By Paul Hershey
Hickory Ridge head coach Marty Paxton wondered how his team would respond from last week’s loss in its South Piedmont Conference opener.
He probably became even more curious when the Ragin’ Bulls fell behind Concord in the first quarter Friday night.
But Paxton wasn’t concerned – and his team showed why he didn’t have any reason to be.
Led by some spectacular plays by quarterback Brett Lilly, Hickory Ridge ran off 33 straight points and rolled to an impressive 33-14 rout of the Spiders for their first SPC win.
“To win any game after last season is great, but to beat a good program like Concord is unbelievable,” Paxton said.
“They scored early and you wonder how your kids are going to do and obviously tonight our kids did real well.”
The senior quarterback accounted for five touchdowns, doing much of the damage with his legs. He ran for three scores – two of them set up by big pass plays on the run – and added two touchdowns through the air.
“We had the quarterback trapped a couple of times and he made a couple big plays,” Concord head coach E.Z. Smith said. “Good players make those plays. We’ve won some games like that and now we’ve lost another one like that.”
Trailing 6-0, the Ragin’ Bulls (4-1, 1-1) scored 19 points in the second quarter to take control.
First, Lilly threw a short pass to wideout Coye Still, who broke a tackle just after he caught it and ran away from the defense for a 72-yard score.
Defensive back Jarrett Rice then made a leaping interception on Concord’s ensuing possession to set up the go-ahead score – which also was created with a bit of good fortune for the Bulls.
Lilly eluded the rush in the pocket, escaped to the left and lofted a pass downfield into a crowd of Spiders defenders. The ball caromed off the hands of one of them and went forward to Hickory Ridge’s Austin Phillips. Phillips hauled it in and took it to the Concord 2 on a 27-yard pass play.
“He made some big plays,” Paxton said. “Sometimes he would miss his first read but he would make up for it. Scrambling around sometimes you worry about what’s going to come out of that and what’s going to happen at the end. But tonight the ball fell our way a lot of times.
“Austin happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Lilly scored on the next play for a 12-6 lead.
He followed with two more big plays on Hickory Ridge’s next possession. He ran for 27 yards on a fake punt and then threw to John Martinez for a 44-yard pass play when he scrambled to his right and found Martinez behind the defense.
His 1-yard run scoring run and Brandon Burch’s first extra point made it 19-6 with 41 seconds left in the half.
“If you give up one before halftime it really hurts you,” Smith said. “We just never could recover.”
It didn’t get better for Concord in the second half. The Bulls took the kickoff and marched 77 yards, all on the ground, capped by Lilly’s 7-yard run to make it 26-6.
Hickory Ridge’s final score came early in the fourth when Lilly scrambled again and hit Martinez for a 24-yard touchdown.
“He missed the first read,” Paxton said. “He was supposed to throw the slant backside. It was wide open. But he scrambled around and made a play happen after that.
He’s a tremendous playmaker.”
Lilly rushed for 100 yards on 10 carries, while competing 7-of-18 passes for 180 yards. Brian Baltimore added 106 yards on 19 carries and Martinez had four catches for 75 yards.
The Bulls’ defense, meanwhile, bottled up Concord tailback Roger Smith, holding him to just 27 yards on 10 carries. They also harassed quarterback Sean Willix most of the game, collecting three sacks and plenty of pressures.
“Our defense is doing very well,” Paxton said. “They get after you. No matter what the situation is in the game we’re going to be coming hard at you and try to make things happen.”
The Spiders’ only scores came on a 24-yard pass from Willix to Evann Carpenter on their second possession and a 2-yard run by Smith in the fourth quarter.
“They have eight men in the box and we have six blocking and Roger running,” E.Z. Smith said. “We just couldn’t break him loose. We couldn’t create seams.
“Our hat’s off to them. They did a great job. They really made a lot of improvement and they deserved to win. They were better tonight than we were.”
Willix completed 14-of-37 passes for 225 yards. Wideout Will Cowan had four catches for 119 yards for the Spiders (2-2, 1-1).
Both teams are now among the many in the SPC with one loss just two games in the conference season.
• Contact Paul Hershey at (704) 789-9146.