Following an eventful Week 6, conference play continues for most of the high school football teams in Catawba and Caldwell counties on Friday night. In addition to intra-county matchups between Bunker Hill and Fred T. Foard, Newton-Conover and Bandys and Hibriten and West Caldwell, Hickory hosts Freedom, St. Stephens entertains McDowell and Maiden visits West Lincoln.
South Caldwell is the only squad in the Hickory Daily Record‘s 11-team coverage area with a bye this week, while Alexander Central opens its league slate with a home game against Watauga coming off a bye last Friday.
Here’s a look at what’s on tap for Friday's Week 7 contests (all kickoffs are set for 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted):
Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference
Fred T. Foard (1-5, 1-1) vs. Bunker Hill (1-4, 0-1), Tiger Stadium in Newton
The Tigers are coming off their first win of 2019, a 26-14 road victory over Patton last Friday. Senior running back Corey Siemer had 25 carries for 198 yards and three touchdowns, while senior quarterback Will Frye completed 8 of 15 passes for 58 yards and a score to go with sophomore Cameron Gore’s four carries for 45 yards and his first interception of the year on defense.
After upsetting Bandys on the road two weeks ago, the Bears lost to Hibriten by a 28-6 final at home last week. Nevertheless, sophomore quarterback Carson Elder completed 17 of 19 passes for 126 yards and a TD, hooking up with five different receivers in a game where Bunker Hill was held to 34 yards on the ground.
Foard has won the last three meetings between the teams by an average of 25.3 points per game, but hasn’t won at home since a 63-14 victory over East Burke last October. Meanwhile, three of Bunker Hill’s four wins since the start of the 2017 season have come away from home.
West Caldwell (0-5, 0-1) vs. Hibriten (4-1, 1-0), Thuss Stadium in Lenoir
County rivals face off in a matchup of teams that have experienced drastically different results over the past few decades. The Warriors have had only two winning seasons since 2003 and have lost their past 19 games dating back to 2017, while the Panthers have had just two losing seasons since 2003 and are 34-2 since the start of the 2017 campaign.
The last single-digit game between the Warriors and Panthers came in 2011, when West Caldwell dropped a 32-25 decision at home. Hibriten has 16 straight victories over the Warriors since losing to them in 2002.
West Caldwell scored two TDs for only the second time this season in a 35-12 home loss to East Burke last week, scoring on a 10-yard TD pass from senior Devonte Davenport to sophomore Cameron Beaver, who also added a rushing TD and six carries for 40 yards. Conversely, Hibriten junior quarterback Daren Perry accounted for three TDs on his own (76 rushing yards, 53 passing yards) to go with a pair of field goals from junior kicker Griffin Bryson in the Panthers’ 22-point road win over Bunker Hill.
South Fork 2A Conference
Bandys (3-2, 0-1) vs. Newton-Conover (3-2, 1-0), Garry Butler Memorial Stadium in Catawba
One of the preeminent rushing teams in the area, the Trojans have failed to reach 300 rushing yards each of the past two weeks after doing so in each of their previous 17 games. They have lost back-to-back games for the first time since a five-game losing streak in 2017, while the Red Devils are just one victory away from matching last season’s win total.
Bandys fell into an early hole last week at Maiden and was unable to stage a comeback, losing 30-23. Newton-Conover did exactly the opposite, grabbing a first-quarter advantage and continuing to build upon it on the way to a 34-12 home win over Lincolnton.
Junior quarterback Justice Craig had one of his best performances for Newton-Conover a week ago, completing 11 of 19 passes for 203 yards and three scores. Junior wide receiver Brandon Johnson hauled in two of those TD passes as he finished with four receptions for 107 yards, with senior running back Allen Wilfong adding 18 carries for 89 yards and a TD.
Bandys finished with 245 yards on the ground in a losing effort, but junior running backs Isaiah Gilchrist (21 carries for 47 yards and a TD) and Malik Kennedy (7 carries for 47 yards) were the team’s leading rushers in a game where eight different Trojans received carries.
Maiden (4-1, 1-0) at West Lincoln (4-1, 0-1), Douglas C. Leonhardt Memorial Stadium in Lincolnton
For the second straight week, Maiden will be involved in a battle of one-loss teams. After coming out on top against Bandys last Friday, the Blue Devils look to avenge a 31-18 loss to the Rebels last season in Maiden.
While the Blue Devils have won three straight since a one-point loss to South Caldwell in Week 2, West Lincoln suffered its first defeat of 2019 in a 34-24 home loss to North Lincoln last Friday. Senior running back Cannon Bridges had 18 carries for 95 yards and two TDs in the loss, with junior quarterback Mason Huitt completing 5 of 11 passes for 91 yards but also throwing his first interception of the season.
Maiden sophomore quarterback Ethan Rhodes continued to impress against the Trojans, completing 10 of 16 passes for 198 yards and three scores, all to senior wide receiver Dylan Abernethy. Abernethy caught five passes overall for 123 yards, while junior running back Amarion Craig finished with 21 carries for 119 yards and a TD.
Northwestern 3A/4A Conference
Hickory (1-5, 1-0) vs. Freedom (4-2, 1-0), Frank Barger Stadium in Hickory
The Red Tornadoes finally entered the win column last week, defeating McDowell 20-14 in Marion. Hickory led after each quarter and was able to end a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season.
Senior running back Cody Young paced Hickory’s attack with 139 rushing yards, 83 receiving yards and two scores. Senior Jason Martin made his debut for the Red Tornadoes after suffering a preseason injury and completed 12 of 21 passes for 188 yards and a TD.
Nevertheless, the Patriots will be a much bigger test for Hickory than the one-win Titans were. In last Friday’s 48-12 home win over St. Stephens, Freedom received 126 passing yards and 110 rushing yards from senior dual-threat quarterback Jayden Birchfield, who ran for three scores.
Junior running back Mekhi Spates added a career-high 130 yards and a TD on 13 carries for the Patriots, who also got five catches for 79 yards from senior wide receiver Demorian Burgess.
St. Stephens (2-3, 0-1) vs. McDowell (1-4, 0-1), St. Stephens Stadium in Hickory
The Indians experienced some early success in the road loss to Freedom and even led in the opening quarter, but a string of 40 unanswered points ultimately felled the visitors. Still, junior running back Zak McLauchlin had 22 carries for 110 yards and fellow junior Alex Brown added six carries for 50 yards.
Another junior, quarterback Connor Williams, completed 7 of 15 passes for 60 yards and a TD for the Indians. He also carried eight times for 23 yards and a score, while senior wide receiver Zach Lee hauled in six catches for 56 yards and a TD.
McDowell’s top performer against Hickory was senior Richard Handy, who had 11 carries for 61 yards and a TD. Junior Riley Moore (8 carries for 23 yards) added the Titans’ only other score.
Alexander Central (4-1, 0-0) vs. Watauga (5-1, 1-0), Cougar Stadium in Taylorsville
The Pioneers dominated South Caldwell 56-12 at home last week, scoring in every quarter behind a strong performance from senior quarterback Anderson Castle. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 105 yards and a score while carrying 12 times for 119 yards and two TDs.
Senior running back Jaiden Bond had a huge game as well, finishing with 168 yards and three TDs on eight carries. Additionally, senior wide receiver Grant Oliver had five catches for 75 yards to go with a 30-yard TD reception from junior teammate Seb Best.
Alexander Central hasn’t played since turning a close home game against a tough Olympic squad into a 55-28 victory two weeks ago. Highly effective on the ground all season — they have totaled 1,797 yards on 207 carries as a team — the Cougars received 19 carries for 164 yards and four TDs from senior running back Steven Montgomery and seven carries for 107 yards and two scores from junior quarterback Lance Justice.