Red Tornadoes halt 4-game losing streak in series with Red Devils
By CHRIS HOBBS
NEWTON – There’s not much – if anything — Hickory High quarterback Bryce Stober is going to let get under his skin this season.
Running hills in practice all week to get in better shape and tougher is OK.
Standing outside a locker room waiting for about two hours for heavy rains and lightning to go away just to get on the field and play is OK, too.
Whatever it takes, Stober said, after he led the Red Tornadoes to a 35-6 football victory over Newton-Conover on Friday night that left each team 1-1.
Stober, making his second varsity start at quarterback, unofficially threw for 253 yards by completing 10 of 14 attempts highlighted by one of the longest passing touchdowns by HHS in five seasons.
With the Red Tornadoes already up 7-0 as the dying seconds of the first half approached, Stober threw across the middle to Kevin Shuford. Shuford caught the pass, cut to the far (left) sideline and outran three Red Devils defenders for a score with 6.3 seconds left, extending the lead to 14-0.
It was the second TD pass of the season for Stober, who has worked his way back under center from an injury-impacted first three seasons.
As a freshman on the junior varsity, he dislocated his hip in the first game and was sidelined. He got a season in the next year as the JV starter but then fractured his right ankle in a 2017 preseason scrimmage and played (slot) only in the Red Tornadoes’ state playoff game.
His has been a work-your-way-back story waiting to happen, and he gained more confidence and became more comfortable in a victory at Gurley Stadium that snapped a four-game losing streak in the series.
“I felt comfortable,” Stober, a 5-foot-8, 165 pound senior who also plays baseball for HHS, said postgame. “Our line was working hard and I was very confident … confident in our playmakers.
“When you have that, it’s very easy to feel comfortable and just try to get the ball in their (the playmaker’s) hands.”
The Hickory defense forced five turnovers that included Sebastian Parrish returning an interception 28 yards for a TD in the first two minutes of the second half.
Newton-Conover drove 76 yards, to the Hickory 1, on its second possession of the game and was facing second-and-goal when Allen Wilfong was hit for a 6-yard loss and fumbled with HHS recovering.
“It would have been a different game all night,” if the Red Devils had scored, said Hickory head coach Russell Stone.
Said Newton-Conover head coach Steven Pack: “That was a momentum killer … a bad break. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot and couldn’t get the momentum back.”
Stober, who threw for 150 yards and a score in a season-opening loss at Statesville, delivered second-half TDs of 13 and 18 yards to Davis Amos and Jaylin Harper, respectively, as HHS finished with 321 yards of offense.
Wilfong led the Red Devils with 147 yards rushing but Stober was at the controls of a more dynamic offense (Harper had five catches for 109 yards and Shuford had three for 101).
Stober did not look like a I’ve-waited-my-turn quarterback, although that – in part – is what he’s done.
“We’ve been telling our kids they (HHS) have a quarterback that can get the ball out and playmakers,” Pack said. “We knew we were in for a battle.
“He (Stober) is tough as nails. We hit him hard, gave him some shots, and you wonder if he’ll even get up and he does.”
That’s a characteristic Stone, who got career win No. 269, loves about Stober and this year’s team.
The Red Tornadoes had a week off to get ready for Friday night’s game, and Stone pointed to the hills at HHS as the next challenge. His players ran them and ran them, he said, and ran them some more.
“We did the ‘old school’… ran eight hills,” Stone said. “When they did that and didn’t (quit) and they were hanging on, I thought we had a chance.”
Stober praised the defense – “they worked their tail off,” he said – and he’s confident he’ll have the ball often with a chance to play well in every game.
“Five turnovers,” Stober said before boarding the bus for the ride home. “That’s no small feat. That’s a huge advantage.”
The Red Devils, after a 56-0 rumble past Bunker Hill to open the season, faced HHS without leading playmaker Kyjuan McClain. He sat out with an injury but Pack said he’s expected back Friday (7:30 p.m.) when East Burke visits Newton-Conover.
Hickory, 6-6 last season in Stone’s first season there, has a tough non-league home game on Friday at 7:30 p.m., facing Hunter Huss.
The game was scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. and finally did so — after lightning kept delaying the start — at 9:02 p.m… The players were sent to the field house after some lightning and rain and did not get on the field for warm-ups until 8:37 p.m. …The game was No. 76 in the longest-running rivalry in Catawba County prep football, with Hickory now leading 48-26-2 … Newton-Conover had won four straight, eight of the previous 10 and 11 of the previous 13 … Hickory is 4-9 at Newton-Conover since 1982 … The teams played for the 26th consecutive season … The 41 points were the fewest in the game since the Red Devils’ most recent win in Gurley (21-15 in 2012)… In six of the previous 11 battles, the teams had combined for at least 70 points… The series began in 1923 when Hickory won 26-0.
Hickory 7 7 14 7—35
N-C 0 0 6 0—6
H—Quinnativous Saddler 1 run (Harrison Boston kick), 6:33
H—Kevin Shuford 73 pass from Bryce Stober (Boston kick), 6.3
H—Sebastian Parrish 28 interception return (Boston kick), 10:46
N-C—Justice Craig 1 run (kick failed), 7:25
H—Davis Amos 13 pass from Stober (Boston kick), 3:03
H—Jaylin Harper 18 pass from Stober (Boston kick), 11:14
First downs 13 17
Rushes-yards 21-68 43-211
Passing 10-14-1 8-19-3
Passing yards 253 63
Total offense 321 274
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 13-110 7-60
HHS: Stober 5-32, Saddler 11-39, Team 1-minus 13, Kevin Shuford 2-10, Tyler Conley 1-5, Harper 1-minus 5.
N-C: Craig 6-8, Wilfong 21-147, Brendan Barlow 5-2, Garrison Davis 9-57, Brandon Johnson 1-minus 5, Qualon Stewart 1-2.
HHS: Stober 10-14-1 253.
N-C: Barlow 2-7-2 6; Craig 6-12-1 57.
HHS: Harper 5-109, Kevin Shuford 3-101, Saddler 1-30, Amos 1-13.
N-C: Johnson 1-27, Craig 2-6, Stewart 1-6, Kegan Covington 3-25, Davis 1-minus 1.