Senior Nate Mullen scored four touchdowns as the Hickory Ridge Ragin’ Bulls pulled away from the visiting Northwest Cabarrus Trojans in the third quarter and won a messy South Piedmont 3A Conference football game 34-6.
Each team had 12 penalties. Northwest had five turnovers, and Hickory Ridge had four.
Three of Hickory Ridge’s turnovers came on consecutive possessions between the second and third quarters. But Northwest couldn’t capitalize as it turned the ball over twice during the same sequence.
The Bulls (7-1 overall, 4-1 conference), held a 14-6 halftime lead but scored on all three of their third quarter drives to take a commanding 34-6 lead.
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Mullen, an all-purpose player who mostly lines up in the backfield, took a handoff for a 1-yard score early in the third period. On the Bulls’ next drive, he took a direct snap and went straight up the middle for a 27-yard score.
Mullen carried 11 times for 99 yards. Directing Hickory Ridge’s triple option offense, quarterback Greg Waslo led the Bulls with 112 yards on 18 carries.
An inspired defensive effort kept Northwest (1-7, 0-5) close in the first half. Starting with the last play of the first quarter, the Trojans stopped three consecutive Hickory Ridge possessions with takeaways. But Northwest’s own turnover problems eventually led to a second Bulls’ score.
At the end of a 17-yard gain by Remington Peters, the Trojans’ Nathan Clark stripped him of the ball at Northwest’s 20 and returned it 28 yards. On the Bulls’ next drive, Brandon Smyre picked off a pass at his own 7-yard line.
Northwest was guilty of its own turnover on the ensuing possession when Greg Giddings recovered a fumble after the Trojans’ Isaiah Williams was stopped while fighting for extra yardage.
Hickory Ridge took over at the Northwest 13. Four plays later, on third-and-goal from the 4, Shue had good protection but tried to thread a quick strike through the defense. Christian Smith made a leaping interception to stop the threat.
The Bulls’ Seth Bentley intercepted a Trojans pass three plays later setting up Hickory Ridge at the Northwest 17.
On the next play, Mullen lined up at quarterback and darted left with the snap. At the 10, Mullen easily sidestepped the only defender with a chance to tackle him and cruised to the endzone as the Bulls took a 14-6 lead with four minutes, 29 seconds left in the half.
The score added to the advantage Hickory Ridge took on its first possession of the game. Waslo directed a 60-yard drive on seven plays, running for 13 yards and passing for 31.
Mullen’s 16-yard reception set up the Bulls at the Northwest 1. Mullen lost a yard on a first down run but made up both yards on a score on the next play.
Northwest, which has lost six straight, nearly made up the deficit on its next possession. A 14-yard pass from Kalan Chapman to Darius Chapman and 13 yards on two carries from Williams helped the Trojans reach the Hickory Ridge 48.
On first down, receiver Will Poole got two steps behind three Bulls defenders and hauled in a pass at the Hickory Ridge 20 and easily cruised to the endzone. Hickory Ridge blocked the extra point to preserve its lead.