CHARLOTTE -- It may not have been the prettiest of games, but the Hickory Ridge football team found a way to take down the winless Rocky River Ravens, 27-13, at UNC Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson Stadium Saturday night in the first game of the annual Charlotte Kickoff Showcase.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Hickory Ridge coach Jupiter Wilson. “We did exactly what we needed to do to win the game, and it was a tough hard-fought victory.”
Both teams committed a ton of penalties, and neither offensive unit could really get going, despite the numerous second chances afforded because of the flags.
In the first half, the Ravens held the Ragin Bulls rushing offense to only 36 total rushing yards, so Hickory Ridge had to move the chains through the air. Quarterback Kobe Clifton hit Christian Hamilton on a 36-yard pass that set up a Malik Tobias 3-yard touchdown run to start the scoring in the first quarter.
After the Ravens scored a touchdown to make it 7-6, Clifton hit Nolan Carey Jr. on a play-action pass for a 62-yard touchdown to make it 13-6, Bulls.
Then the penalties struck their first blow against the Ragin’ Bulls. On fourth-and-10 near midfield, Rocky River was in punt formation, but Hickory Ridge committed a defensive substitution penalty. Rocky River scored on the next play to make it 13-13 heading into halftime.
In the second half, Mookie McWilliams and the Hickory Ridge rushing offense woke up. McWilliams started off the first drive with 14- and 44-yard runs, but the drive stalled with a fourth-and-2 stop inside the 10-yard line. After a three-and-out, the Ragin’ Bulls converted with a Carey Jr. 4-yard touchdown rush to make it 20-13.
The Ragin’ Bulls defense stopped any and everything the Ravens offense tried in the second half, forcing three three-and-outs and allowing only one first down in the first four possessions of the half.
With 5 minutes, 15 seconds left, the defense committed an unsportsmanlike penalty after a Ravens fourth-down-conversion attempt failed, continuing the drive. The next play, a 28-yard pass, moved the chains to the 30-yard line, but the defense held to give the Bulls the ball again.
After two McWilliams rushing first downs, it was now third-and-1 with 2:13 left. The Ragin’ Bulls committed a false start, making it third-and-6. But moments later, Clifton hit Carey Jr. again, this time for a 61-yard score, that made it 27-13 and erased any hope for a Ravens comeback.
Rocky River 0-6 overall, 0-3 Southwestern 4A Conference; Hickory Ridge 6-1, 3-0 Southwestern 4A
THE PLAY OF THE GAME
The play of the game could’ve been the first Hickory Ridge touchdown, a 62-yard Clifton pass to Carey Jr., or the last Hickory Ridge touchdown pass, a 61-yard Clifton pass to Carey Jr.
Either way, it was the same play – “H-Wrap,” a play-action pass in which Carey sneaks behind the defenders – that produced the same result.
Clifton took the snap, faked the jet sweep handoff, and out of the scrum of offensive linemen and defensive players was Carey Jr. Clifton lobbed it up, Carey Jr. caught it, and there was nothing but wide-open spaces in front of him for the touchdowns.
“There was nobody back there, nobody for at least 10 yards back,” Carey Jr. said of his last touchdown. “I thought, ‘Just run.’ I saw that green grass and went for it.”
-- Quarterback Korey Hailey rushed for a touchdown and threw for a score. He was 14-for-29 passing for 221 yards.
-- Isaiah McIlwain had six receptions for 93 yards
-- Defensive end Zyreir McCall had a sack and tackle for loss.
-- Carey caught seven passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 4-yard rushing touchdown.
-- McWilliams rushed 23 times for 126 yards.
-- Defensive tackle Talyn Hunter had a tackle for loss, a sack and a hit on the quarterback that caused an interception.
-- The Hickory Ridge defense wasn’t flashy, didn’t have many sacks and only created one turnover, but it forced four three-and-outs. The defense just did its job, and the scoreboard shows that.
-- If there was a type of penalty that existed, the Ragin’ Bulls committed it. They had at least two penalties that continued drives and some penalties that erased their own drives. That’ll need to be cleaned up before a tough matchup against Myers Park next week.
-- Despite the penalties, there is one really good thing the Hickory Ridge offense did -- zero turnovers.
WHAT’S UP NEXT?
Rocky Ridge faces East Mecklenburg, and Hickory Ridge travels to Myers Park.
Rocky River 0 13 0 0 — 13
Hickory Ridge 7 6 7 7 — 27
HR - Malik Tobias 3 run (Riley Stubbs kick)
RR - Korey Hailey 1 run (kick failed)
HR - Nolan Carey Jr. 62 pass from Kobe Clifton (kick failed)
RR - Antjuan Collins 39 pass from Hailey (Alex Webber kick)
HR - Carey Jr. 4 run (Stubbs kick)
HR - Carey Jr., 61 pass from Clifton (Stubbs kick)