Dylan Ratliff put his head down and bulled his way past two Butler defenders for a two-point conversion, giving Hickory Ridge a 43-42 victory Friday night and throwing the Southwestern 4A race into turmoil.
Hickory Ridge coach Jason Seidel decided to go for two points after Ratliff had capped a 60-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass, his third of the game, to Jalen Brooks with 28 seconds left. The Ragin’ Bulls, ranked No. 9 in the Observer Sweet 16 poll, covered the distance in 57 seconds.
They needed the touchdown because No. 6-ranked Butler had gone 71 yards and scored on a 4-yard dive into the end zone by Keyon Lesane. Butler, which had a conversion kick blocked earlier in the second half, then scored on a two-point conversion for a 42-35 lead.
The outcome left a four-way tie for first place in the Southwestern 4A, with Hickory Ridge, Butler, Myers Park and Porter Ridge each at 4-1. East Mecklenburg is close behind at 3-2.
In what was expected to be a defensive struggle, Butler piled up 594 yards total offense to 336 for Hickory Ridge.
Butler had all the big offensive plays in the first half, but the Ragin’ Bulls netted a 21-all halftime tie by taking advantage of three opportunities.
The first came less than five minutes into the game, when Hickory Ridge blocked a Butler field goal try, and the Bulls’ Garrett Williams scooped up the football and ran 76 yards for a touchdown.
Then, after Butler had built a 14-7 lead, Hickory Ridge got another opportunity. A bad snap on a Butler punt attempt gave the Bulls the ball at the Bulldogs’ 11. On the first play, Ratliff fired a touchdown pass to Zion Sheriff.
The Bulls got another opportunity when Butler decided to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 from its 32. The Bulldogs were stopped, and Hickory Ridge moved 32 yards and scored on a 4-yard run by Nolan Carey Jr.
Records: Hickory Ridge is 8-1, 4-1 Southwestern 4A; Butler is 6-2, 4-1.
3 who mattered
Garrett Williams: Hickory Ridge’s junior cornerback returned a blocked field goal 76 yards for a touchdown and broke up five Butler passes.
Jamal Worthy: Butler’s sophomore running back carried 25 times for 213 yards. He scored two touchdowns.
Dylan Ratliff: The Ragin’ Bulls quarterback completed 18 of 36 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown and then ran in the decisive two-point conversion.
▪ Keyon Lesane had a big game for Butler. He ran for two touchdowns, one on a 64-yard dash, and caught a touchdown pass. He also had several pass breakups from his defensive back position.
▪ The last time Butler lost a game at home was in the 4AA playoff quarterfinals last year. The Bulldogs fell to Vance in overtime when Vance went for a two-point conversion.
▪ Nijere Peoples, Butler’s standout running back, did not play. He suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago in the Bulldogs’ victory over Myers Park.
▪ It was the second straight week that Hickory Ridge blocked a field goal. The Ragin’ Bulls did the same thing in the third quarter last week against Myers Park. They also blocked a Butler conversion kick in the third quarter Friday.
▪ It also was the second straight week that the Bulls stopped an opponent on four plays from inside the 5. They did it against Myers Park in the fourth quarter last week and repeated the feat Friday against Butler. It set up a field goal try that was blocked and returned for a Hickory Ridge touchdown.
Hickory Ridge is home next Friday against East Mecklenburg. Butler is home next Friday against Garinger.