After a lop-sided, 55-13 loss to East Lincoln last week, Newton-Conover brought a different Red Devil team to Hickory High School on Friday night.
"Did this look like the team you saw last week?" Bazzle answered a question with the same question after the contest.
Piling up more than 400 yards of offense and four touchdowns in the second half against Hickory, an enthusiastic Red Devil team delivered a resounding answer: No.
For the fourth straight year, Newton-Conover defeated Hickory, this time with a 42-28 that included a last coffin nail with less than a minute left to play. One of the Red Devils' bowling ball running backs, Matt Coulter, delivered that death knell on a one-yard touchdown run, to wrap up a 9-play 55 yard drive and Newton-Conover's first win of the 2011 season.
"I think it was a good team effort. All we had to do was come in and play hard," said Coulter, who also scored the Red Devils' opening touchdown on a 5-yard carry. "We have got to keep working hard and working each week."
The win came although it seemed, at times, the odds were stacked against an under-manned Newton-Conover team. A humid night where most Red Devils played on both sides of the ball, the team faced adversity well, Bazzle said.
"This is probably the biggest win of my whole career," said the coach with back-to-back state championship games and a 2A state title. "All we ask them to do is play hard and play with every ounce of effort, and we're cramping and drinking water and eating mustard. We just patch them up, put a band-aid on them and put them back in. I am so proud of this team."
The Red Devils' Jervasse Moss led the way in the typical run-heavy Newton-Conover attack. He amassed 209 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. Among those were long runs of 73- and 41-yards.
Newton-Conover got on the scoreboard first. After the Devils' defense held Hickory to three-and-out, a 5-yard punt by the Tornadoes' James Mitchell gave Newton-Conover's a short field. Seven plays and 28 yards later Coulter, crossed the goal line.
Hickory answered with an eight-play 80-yard drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by Casey Stinson.
However, Newton-Conover refused to give up the momentum — yet. On the third play of their ensuing possession Moss sprinted 73 yards and dove across the end zone just as he was tackled. Josue Moscotte's PAT put NCHS up 14-7. The Red Devils threatened again, but lost a fumble on the Hickory 3-yard line, and that gave the Tornadoes renewed spirit. Hickory didn't waste the opportunity.
First, Shaquan Reid raced for a 38-yard ground gain. Then quarterback Kyle Johnson connected first with Jordan Walls-Davis on a 41-yard pass completion. Corey Stinson capped a six-play, 95-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run that helped tie the score at 14 with 3:16 left in the opening half.
Hickory's defense made a critical stop, and the offense was back in business before the half. Enter the double pass.
Johnson connected to Daniel Davis, who dodged a pair of Devil defenders before hurling the ball 43 yards to Noah Kelly. With 11 seconds left on the clock, Reid wrapped up a four-play 55-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run.
At halftime, Hickory owned a 21-14 lead, and all the momentum in Frank Barger Stadium.
But something happened in the locker-room.
"Coach told us we worked too hard this week to give up," said Newton-Conover center Jake Walker. "We put in the time and the effort. We put up too much to give up."
On the kick-off, Moss returned the ball 34 yards. On first down, he rushed 41 more yards. Two plays later he ended the three-play, 66-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run. The momentum was back on the visiting side. The clock was still ticking, the Tornadoes were still fighting — Walls-Davis scored on a 10-yard pass from Johnson — but for for all intents and purposes, the game was over.
"We didn't play well," said Hickory coach John Worley, whose team played to a 7-7 tie last week. "Its a long season. This is game two, we've just got to get better."
Moss added another 22-yard score and Newton-Conover quarterback Kevin Cline scored on a one-yard run before Coulter's last-minute scoring plunge.
"We definitely came out and played our best," Cline said. "This is the best we played all year and we plan to keep doing it the rest of the year. We all get along. We are all friends, and we all come together whenever it counts."
Newton-Conover (1-1) hosts St. Stephens (0-2), while Hickory (0-1-1) travels to Maiden.