
“He came in as a freshman and I heard good things about him then, but he’s continued to get better each season,” Reed said about Hoke. “He’s taken a do-as-I-do type of role and his effort is always there. I always joke with him that I want to put a tracker on him in practice because he is all around the field. He never complains, he’s a team guy, and he’s always fun to watch.”
“Every year there is always pressure on you, you always want to do well and perform well for the team,” Hoke said. “I think it’s more of our last season (for the seniors), we trust our players, we trust our coaches, and we just want to go out there and win.”
The Green Wave defense continued to pester the Wildcats (0-2, 0-1 WJFL Freedom) and Jack Dempsey’s interception of Jason Garwood ended a promising Maple Shade series.
Logan Gilbert’s 19-yard field goal with 3:24 left in the first half extended Audubon’s lead before Bryce Dempsey’s 1-yard touchdown run in the final minute made it 24-0 Green Wave heading into halftime.
Hoke’s third and final touchdown of the afternoon came 1:39 into the third quarter as McCracken’s long ball downfield was hauled in by the eventual South Jersey Glory Days Player of the Game.
Hoff added his second fumble recovery before Tommy Quinn also scooped up a Maple Shade fumble in the fourth quarter.
Audubon outgained Maple Shade 368-to-123 with McCracken completing six of his seven pass attempts for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Hoke.
McCracken came into camp with big shoes to fill following Scott Lynch’s graduation, but delivered a strong Week 1 performance to give him some early-season confidence.
“He’s taken a huge leap forward. He’s really gotten better in his passing and with his reads,” Hoke said about McCracken. “I trust him to find me in situations and I know our other skill players trust him to put us in good positions to make plays for the team.”
“He’s improved over his first two years with us and I told him as a freshman that he should develop over those years before it becomes his team this season,” Reed said about McCracken. “(Senior quarterback) Ryan Zimmer pushed him this summer and Breyson has really stepped up to the challenge. He seems confident, he has command of the offense, and it’s great to see him have some success in Week 1. It’s time to keep it going.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Audubon hosts Deptford on Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. Maple Shade hosts Bordentown on Sept. 8 at 6 p.m.
Follow Larry Henry Jr. on Twitter @lhenry019 for more high school football coverage throughout the season.