There wasn't a second-half rally, or a game-winning field goal by Alex Parsons to save the Watauga High football team this time around. Hickory saw to that Friday night as the Red Tornadoes (4-2 overall; 1-0 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference)
defeated WHS 22-6 in a NW3A/4A Conference game at Jack Groce Stadium.
Daniel Davis set the tone on the game's opening kick-off as he returned it 62-yards, giving the Red Tornadoes a first down at the WHS 22-yard-line. Hickory punched it in three plays later on Matt Wiliams' five-yard run for a 6-0 lead. Williams paced the Red Tornaodes with three TD.
"We've got some cats that can run," Hickory coach Tom Harper said. "And Matt Williams (who transferred in from St. Stephens) had experience running the spread offense last year. He gives us a lot to work with back there. We're down a little bit athletically, but this school has a great football tradition. And I'm confident we can get this program back on track."
"Our game plan was to kick it away from (Cameron Stinson), but the Davis kid showed us he had just as much speed," said WHS coach Tom Wright. "(Hickory) did an outstanding job on special teams tonight."
The Red Tornadoes also dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They ran for 200 yards and they amassed 323 yards offensively. Williams and running back Jordan Lockhart backboned the running game as they racked up 196 yards between them. Lockhart ran for 99 yards on 15 carries before he left the game with a leg cramp in the fourth quarter; Williams had 97 yards on 22 carries. And the Red Tornadoes did it without their best running back, Corey Stinson, who was suspended right before the game.
"I said it before the game, and I'll say it again, Hickory is a very dangerous team," Wright said. "They have so many great athletes. Their speed really gave us problems at the line of scrimmage. They out-quicked us off the ball."
"They took away our short passing game," said WHS quarterback Tripp Taylor, who was sacked twice and threw a pair of interceptions. "They were sending six guys, sometimes seven guys, on every play. It was a frustrating night."
The Pioneers (4-2; 1-1) only had 85 yards offensively; they only had 14 yards at halftime. But despite being outgained by 173 yards (187-14) in the first half, the Pioneers only trailed 13-0 at the break. A 12-play, 64 yard scoring drive with 8:06 left in the second quarter gave Hickory its 13-point advantage. Williams capped it off with his second TD of the game on a five-yard run.
But the Pioneers, who have had their share of second-half comebacks this season, made things interesting as they scored on their first possession of the third quarter. T.J. Poulos rambled in from 57-yards away on the second play from scrimmage, making it 13-6. But from that point on, the Pioneers, resembling a short-range missle, ran out of fuel and the rally fizzled.
"We ran that 22 trap," said Poulos, who led the Pioneers with 57 rushing yards on 12 carries. "The line did a good job opening up a hole and Will (Critcher) knocked the crap out of the linebacker, and I took off. For a second I thought I was going to get caught. They started gaining on me. But they were tough to run on. They had eight or nine guys in the box every time, and we didn't have enough blockers to do anything about it."
WHS ran for 35 yards as a team, and the Pioneers had their poorest offensive showing since the 2004 season (in a 38-0 loss against AVery). Hickory put the game out of reach thanks to a safety with 6:12 left in the third quarter, and a 57-yard return by Davis on the ensuing free kick. That return gave Hickory first-and-goal at the WHS seven. Following an off-sides call against the Pioneers that moved the ball to the three, Williams rambled in on the next play for a 22-6 lead.
The win also snapped WHS' six-game winning streak at home. The last time WHS lost at home was against Elizabethon on September 30, of last year. And Harper, who is 4-6 lifetime against WHS, picked up his second win against the Pioneers on the road, and his first at Jack Groce Stadium in six tries (at the old and the new facility combined).
The Pioneers close out the non-conference schedule at Elizabethon (TN.) next Friday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Oldies 100.7 FM.
NOTES: Hickory defeated WHS for the first time since 2010 (a 42-0 win at Barger Stadium)....Hickory owns a 14-3 in the series....Injury-wise, Nick Williams of the Pioneers suffered a bruised leg, Cameron Baker suffered a thumb injury on his left hand, and Marcus Funston was taken to WataUga Medical Center for precautionary reasons, but was later released.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
Hickory 6 7 9 0 - 22
Watauga 0 0 6 0 - 6
10:48 HICK Matt Williams 5 yd run (Kurt Adkins kick failed)
3 plays, 22 yards, TOP 1:12
8:06 HICK Matt Williams 5 yd run (Kurt Adkins kick)
12 plays, 64 yards, TOP 6:48
11:00 WHS TJ Poulos 57 yd run (DeWayne Mackey pass failed)
2 plays, 64 yards, TOP 0:51
6:12 HICK TEAM safety
5:56 HICK Matt Williams 4 yd run (Kurt Adkins kick)
1 play, 7 yards, TOP 0:05
FIRST DOWNS: HICKORY 15, WHS 8
RUSHING YARDS: HICKORY 200, WHS 35
PASSING YARDS: HICKORY 123, WHS 50
TOTAL YARDS: HICKORY 323, WHS 85
TURNOVERS: HICKORY 1, WHS 3
PENALTY YARDS: HICKORY 16-159, WHS 7-43
3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS: HICKORY 1-7, WHS 3-9
4TH DOWN CONVERSIONS: HICKORY 1-4, WHS 0-2
HICKORY: WILLIAMS 22-97-3TD, LOCKHARD 15-99
WHS: POULOS 12-57-TD
HICKORY: WILLIAMS 10-18-INT-123
WHS: TAYLOR 6-14-2INT-49
HICKORY: DAVIS 4-63, ABERNATHY 3-40
WHS: STEURY 3-24, WILLIAMS 2-12
FRIDAY NIGHT'S GAMES
NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE
HICKORY 22, WATAUGA 6
SOUTH CALDWELL 42, ST. STEPHENS 0
ALEXANDER CENTRAL 48, FRED T. FOARD 14
DAVIE COUNTY 21, HIBRITEN 7
THOMAS JEFFERSON 13, AVERY 6
WEST WILKES 27, ASHE COUNTY 0
MAIDEN 31, WEST CALDWELL 0
Photo Courtesy: T. J. Poulos, Rob Moore