HICKORY – In what was likely a pseudo-elimination game for the state playoffs, visiting Hickory outlasted crosstown rival St. Stephens Friday night in the regular season finale for both teams in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference.

The win placed the Red Tornadoes (4-7 overall, 4-2 Northwestern Conference) in a three-way tie for second place with Freedom and Alexander Central, both of whom won their conference games Friday night. The three schools now wait to find out the state playoff fates on Saturday for next week’s first round.

The league receives two automatic bids for its five 3A schools. Watauga wrapped up the conference title last week with the Red Tornadoes, Freedom and Alexander Central locked in a battle for the other bid. Since the three schools are 1-1 against the other counterparts, the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference will meet Saturday morning to break the tie to determine the automatic bid. The other two schools will became at-large teams. After conferences throughout the state report the final standings, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association will determine the playoff field on Saturday. Hickory entered the game with a No. 61 ranking in the last “Adjusted MaxPreps Rankings” (AMPR), just inside the bubble to become one of the 64 teams in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, St. Stephens (5-6, 2-4) awaits the final word on an invitation to the playoffs. The Indians were No. 64 in the last rankings released by MaxPreps on Monday. The loss damages their playoff hopes, and like the others, the Indians will find out their postseason status Saturday.

Friday night was a battle of two of the league’s best running backs. Hickory’s Cody Young finished with 244 yards on 32 carries, scored three touchdowns and ran for two 2-point conversions.

St. Stephens’ Zak McLauchlin also had a big night, finishing with 233 yards on 37 carries with three touchdowns and two 2-point conversions.

After the teams entered halftime with the Indians ahead 16-14, both teams were nearly unstoppable in the second half. Connor Williams sneaked from the 2-yard line to cap a nine-play, 62-yard drive for the Indians after taking the second-half kickoff.

Hickory quarterback X’Zayvion Huitt returned with a broken-tackle, 78-yard sprint for a score to even the score at 22-all.

Matthew Hancock finished a 76-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to put the Indians back ahead 28-22. Forced to go for the 2-point conversion because of an injury to placekicker Chance Yang in a soccer match earlier in the week, the run attempt failed, which left the door open for the Red Tornadoes to take the lead, 29-28.

Young took care of that with a 7-yard run to put Hickory up 29-28 late in the quarter. The Indians responded with a 14-play drive to cover 67 yards with McLauchlin scoring from the 1. However, the 2-point conversion against failed, lead the Indians up 34-29 with 8:08 left

From there, the Red Tornadoes converted two fourth-down plays and used 6:20 of the clock to go 90 yards over 13 plays. Young scored the game-winner from 4 yards and added a 2-point conversion to put Hickory up 37-34.

With the final 1:49 kicking down, the Indians moved to their 40 and appeared to convert a fourth down to stay in the game. However, a penalty forced the down to be replayed and Williams’ pass attempt was broken up.

The win snapped a Hickory’s two-game losing streak to St. Stephens in the series.

-Summary provided by Mark Parker, Hickory Daily Record


NEWTON – Newton-Conover's seniors enjoyed Senior Night at Gurley Stadium and celebrated a win in their final regular season home game with a 21-point victory over East Lincoln on Friday night.

The win locks up third place and a spot in the playoffs for the Red Devils, who are now 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the South Fork 2A Conference. East Lincoln drops to fourth in the league with a mark there of 4-3 and 8-3 overall.

The Justice Craig-to-Zane Redmond connection was more than the Mustangs could contain as the duo connected on five passes for 69 yards, four of which went for touchdowns including a 40-yard bomb on the Red Devils’ first play from scrimmage. Other Redmond scoring catches were for 8, 5 and 13 yards.

Craig finished the night with a 15-of-22 passing performance with two interceptions for 217 yards. Brandon Johnson also had five receptions for the Red Devils for a team-high 92 yards.

Senior running back Allen Wilfong rushed for 49 yards and a 6-yard first-half touchdown on 22 carries. Newton-Conover rushed for 80 total yards on 34 carries.

Keagen Covington had the other Newton-Conover touchdown when he picked off an East Lincoln pass with 2:11 remaining and returned it 49 yards for a score to seal the win for the Red Devils.

While the game was tied at 7-7 after the first quarter, Newton-Conover dominated the second period and led 28-7 at halftime.

East Lincoln made a game of it with two touchdowns in the third quarter to get within 14 points at 35-21 after three quarters.

Cole Barber of East Lincoln led all rushers with 61 yards on 10 carries and quarterback Justin Barnett threw for 126 yards and third-quarter touchdowns to Paulie Menegay for 10 yards and Trevor Filo for 16 yards.

Menegay scored the other touchdown for the Mustangs on a 20-yard run in the first quarter.

-Summary provided by Gary Ogle, Hickory Daily Record


West Caldwell: 06 07 00 00 – 13

Bunker Hill:     20 07 00 07 – 34


Alexander Central: 13 21 00 07 – 41

South Caldwell:     06 00 06 00 – 12


Patton:   00 00 00 00 – 00

Hibriten: 14 21 07 10 – 52




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