FARRELL, Pa. – Champions once again.
The Hickory Hornets captured their 11th District 10 title in program history and first since 2020 with a 14-6 win over Sharon in the 3A championship game on Friday, thanks in large part to their superb defense.
“This feels good,” said Hickory’s Sean Kennedy during the Cole Orthodontic Associates postgame interview. “We lost the first game (against Sharon) and everyone thought we were going to lose this game, and obviously we didn’t.”
See Kennedy’s full interview:
Sharon’s defense got a ton of attention this season, and for good reason. The Tigers had six shutouts and finished the year allowing just 81 points.
But Hickory’s (10-2) defense has been dominant as well, particularly in the postseason, allowing just 25 points in their three wins.
They’ve also had pick six’s in all three playoff games, including on Friday, when freshman Jadon Phillips stepped in front of Mister Ham’s pass and took it 30 yards to the house.
“We’ve moved a lot of guys around from the start of the season and I think that guys are finally getting comfortable and we’re starting to see that in the postseason,” said Keenan Scullin, who was all over the field on defense and also led the team with 46 rushing yards on eight carries. “Ultimately I’m just so proud of my guys and I feel like we can dig in and go far.”
See Scullin’s full interview:
It was a defensive game, to be sure, much like the first meeting that Sharon (9-3) won 12-0 back on Sept. 8. Sharon finished with 165 yards of offense and Hickory 130.
“We sat there at 3-2 after we lost to Farrell and I just told them to keep the faith,” said Hickory head coach Bill Dungee. “Just continue to get better, continue to believe and trust the coaches. Seven games later we’re District 10 champions and we’re not stopping here.”
The only difference in the first half, as it turns out, was an extra point.
After a scoreless first quarter, Sharon drove 59 yards for its only score of the game with Ham punching it in from three yards out with 7:51 to go in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked, and the Tigers led 6-0.
Hickory answered, taking the ensuing drive 60 yards on six plays, chewing nearly six minutes off the clock, with Xander Telesz punching it in on fourth-and-goal from the 2. Lukas Jones’ extra point made it 7-6 with 2:02 to go in the second quarter.
That was all Hickory needed, thanks to its swarming defense.
“Coach Matt Schneider and our defense did a phenomenal job,” Dungee said. “Three playoff games, three pick six’s , and the funny thing was, the week that we had off, we worked on turnovers. The one thing the defense hadn’t done all year was score points. We want to score points. Three straight playoff games we get in the end zone, just a tremendous job.”
And they got in the end zone on defense thanks to a great read from one of their talented freshmen.
“Straight dog,” Dungee said of Phillips. “From day one, 7-on-7s, he took over the corner spot. He’s got a bright future. He’s a smart kid, listens and has the heart of a lion.”
There was one play that caused some controversy along the Sharon sideline with five minutes to play, when Telesz stepped up in the pocket and was facing pressure, with the officials ruling he made a forward throwing motion, therefore making it an incomplete pass. Sharon had picked up the ball and started running with it, thinking it was a fumble.
The Tigers did get the ball back, but another one of Sharon’s ball hawks, Timmy Krivosh intercepted Ham with 3:22 to play.
“That’s a heck of a football team,” Dungee said of Sharon. “They are so good defensively. Every trick in the book I tried and they had adjustments for it. Just a great year from them. We knew it was going to be a battle. We told the kids it was like two rams colliding.”
In addition to Scullin, Telesz had 11 carries for 29 yards, while Kelvin Morrison had 27 yards on the ground. Telesz also completed three passes for 22 yards.
Ham led Sharon with 36 yards on the ground on 11 carries, and also completed 9-of-19 passes for 71 yards. Ike Friday had 23 yards rushing and 12 yards receiving, while Bishop Root had four receptions for 29 yards.
Up next for Hickory is a date with Central-Martinsburg in the PIAA quarterfinals. Central outlasted District 9 champion Clearfield in a double-overtime thriller, 41-35
“We’re going to be greedy and take this until the wheels fall off,” Dungee said.