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PIGSKIN PREVIEW: DHC's new sheriff in town

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Nick Hamilton throws the ball during practice at D.H. Conley High School, Thursday morning.

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Friday, August 17, 2018

The end of D.H. Conley’s 2017 playoff run marked the end of a historic career for superstar quarterback Holton Ahlers. It seemed that before Ahlers had even left the field, the question was already sprouting. “Who is going to be our quarterback?” 

The Vikings and head coach Nate Conner placed their faith in junior Nick Hamilton, who spent the majority of his sophomore season with the Vikings junior varsity squad. He threw just two pass attempts in his three games on the varsity roster, going 1-for-2 for eight yards. 

As part of the JV team, Hamilton completed 90 of his 177 attempts for 1,271 yards, and he threw for a touchdown-interception ratio of 18/7 in 10 games. He begins his first full season at the helm of a loaded Conley offense, and he has spent his offseason and preseason working to perfect fundamentals and learn more about his new teammates.

“I feel like I've improved reading defenses and performing the quarterback position better,” the new Vikings passer said.

Hamilton has been working with Conner individually during practices to refine his throwing motion and mechanics to ensure he is prepared once he steps onto the field Week One when the Vikings face Elizabeth City Northeastern and star defensive end Traveon Freshwater, a recent East Carolina commit.

Hamilton has noticed improvements not only in his ability, but in the team as a whole.

“There are some things different from last year, but I think some of the places where we lacked last year we have improved on this season,” Hamilton said. “As for me, I feel that I am a totally different quarterback. I’ve put in time in the film room, worked on learning different defenses, different plays and being an overall sound quarterback.”

If Hamilton does have a moment of difficulty, he has plenty of talented receivers to pick him up, including CJ Johnson, Isaiah Rutledge and Matthew Rostar. The length and skill of the Vikings’ receiving core matches any of the other top teams in the state and can make touchdowns out of busted plays.

“(Working with the receivers) is just like a security blanket,” Hamilton said. “I know CJ is probably going to win one-on-one coverage, and that is always a good thing to have that security. It also calms me because I know I’m not going to be sitting in the pocket long.”

To Hamilton, the key to being a successful quarterback and leader of the Vikings is being vocal. He believes the quarterback should always be the first one to arrive and the last to leave. While not particularly vocal off the field or in the classroom, Hamilton can be heard clearly when relaying changes and commands to his offense. 

He might be young, but Hamilton has experience within Conner’s offense. It is to be expected that early in the season, a young QB may experience some difficulties adjusting to the speed and power of varsity football. Hamilton’s top-team participation, while limited in 2017, should reduce some of the learning curve typically associated with the jump.

In the short term, the Conley offense may experience a temporary downturn compared to last season, but as Hamilton becomes more comfortable as the Vikings’ leader, the high-powered group should return to its typically explosive play that it has become known for over recent years.

Overall, Conner is looking for fans to get to know Hamilton as his own player, and not as a replacement for Ahlers. 

“I want people to get to know him as a person, and not compare him to Holton,” the coach said. “Holton was obviously a great quarterback, and losing a player like that is tough, but Nick is our guy and we have a lot of faith in him to lead our team.”

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