Hickory converted two early St. Stephens turnovers into points as the Tornadoes went on to defeat their Northwestern 3A Conference rival Indians, 49-14.
“We feel real fortunate to come in here and play well on senior night,” said Hickory coach John Worley, “and we’re happy to get a victory.”
St. Stephens attempted a lofty trick kick to open the game, but the Tornadoes weren’t fooled and started their opening drive at their own 45-yard line. From there Hickory manufactured an eight-play, 55-yard drive that focused solely on the ground attack. Corey Stinson scored on a five-yard run to help give Hickory a 7-0 lead with 8:40 to play in the opening quarter.
The Indians fumbled on their opening offensive play, and Hickory’s Omar King recovered the loose ball on the Indians’ four-yard line. Two plays later, Jordan Lockhart punched in the four-yard touchdown run, and less than a minute after their first score, Hickory took a 14-0 lead.
Both teams traded possessions when Hickory’s Nic Kinson first intercepted a pass by St. Stephens Matt Williams. However, the Indians forced a Shaquan Reid fumble as he attempted to the cross the goal line. St. Stephens regained possession in the shadow of their own end zone, and the Hickory defense pounced.
The Tornadoes hit Williams in the end zone and Jaesean Abernathy recovered the ball for another Hickory score. Hickory led 21-0 at the end of the opening quarter.
“I think in the first half, we did a great job winning the field position battle,” Worley said. “When you have a short field you can score a lot of points.”
Hickory posted two more scores before halftime — a 36-yard run by Stinson, and a 15-yard reception by Jordan Walls-Davis. Stinson finished the contest with 88 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.
With a big lead going into the second half Hickory pounded the rushing attack. Reid rushed for a five-yard touchdown in the third quarter, while senior quarterback Kyle Johnson rushed for a 13-yard score. Reid finished the night with 122 yards and a score on 15 carries.
“In the second half, we just tried to play everybody and score when we had the opportunities,” Worley said.
Late in the game St. Stephens scored on a pair of Jon Sweet runs. At the 6:34 mark of the third quarter, Sweet rushed three yards to score and wrap up an four-play 80-yard drive that included a 34-yard run by the Indian ball carrier.
He also scored on a 71-yard break away run.
Sweet finished the night with 140 yards rushing on 12 carries, although in the first half, Hickory contained him to just five yards on the ground.
With the win Hickory improves to 3-2 in conference and 6-3-1 overall. St. Stephens falls to 1-4 and 3-7 overall. The Indians take on Watauga next week as St. Stephens looks for a key fourth win to become playoff eligible.
Hickory travels to Fred T. Foard. Worley said a win to end the season is important, especially the way the state playoff system is set up.
“Every win, whether it is non-conference or conference is very big, and our kids know that,” he said. “So the more wins we get, the better seed we get in the playoffs. So we have a lot to play for.”