After 20 days sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, South Iredell High School took the field on Friday night and were welcomed back rudely by the Hickory Ridge Bulls (5-2) falling 42-16 on the Vikings senior night.
South Iredell (1-4) has not had a full strength squad for a game this year. After a full week canceled with no practices, a bye week with three light practices and followed by a full week this week, the Vikings fielded as close to that full strength squad as it has all season.
“I feel like we’re five to six players short of being who we want to be,” South Iredell coach Eric Rees said. “It’s tough playing a team who doesn’t play guys both ways when most of our skill position players and a few linemen are playing both ways.”
Hickory Ridge came into Friday night atop of the conference and showed why early and often. Quarterback Alex Bentley tossed two touchdowns in the first quarter; a 54-yard pass to Christian Hamilton and a 59-yard pass to Connor Shulamn. Randall Fisher added a 11-yard touchdown run to give the Bulls a 21-0 lead after one quarter.
Bentley went 8-for-12 passing, throwing for 241 yards and three touchdowns in one half of action. Bentley and Hamilton connected on a 62-yard pitch and catch just before halftime.
Hamilton had four catches for 155 yards and two scores.
“I don’t fault my kids' effort ever, they want to lay it all on the line for me, the coaching staff, their families and they’re not going to take plays off. That’s not who they are,” Rees said. “We challenged them at halftime and our kids responded.”
The Vikings’ defense took the halftime message to heart and opened the second half forcing a blown option pitch by Hickory Ridge in their own end zone resulting in a safety. The Bulls lone second half score came on a jump pass from lineman Isaiah Bullerdick to Ethan Young. Young also had a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first half.
After managing just 101 total yards in the first half, the Viking offense began to hit their stride in the fourth quarter. Junior running back Jaylin Neal, who played in his first game since week one against North Iredell, churned out 46 yards on the way to the Vikings first score; a 1-yard keeper by quarterback Brice Warren.
Neal continued his hard running, taking just two plays the next South Iredell possession to go 50 yards for his second score. Neal finished the game with 22 carries for 156 yards and one score.
South Iredell will play three games in seven days, hosting West Cabarrus on Tuesday and traveling to Mooresville next Friday. Hickory Ridge will travel to Lake Norman next Friday.
“We’re fortunate to get an opportunity to come play football and we can’t miss those,” Rees said. “It’s not optimal, but these seniors deserve to have a full regular season and if we have to play three [games] in seven [days], so be it.”