Hickory takes 22-6 win over Watauga
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Whatever Watauga’s football team did Friday night, Hickory did it better.
Hickory’s offense rolled up over three times the yardage than the Pioneers and established a lead Watauga would never overcome. The Red Tornadoes’ special teams returned two kicks inside the Pioneers’ 25-yard line. Both set up Hickory touchdowns.
Overall, Hickory’s defense was too fast, too big and too effective in stopping Watauga’s running game. Hickory held Watauga to just 35 yards rushing on 26 carries in a 22-6 victory over Pioneers Friday night at Jack Groce Stadium.
Watauga could not get its zone running game or its option running game going, which made it difficult for the Pioneers to get any rhythm offensively.
New injuries didn’t help the Pioneers. Watauga, already missing fullback Collin Augustine to a broken collarbone, lost receiver Cameron Baker to a possible broken thumb, and Nick Williams to an injured bruised quadriceps muscle.
“We tried to get some stuff going inside and thought maybe if we could hurt them inside then it would open up something outside a little bit,” Pioneers coach Tom Wright said. “It didn’t help that Cameron Baker got injured and Nick Williams got injured, so we were struggling with those players out tonight.”
Watauga’s biggest play of the game, ironically, was a 57-yard touchdown run by T.J. Poulos. The sophomore running back raced up the middle on a trap play while catching the Red Tornadoes in a blitz.
Poulos said his offensive linemen Jackson Carr and Kenan Foxx made key blocks to open the hole, which was followed by a trap block by Wil Critcher.
“We ran a trap. Kenan and Jackson set a great edge and got their guys turned outside,” Poulos said. “Wil had a great pull. He came around and knocked the heck out of the linebacker and I saw open field and I hit it.”
Poulos outran the two Hickory safeties and reached the end zone with 11 minutes left in the third quarter and brought the Pioneers to within 13-6.
“It was a trap up the middle and we caught them in a blitz,” Wright said. “He got by the first wave of people, he was off to the races, and T.J. is fast.”
But it was not enough to overcome Hickory’s special teams, which combined with its offense to stick the ball in the end zone three times. Hickory’s first touchdown — one of three Matt Williams touchdown runs — was set up when Daniel Davis returned the opening kickoff to the Watauga 22-yard line.
Williams scored three plays later from five yards out to give the Red Tornadoes a 6-0 lead. Williams added another 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to cap a 12-play, 64-yard drive that gave Hickory a 13-0 halftime lead.
“They pretty much out performed us in every aspect of the game, offense defense and special teams,” Wright said. “It started on special teams on the opening kickoff. The fella made a nice runback and put them in a good position and it seemed like from then on, we were back on our heels.”
Hickory’s offense outgained Watauga’s offense 323-85 yards in total offense, and limited the Pioneers offense to just 15 yards in the first half. The Red Tornadoes rushed for 200 yards, getting 99 yards on 15 carries from Jordan Lockhart, and another 97 yards on 22 carries from Williams.
Lockhart played for starter Corey Stinson, who was suspended for the game by Hickory coach Tom Harper for missing practice. Lockhart ended up limping off the field in the fourth quarter. Dillon Crisp, who had just five yards on four carries, replaced him.
Williams also completed 10-of-18 passes for 123 yards with one interception — by Jimmie Accardi — in the second quarter. Watauga quarterback Tripp Taylor completed 6-of-14 passes for 49 yards and two interceptions.
Hickory’s special teams delivered a set-up punch in the third quarter when Davis returned a free kick from his 45 to the Watauga 3-yard line. Following a Hickory penalty and a play, Williams scored from four yards out to put the Red Tornadoes up 22-6.
Watauga was forced to take a free kick after the ball was snapped over punter Alex Parsons’ head and out of the end zone for a safety.
“We were trying not kick it to No. 7 (Cameron Stinson) and we ended up kicking it to (Davis),” Wright said. “Athleticism shows up on special teams and I felt like they did a better job on special teams than we did.”
Hickory 22, Watauga 6
Hickory 6 7 9 0 — 22
Watauga 0 0 6 0 — 6
HHS—Williams 5 run (Kick failed)
HHS—Williams 5 run (Adkins kick)
WHS—Poulos 57 run (Pass failed)
HHS—Safety, ball snapped out of end zone on punt
HHS—Williams 4 run (Adkins kick)
First downs 15 8
By rushing 9 4
By passing 5 1
By penalty 1 3
Rushes-yards 43-200 26-35
Avg. rush 4.7 1.3
Yds gained 211 111
Yds lost 11 76
Passing yards 123 50
Passes 10-18-1 7-17-2
Avg per att. 6.8 2.9
Avg comp 12.3 7.1
Sacks by-yards 3.20 1-4
Total plays-yards 61-323 43-85
Avg. gain 5.3 2.0
Penalties-yards 16-159 7-43
Punts-avg. 1-30 4-31.8
Net avg. 24.0 29.8
Inside 20 0 0
Fair catch 0 0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Third down conv. 1-7 3-9
Fourth down conv. 1-4 0-2
Time of poss. 29:18 16:08
Rushing: Lockhart 15-99, Williams 22-97, Crisp 4-5, Daniels 1-1, Team 1-(-2).
Passing: Williams 10-18-1 123.
Receiving: Daniels 4-63, Abernathy 3-40, Reid 1-12, Linebarger 1-11, Lockhart 1-(-3).
Rushing: Poulos 12-57, Baker 1-4, Williams 2-2, Taylor 8-2, Harrill 1-(-7), Mackey 1-(-8).
Passing: Taylor 6-14-2 49, Harrill 1-3-0 1.
Receiving: Steury 3-24, Williams 2-12, Isaacs 1-13, Poulos 1-1.