By CHRIS HOBBS
HICKORY – It’s going to take a lot – if it can even be done – to shake the confidence that Hickory High’s football team is building.
The Red Tornadoes added another layer to that Wednesday night – a thick one — when they rallied to beat visiting Bandys 28-27 at Barger Stadium, scoring twice in the final seven minutes, two seconds to win and even their record at 2-2.
As Hickory heads into Northwestern 3A-4A play on Friday at home against McDowell (7:30 p.m.), it’s already shown what might can be if the Red Tornadoes can develop some consistency.
Previously unbeaten Bandys (3-1) was flirting with dominating and blowing out Hickory in the first half, going to the locker room with 309 first-half rushing yards and a 27-16 lead.
The game changed, though, when the feisty Red Tornadoes hung on and hung on and hung on, waiting for the one thing starting quarterback Bryce Stober wanted – the ball and a chance to make something happen.
“When we stepped back out at halftime, I knew we had a chance,” said Stober, who got HHS within 28-22 with 7:02 to play on a 9-yard TD run. “We just had to keep grinding and we kept working. We just we went out and wouldn’t take no for answer.”
Hickory had the ball only once in the third quarter – for 82 seconds – and the Trojans intercepted a pass by Stober in the end zone to keep their 11-point lead.
After an unsportsmanlike penalty put Bandys at its 43, the Trojans drove to a third-and-6 at the Hickory 9. A holding penalty had Bandys facing fourth-and-13 at the Hickory 17, so the Trojans sent Ben Joseph on for a 33-yard field goal attempt. It went wide left, giving the Red Tornadoes possession with 10:36 to play.
Even having the ball for nearly the entire third quarter, the Trojans got no points, and Hickory smelled opportunity.
Stober, who ran for 74 yards on six carries, had back-to-back completions of 14 and 13 yards to 6-foot-5 Davis Amos (six catches for 65 yards), then hit Jaylin Harper for 17 yards. Stober scored on a keeper right on third-and-goal and, after a pass failed on the conversion, HHS was within six points.
Stober said a one-play-at-a-time mentality carried the Red Tornadoes.
“Exactly,” he said. “Our mindset was next play then the next play. We were focused on the next play and the next play and we just kept going and finding the end zone.
“We really attacked their defense and made them make decisions. And when we get two or three on one, I like our odds.”
Bandys had a three-and-out after Stober’s TD run — with a holding penalty playing a part (the Trojans had 10 flags for 100 yards) — and HHS had the ball at the Trojans’ 47 after a 15-yard punt.
Stober threw for 12 yards to Amos on first down and hit him again for nine yards and a first down that set up a 21-yard run by running back Cody Young for first-and-goal at the Bandys 10.
On the next play, Young scored and HHS led 28-27 after the snap on the PAT was bad and bounced around.
The Red Tornadoes’ defense made that score stand up, withstanding a pass interference call (HHS had 17 penalties for 136 yards) that gave the Trojans a first down at the Bandys 37.
Bandys gained just five yards on a fourth-and-8 play, and Stober soon took a knee as the game ended.
It was a sweet victory, Stober said, as HHS was coming off a 35-7 home loss to Hunter Huss after looking so good the week before in a 35-6 victory at Newton-Conover.
“Any win is a good as a win,” Stober said. “But when you do (have to) battle, it’s a little bit better – it shows how much of a team we’ve become…
“We got a little fire (late in the game) in us. They (Bandys) were big and fast and they executed. They definitely kept some pressure on me.”
Young, who gained 98 yards on 11 carries, factored into the HHS offense for the first time (he’s also a star in basketball), and Stober went 19 of 29 for 269 yards passing to lead an offense that gained 438 yards.
Bandys quarterback Lake Hojnacki sparked the Trojans with 13 carries for 132 yards – he had second-quarter scoring runs of 4 and 78 yards — and was one of four Bandys players with 73 or more rushing yards.
The Trojans, after having 309 rushing at the half, finished with 394 rushing and only 102 yards overall in the second half.
“It was an all-around team win,” Stober said, noting that all the pieces came together and it’s a formula that — when applied properly – could really benefit the Red Tornadoes.
“Just play hard,” Stober said, “and good things will happen.”
Hickory dropped Bandys to 0-3 all-time in Barger as the Red Tornadoes won 25-19 there in 2005 and 42-35 in overtime there in 2007 … Bandys is 1-6 against HHS with the only win in their second meeting, 22-20 at Bandys in 2006 … Bandys starts South Fork 2A play on Friday at home at 7:30 p.m., facing archrival Maiden … The teams combined for 37 first downs (Bandys 19, HHS 18) … The other Trojans with 70-plus yards rushing were Ethan Howard (13-78), Isaiah Talbert (5-77) and Elijah Clarke (7-73).
HICKORY 28, BANDYS 27
Bandys 7 20 0 0—27
Hickory 8 8 0 20—28
B—Isaiah Talbert 57 run (Ben Joseph kick), 7:57
H—Davis Amos 6 pass from Bryce Sober (Jaylin Harper pass from Stober), 6:18
H—Harper 20 pass from Stober (Amos pass from Stober), 11:06
B—Lake Hojnacki 4 run (Ethan Howard run), 7:34
B—Hojnacki 78 run (run failed), 4:10
B—Howard 8 run (run failed), 1:37
H—Stober 8 run (pass failed), 7:02
H—Cody Young 10 run (kick failed), 2:15
First downs 19 18
Rushes-yards 46-394 21-169
Passing yards 46 269
Passing 6-11-0 19-29-2
Total Offense 440 438
Fumbles-Lost 4-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-100 17-136
Bandys: Hojnacki 13-132, Howard 13-78, Talbert 5-77, Elijah Clarke 7-73, Josh Williams 1-3, Jacob Ellis 5-15, Hunter Jones 2-16.
Hickory: Quinnatvius Saddler 3-2, Stober 6-74, Young 11-98, Team 10-minus 5.
Bandys: Hojnacki 5-9-0 44, Clarke 0-1-0 0, Ellis 1-1-0 2.
Hickory: Stober 19-29-2 269.
Bandys: Jones 1-8, Ellis 1-21, Carson Sigmon 2-8, Howard 1-7, Blake Reynolds 1-2.
Hickory: Amos 6-65, Hanmourii Joyner 1-10, Harper 7-147, Lane Logan 3-32, Saddler 1-11, Young 1-11.