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Viewpoints vary on the merit and significance of homecoming high school football games. Are the distractions worth it?
A rare Saturday night homecoming observance for the Hunt High varsity football team evolved as not much more than an annual occasion in a 49-0 3-A Big East Conference loss to undefeated Rocky Mount.
The Warriors were pretty much done after moving the football well their first two possessions and coming away without points. Third-year head coach Keith Byrum’s squad tumbled to 1-1 in the Big East and to 4-3 overall, while the Gryphons vaulted to 2-0 in the league and to 6-0 against all foes.
The encounter was shifted from Friday to Saturday when Rocky Mount High was not in session Friday and athletic events were not permitted that evening.
“We can’t blame homecoming and we can’t blame playing on Saturday,” Byrum emphasized. “Rocky Mount probably had more distractions than we did — they weren’t in school Friday. We can only blame ourselves. Well, maybe we can blame (Rocky Mount); they are pretty efficient at what they do.”
The Gryphons piled up 442 yards total offense and, in constructing a 42-0 lead with still four minutes left in the third quarter, implemented the continuous running of the scoreboard clock. Although junior back Tiquez Taylor juked and twisted for 105 yards on 17 rushes, Hunt was limited to 158 yards total offense and committed three turnovers.
Behind the determined running of Taylor and junior Zyquez Grooms, Hunt received the opening kickoff and trudged to Rocky Mount’s 17-yard line before a fourth-down pass was dropped. The Warriors moved the football their second possession but a lost fumble stopped the advance.
Hunt negated the turnover with an interception from junior Robert Best. But, the Gryphons, already up 7-0, turned all but unstoppable behind the passing of junior quarterback Jaquan Lynch, the running of junior Tashaun Lawrence, senior Rodell Bridges and senior Michael Brooks and the pass receiving of Bridges and Lawrence. Rocky Mount unleashed a stable of effective running backs.
“We did a lot more good than bad,” assessed Rocky Mount head coach Jason Battle. “But I still think we did some things not very well. We are still progressing.
“Defensively, we did a better jof of sticking to assignments, and we did a better job later on of not giving up the edges.”
Lynch’s 3-yard keeper on the Gryphons’ first possession started the onslaught. Second-quarter TDs came on junior Antwain Dunston’s 4-yard jaunt; Lynch’s 25-yard strike to Bridges and Brooks’ 15-yard burst with 1:17 remaining before halftime.
In the third quarter, Lynch drilled a 25-yard laser to Bridges and Lawrence’s 17-yard gallop with four minutes left in the third quarter prompted a non-stop clock.
Hunt kept the score down on fumble recoveries by sophomore Jahquel Jefferson and senior Cameron Watson, but a fumble recovery by senior Gabriel Bynum set up a Rocky Mount TD.
With the clock running, sophomore Mckenley Jones scooted six yards for the final TD and senior Saylor Newton drilled his seventh consecutive extra point.
The Warriors were also nagged by penalties and injuries, resulting in senior Andrew Jones finishing the game at quarterback with senior Nathan Lemons and Taylor sidelined.
“A lot of things didn’t go in their favor,” Battle said of the Warriors. “They couldn’t get monentum.”
Especially after the first two possessions.
“It definitely takes it out of you to get down there and get nothing out of it,” commented Hunt offensive coach Marcus Johnson. “Bit-by-bit, our confidence diminished after two long drives and not reaping the benfits. It’s back to the drawing board Monday.”