Panthers' defense comes up big
The Hibriten defense came up with two big stops at the conclusion of the fourth quarter to hang on for a 35-33 victory over Hickory on Friday in Lenoir.
"Our whole defense played outstanding the entire game," Hibriten head coach Clay Lewis said. "Drake Felder played a great game. He was in there on a lot of plays. I'm proud of what they did today."
With the win, the Panthers lock up the number two seed 3A seed out of the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference. Hibriten concludes its regular season with a 10-1 overall record and a 6-1 conference record.
With the Panthers clinging to a 35-27 lead late in the fourth, Hickory completed a fourth and 12 with a hail mary to Jahiz Linebarger in the end zone for the touchdown with just 18 seconds to play. However, the Hibriten defense held tough and Hickory failed to convert the two-point conversion to tie it. That was big stop number one for the Panthers.
The Red Tornadoes then recovered the ensuing onside kick to give themselves one final chance. The Hibriten hung tough once again and the Panthers closed out the victory.
The Hibriten offense struggled with ball security for the second consecutive week. The Panthers lost five fumbles, three in the first half. However, with some great defense, Hibriten was tied with Hickory 14-14 at the half.
"Turnovers really hurt us," Lewis said. "But we were able to go into the half tied up because of our defense and that is not an easy feat against Hickory."
After the Panthers turned the ball over on their first possession, Linebarger put Hickory up 7-0 with a 47-yard touchdown run. Linebarger scored all five touchdowns for the Red Tornadoes and scored three different ways.
Hibriten pulled within one in the first quarter on a seven-yard run by Devell Maxwell. The PAT was blocked. Linebarger countered with a nine-yard run and his second score of the day to put Hickory up 14-6.
The Panthers went on to tie the game before the half on a four-yard run by Zac Walker and a two-point conversion by Hunter Penley on a pass from Jacob Copper.
He scored his third touchdown of the game on a 14-yard run on the opening possession of the second half. But once again, Hibriten responded with a eight-yard touchdown run by Davone Jones to tie the game at 21 after three quarters.
The Panthers took their first lead of the game early in the fourth on a 57-yard run by Copper to go up 28-21. On the ensuing kickoff, Linebarger returned it 84 yards for the score. However, Hibriten's Drake Felder blocked the PAT to keep Hibriten ahead 28-27.
Then with 1:38 to play, Copper scored from three-yards out to give the Panthers a 35-27 advantage. Following the Copper touchdown, Hickory converted the hail mary, but failed to tie the game.
The Panthers now await their opponent for the first round of the 3A state playoffs.
HIBRITEN 35, HICKORY 33
First Downs, ^14^22
HICKORY^7 ^7 ^7 ^12 – 33
HIBRITEN^6 ^8 ^7 ^14 – 35
Hick — Jahiz Linebarger 47 run (Ben Hartman kick) 9:16.
Hib — Devell Maxwell 7 run (Luke Robson kick blocked) 4:07.
Hick — Linebarger 9 run (Hartman kick) 11:54.
Hib — Zac Walker 4 run (Hunter Penley 2-pt. pass from Jacob Copper) 2:20.
Hick — Linebarger 14 run (Hartman kick) 7:39.
Hib — Davone Jones 8 run (Robson kick) 4:11.
Hib — Copper 57 run (Robson kick) 7:20.
Hick — Linebarger 86 kick return (Hartman kick blocked) 7:07.
Hib — Copper 3 run (Robson kick) 1:38.
Hick — Linebarger 47 pass from JaQuan Crawford (Crawford 2-pt. pass to Isiah Bane fails) :18.
RUSHING — Hickory: Jahiz Linebarger 23-119, JaQuan Crawford 15-50, Corey Stinson 7-22, Darian Jolly 1-1. Hibriten: Jacob Copper 16-126, Devell Maxwell 15-115, Zac Walker 6-49, Daquan Suddreth 4-31, TiShawn Daniels 6-31, Davone Jones 1-8, Team 1-(-1).
PASSING — Hickory: JaQuan Crawford 9-20-0, 148 yards. Hibriten: Copper 4-5-0, 69 yards.
RECEIVING — Hickory: Jahiz Linebarger 1-47, Nate Surbaugh 1-28, Brandon Helms 2-21, Tim Abernathy 1-19, Jonathan Reid 2-19, Darian Jolly 1-10, Ryan Honeycutt 1-4. Hibriten: Drake Felder 1-33, Dontavis Caldwell 1-21, TiShawn Daniels 1-15, Zac Walker 1-0.