By CHRIS HOBBS
Previewing tonight’s varsity football games (all statistical references are unofficial totals):
NEWTON-CONOVER (3-0) at HIBRITEN (4-0), 7:30 p.m.
A measuring stick game for both teams as they meet for the first time since 2008.
The thought they’ll possibly see each other again in the state playoffs is a reasonable one because both are considered among the top 2A teams in the West.
Both offenses are high-octane and, so far, no one has been able to do much to limit the damage RB Tylor Stinson (32-366 yards, six TDs) and QB Shamar Baker (42-56-2 for 667 yards, 24 rushes for 124 yards, 791 of total offense) can do for the Red Devils.
Newton-Conover has won nine of the 12 games against the Panthers, going back as far as 1993 when the Red Devils won 34-0 in Lenoir.
Hibriten won the last time the two battled, winning 26-21 in 2008 when RB Quin Smith scored three rushing TDs.
HICKORY (1-2) at BANDYS (2-1), 7:30 p.m.
The fifth game in a series that has never lacked for excitement is the Red Tornadoes’ third game in Butler Stadium.
Hickory leads the series 3-1 with the Trojans’ lone win coming in 2006 at Butler on a night that RB LeQuan McCorkle ran 33 times for 201 yards.
Red Tornadoes QB Derrien Phillips will be a handful for the Bandys secondary. He’s rushed for 193 yards on 41 carries and 4 TDs and completed 46 of 90 passes for 715 yards and 5 TDs (four in the last two games). One of his favorite targets, Jaekwon Staton, has 14 catches for 249 yards.
The Trojans’ speed at some key positions — plus tough-nosed RB Ethan Howard (61-392, 5 TDs) in the run game and home field advantage — are the best things they have to hang their hat on in the 50th game for former Bandys QB Trent Lowman as head coach (20-29).
The series has been all close games – Hickory by six in 2005 at HHS, Bandys by two in 2006 at Butler, Hickory by seven in overtime in 2007 at HHS and Hickory by seven in 2008 at Bandys when QB Kevin Shelton threw for two scores.
FRED T. FOARD (3-1) at ST. STEPHENS (1-2), 7:30 p.m.
St. Stephens has won two straight in the series (and four of the last five) and will rely on, among others, RB Xavian King (46-219, 4 TDs).
Foard’s offense is built around RB Tate Beaver (55-271, 3 TDs) and QB Jack Colosimo (389 passing yards with 3 TDs, 172 rushing yards with 2 TDs).
A victory tonight would push the Tigers to one past what they earned in head coach Derrick Minor’s first season a year ago (3-8).
WEST LINCOLN (2-1) at EAST BURKE (0-4), 7:30 p.m.
West Lincoln, led by RBs Brendan Ikard (34-308, 3 TDs) and Nakathon Phansook (48-316, 4 TDs), haved played reasonably well this season.
East Burke is still trying to find its way offensively. The Cavs have three players with more than 100 yards rushing, led by Grant Fulbright with 21 carries for 176 yards.
West Lincoln head coach Tom Sain, in his eighth season, needs one win to reach 40 with the Rebels (39-46).
Before this one, the only Burke County school the Rebels have faced is Draughn (five times). They’ve also never faced Freedom or Patton.
BUNKER HILL (0-3) at WEST WILKES (3-0), 7:30 p.m.
It came in 1980 in the state playoffs, and West Wilkes won 16-14 at home with a game-winning field goal at the end.
This year’s Bears are struggling offensively and now running into a high-scoring team.
West Wilkes has outscored opponents 169-31 (over Forbush 42-17, over North Stokes 68-0 and over Bishop McGuiness 59-14).
Tonight’s game is the third at home for the Blackhawks.
AVERY COUNTY (1-3) at DRAUGHN (0-4), 7:30 p.m.
Avery County has been outscored 109-106, and that includes falling 42-36 last week at Cloudland, Tenn.
Draughn’s top offensive threat, Christian Campbell, has 237 rushing yards and 52 carries with three TDs.
SOUTH CALDWELL (0-3) at R-S CENTRAL (1-3), 7:30 p.m.
The Spartans face the Hilltoppers for the first time since 2012 and for the seventh time overall (R-S Central 4-2).
South Caldwell made some offensive changes when Marc Kirkpatrick took over as head coach and the Spartans haven’t yet found their rhythm.
R-S Central hasn’t won since opening with a six-point victory over McDowell, falling 64-29 to Patton, 35-14 to Polk County and 45-14 to Canton Pisgah.
Junior QB Jayden Waddell leads the Hilltoppers (39-72-2 for 459 yards passing with 2 TDs, another 336 yards rushing on 42 carries and 3 scores).
PATTON (2-2) at EAST RUTHERFORD (3-1)
Patton RB William Brawley is taking no prisoners – 811 rushing yards on 68 carries and 11 TDs – for a team that, despite an injury to returning QB Joe Eakin, is hanging tough.
Led by junior RB Demetrius Mauney (34-457, 8 TDs) and junior RB Jordan Harris (12-241, 3 TDs), East Rutherford opened by beating South Stanly, North Gaston and South Caldwell before falling 32-13 last week to Burns.
This is the fifth-game in the series but first since 2012, and the Cavs have won all four of the previous games — two of them in Forest City that weren’t close (36-14, 44-6).
East Lincoln (0-3) at East Gaston (1-3,), 7:30 p.m.: The Mustangs have scored only two TDs and continue to pursue their first win under new head coach David Lubowicz… East Gaston’s only win is over North Gaston.
North Lincoln (1-2) at Bessemer City (3-0), 7:30 p.m.: Interesting matchup in that the Yellow Jackets outscored Cherryville, East Gaston and Chase by a combined 95-7 and the Knights have an emerging star at QB… Reed McRorie has 610 passing yards and eight TD passes for North Lincoln.
North Iredell (0-4) at West Iredell (1-3), 7:30 p.m.: West Iredell’s won only once, over the Hickory Hawks to open the season, but North Iredell hasn’t won in a long while… The Red Raiders’ losing streak is at 18, the last three games of 2015 after they’d beaten West Iredell 49-21 at West Iredell, plus all 11 games in 2016 and the first four this season.