NORTHWESTERN 3A-4A ROUNDUP
Watauga cruises by Alexander Central,
St. Stephens rides running game to victory
Surprising Hickory High surprised Freedom on Friday night in a Northwestern 3A-4A football game, winning 23-22 at Barger Stadium to move into a tie for first place.
The Red Tornadoes (2-5, 2-0) collected career win No. 275 for head coach Russell Stone and set up a showdown with Watauga in Boone next Friday for the conference lead.
Freedom (4-3, 1-1) had won seven straight games in the series and four in a row at Barger Stadium.
The Red Tornadoes jumped to a 20-0 lead and then survived a comeback by the Patriots.
Hickory had the ball nearly 15 ½ minutes in the first half.
With quarterback Jason Martin completed seven passes in the opening drive, Hickory scored on a 3-yard run by Cody Young. Young added a 5-yard TD run and a 2-yard scoring run as Hickory built its early lead.
Freedom’s star quarterback, Jaylen Birchfield, left the game with an injury and was replaced by Ty Little.
The Patriots drove 70 yards for their first score, a 1-yard run by
Mekhi Spates. They added another TD, a 2-yard run by Cameron Silvers, after driving 65 yards.
Hickory led 23-14 after a 36-yard field goal by Ben Boston.
Freedom closed within 23-22 with nine minutes 32 seconds left to play when he burst free on a 36-yard run and he added a two-point conversion run.
Hickory forced and recovered a fumble and Zayvion Huitt had an interception in the closing seconds.
Watauga 42, Alexander Central 10
The Pioneers (6-1, 2-0) had little trouble in Taylorsville, rolling past the Cougars (4-2, 0-1) behind two early scores by running back Jake Watson.
Watson ran 4 and 2 yards for TDs to help Watauga gain a 15-0 lead, and the Pioneers were up 22-3 at halftime.
Earlier in the week, Watauga head coach Ryan Habich told WATA Radio the game was a mismatch in favor of the Cougars, but that did not happen.
Watauga ran for 328 yards and had 381 in total offense and limited the Cougars to 150 yards with 103 of that on the ground.
Jaiden Bond led Watauga with 11 carries for 146 yards and a TD, quarterback Anderson Castle added 15 carries for 74 yards and two scores and Watson finished with 14 carries for 72 yards.
Castle completed both of his passes for 53 yards, hitting Sebastian Best twice.
A.J. Miller paced the Cougars with 59 rushing yards on nine carries.
Watauga led 15-3 when Castle ran 3 yards for a TD to make it 22-3 at the half.
Best caught a 10-yard TD pass from Castle for the only score in the third quarter and Bonds’ 21-yard run with 11:14 to play made it 35-3.
Watauga had the ball for more than 30 minutes and converted five of six third-down plays.
Watson also starred on defense for Watauga with a team-best six tackles and Orlando Leon had four tackles (two for lost yardage, one sack) and the Pioneers had six tackles for lost yardage of 22 yards.
The Cougars’ defense was sparked by JaiKwaun Tilley with four tackles and six assists while Rhyeem Craig had seven tackles and Colston Yount and Jamison Benfield had five each.
Watauga is at home next Friday at 7:30 p.m., facing Hickory in a game that will put the winner alone in first place.
St. Stephens 28, McDowell 7
The Indians (4-3, 1-1) had two running backs clear 100 yards as they beat the visiting Titans (1-5, 0-2) for the third straight season.
Zak McLauchin ran 20 times for 113 yards and Matthew Hancock had 100 on 18 carries to lead St. Stephens.
McLauchlin returned the game’s opening kickoff 91 yards for a TD to get the Indians ahead.
St. Stephens extended the lead to 21-0 after McLauchlin scored on a 1-yard run and quarterback Connor Williams found Zach Lee for a 25-yard scoring pass.
After Quanatavin Moore ran 52 yards for a TD for McDowell, the Indians got a 2-yard TD run by Hancock with 8:56 to play.
St. Stephens had 330 yards of offense – 253 on the ground – and beat McDowell by the largest margin in the three-game series. The Indians won 19-17 at home two years ago and 40-36 last season in Marion.