Coming off their first regular season loss since 2015, the Hibriten Panthers took out their frustrations on host Hickory High and overwhelmed the Red Tornadoes 42-12 Friday night in a nonconference game at Frank Barger Stadium.
Hibriten (1-1) saw its 34-game, regular-season winning streak come to an end in last week’s opener at home against Alexander Central. On Friday, there was little doubt the Panthers had refocused their energy on starting a new streak.
“These guys, last week almost shellshocked them a little bit,” said Hibriten head coach Sam Mackey, who got his first win since taking over for Clay Lewis. “This past week at practice, it’s been about flipping the switch and finding our own identity. The thing I told them Saturday morning after we watched film was that streak is over. Now it’s time to focus and take it one game at a time and start over.”
The Panthers' identity on Friday was similar to what it has been in the past: a stable of runners that grinds out yards and a tenacious defense that stuffs opponents. Following its opening drive, Hibriten scored on six straight possessions and put the Red Tornadoes away early. The Panthers outgained Hickory (0-2) 306-26 in the first half en route to a 35-0 lead at the break. Hibriten went on to have 11 different rushers collect 319 yards on the ground.
Zion Norwood led the way with 93 yards on 11 carries, but it was junior quarterback Daren Perry who found the end zone three times on the ground. His run from the Red Tornadoes' 7-yard line put Hibriten up 7-0 after Griffin Bryson’s extra point.
Perry also threw just enough to keep the Red Tornadoes honest. His play-action fake opened up Marcus Jones on a sprint between the hashmarks and the connection turned into a 75-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0. Perry sandwiched touchdown runs of 14 and 3 yards around Norwood's rumble from the Hickory 10.
Defensively, the Panthers sacked Jack Tomlinson four times in the first half and held the Red Tornadoes in their own territory the entire first half.
“We’re struggling right now up front,” said Hickory head coach Russell Stone. “Our defensive line is undersized. We’re missing two of our three biggest players. We’ve got six guys injured tonight, but that’s a nice crutch. I was disappointed offensively that we couldn’t get anything going in the first half, because you know that they’re a powerful team and they’re going to score some points.”
The Red Tornadoes sustained two long drives in the second half with Cody Young providing much of the offense. Young weaved and cut through the line for 46 yards on a drive of nearly eight minutes to open the third quarter before scoring from the Hibriten 2.
After Zacobian Williamson answered with a score for Hibriten, Young again picked his way through the Hibriten defense for 46 yards before capping the drive with a 2-yard run. The senior runner ended up with 95 yards on 24 carries. The total was hampered by a 22-yard loss as he tried to scamper out of a tackle and reverse field late in the third quarter.
“Cody Young played his heart out in a losing effort,” said Stone. “I think he just wanted to make sure the folks who came out got their money worth. I was very proud of his effort and what he did.”
Hibriten visits Ashe County next Friday, while Hickory hosts Newton-Conover.