Friday, December 8, 2023

Hickory Wins 3A Title in Nail-Biting Finish


CHAPEL HILL – In a highly anticipated clash at Kenan Memorial Stadium, the Hickory Red Tornadoes secured a historic victory in the 3A State Championship game against the Seventy-First Falcons, marking their first NCHSAA Football State Championship since 1996. The game kicked off with both teams boasting undefeated records, intensifying the stakes.

Hickory initiated the scoring with a 15-play, 74-yard drive culminating in a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Isaiah Lackey, setting the tone for the night. Seventy-First responded with a well-executed 12-play, 72-yard drive, as Deandre Nance connected with Amire Drummond for a 13-yard touchdown pass, evening the score at 7-7 by the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter witnessed a relentless exchange of touchdowns. Isaiah Lackey’s second touchdown of the night, along with a successful two-point conversion, changed the pace of the game. Seventy-First’s Deandre Nance responded with a short keeper, but an unsuccessful PAT attempt kept the Red Tornadoes in the lead. Hickory managed to secure a 5-point lead at halftime with a 26-yard field goal by Braeden McCourt as time expired.

The third quarter brought a pivotal moment as Seventy-First's Nance spearheaded a swift five-play, 88-yard drive, breaking through Hickory's defense for a 38-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Falcons their first, and only, lead of the night going into the final quarter. However, the Red Tornadoes responded emphatically in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Lackey bulldozed his way to a 12-yard rushing touchdown, his third of the night, and coupled with a successful 2-point conversion, propelled Hickory to a 26-19 lead. The Falcons fought back and tied the game at 26-26 with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jaydyn Surgeon.

In a nail-biting climax, with just 36 seconds on the clock, Hickory's MVP Brady Stober orchestrated a game-winning drive, capping it off with an 8-yard touchdown run. Stober's stellar performance, finishing 21-of-30 for 238 yards through the air and contributing 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground, solidified his MVP status.

The Falcons launched a final threat in the dying moments, but Hickory's Will Prince secured the victory with an interception in the end zone as time expired. The Red Tornadoes concluded the season with a flawless 16-0 record, marking their second appearance in the state finals and a triumphant return to championship glory.