The Butler Bulldogs, the two-time, defending Class 4AA state football champion, has made it look easy at times the past three seasons, winning 41 of their last 42 games and 10 consecutive playoff games in that span.
Add one more to those streaks as Butler coasted past Hoke County 42-20 in the first round of the NCHSAA 4AAplayoffs.
The win by Butler (10-1) sets up a rematch with archrival Independence, a 29-28 winner over East Forsyth. The Bulldogs beat the Patriots 38-26 on the road Oct. 28. The Bulldogs and Patriots will play for the 14th time in the last eight seasons and sixth time in the playoffs in the last eight years. The location for the game will be determined Monday, when Butler and Independence officials will discuss a possible alternative location away from the respective high schools.
“It’s definitely going to motivate us a little more because it’s Independence,” Butler quarterback Riley Ferguson said. “But we don’t need any more motivation because this is the playoffs, and we are going to go out and play Butler football no matter who we are playing.”
“We definitely won’t have any problems focusing our opponent this week,” Butler coach Brian Hales said.
Ferguson and Co. looked much like they have in the past against Hoke County as the Bulldogs’ David Moore picked off Bucks quarterback Michael Locklear on the first possession.
Two plays and 30 seconds later, Ferguson found a wide-open Channing Stribling down the left sideline on a 22-yard touchdown pass to give the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.
Hoke County countered mostly on the legs of running back Detrez Newsome (38 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns), who capped the next drive with a 16-yard touchdown run, but the Bucks’ Logan Wilson missed the extra point, making the score 7-6.
After the teams traded possessions, Butler began to take control of the game when Ferguson found tailback Josh Glisson on a screen pass and he went untouched 41 yards down the right sideline for a score and 14-6 lead. Glisson also closed out the half, catching another screen pass from Ferguson for a 16-yard score to put Butler up 21-6.
Ferguson dominated much of the night, passing for 242 yards and four touchdowns.
After a slow moving third quarter, Butler’s Uriah LeMay put the game away in a matter of 15 seconds to begin the fourth quarter, first on a 24-yard pass from Ferguson and then a 42-yard touchdown turning a 28-6 lead into a 42-6 blowout.