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From the outside, the trajectories of the Hunt High and Southern Nash varsity football teams couldn’t be any different heading into Friday’s 3-A Big East Conference affair inside Firebirds Stadium.
The Warriors find themselves nursing an array of serious injuries, some of the season-ending variety. A thrilling comeback win over Northern Nash to open conference play was tempered by a lopsided 49-0 loss to Rocky Mount last Saturday on homecoming.
Now, the Firebirds, who hold steady as the No. 5 team in the latest Associated Press 3-A poll, await as the next opponent. It hasn’t been a routine season for the Firebirds, who will observe homecoming festivities, despite a 5-0 record. Southern Nash will log just nine games after last week’s contest against Northern Nash was postponed due to power issues in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools.
But when the Firebirds have had the chance to take the field, the double-wing running game has quickly piled up points and often sent the clock into perpetual motion.
The Hunt-Southern Nash game will serve as The Wilson Times Game of the Week, with Alton Britt and Cole Page on the call from Firebirds Stadium beginning with the pregame show at 6:30 p.m. on wilsontimes.com.
Elsewhere, Beddingfield and SouthWest Edgecombe will continue their quests for a Nov. 2 winner-take-all collision in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference when the Bruins host Nash Central and the Cougars welcome in Farmville Central.
In a Wayne County showdown, Charles B. Aycock travels to Dudley to meet Southern Wayne, and North Johnston, on the heels of its last-second win at Farmville Central, returns home to face North Pitt. Greene Central looks to get back on track in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference as it visits South Lenoir.
At all sites, kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
HITS KEEP COMING
There’s never an ideal time to experience a slew of serious injuries, but the Warriors (4-3, 1-1 Big East) find themselves in an unenviable predicament ahead of the Southern Nash game. Starting quarterback Nathan Lemons is out for the season with a broken fibula, and adding to the malaise was the news that deep threat receiver Elijah Anderson would be lost for the year to a rib injury. Throw in the ongoing losses of senior defensive lineman Christian Phaby (broken leg) and defensive lineman Terry Perry, and the depth of Hunt is being severely tested.
“We’re still having to deal with folks getting hurt or being hurt, and getting replacements in — trying to build some depth,” Hunt head coach Keith Byrum said. “That’s one of the biggest challenges we’ve got, aside from the fact that we’re playing a really, really good football team.”
Led by senior Zonovan Knight and junior Quinton Cooley in the backfield, Southern Nash also has a suspended game with defending North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-AA champion Wake Forest on its docket, one where the Cougars lead 14-10 in the first quarter. But no window exists for either school to make up the contest, especially with the Northern Nash game now on the extra playing date of Nov. 9.
“It’s definitely been different and I hope we’re ready to play,” Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster said. “There have not been many weeks where we’ve had a normal week.”
Foster noted the Warriors’ propensity to move the football, although it hasn’t resulted in a multitude of points. Junior Tiquez Taylor is the primary threat in the backfield.
“Any time you turn on the tape — they’ve moved the ball against everybody they’ve played,” Foster said of Hunt. “They haven’t taken advantage of their opportunities, but they’re capable.”
Byrum said his team hasn’t adopted the approach that their season is over due to its latest bout of adversity. Nor has the Southern Nash game been placed out of its proper perspective.
“If you turn it into the Super Bowl, or you turn it into a must-win-or-else situation, then what do you do if things don’t go the way that you want them to go?” Byrum said. “We’ve got to treat it like it’s the most important game that we’ve had all year, because it is. But next week, that game will be the most important game we’ve had all year.”
NO REST FOR DEMONS
One week after a 36-8 lead vanished for Fike in a 37-36 loss to Franklinton, the Demons must hit the road to face Rocky Mount in the 60th all-time meeting between the schools. It’s a series that the Gryphons lead by a 34-23-2 margin, and Fike (2-5, 0-2 Big East) enters play having lost their last three games.
Rocky Mount, unbeaten through six games and two in conference play after blanking Hunt last week, brings its wing-T offense into the equation.
Senior Cody Cooper-Speight leads the Fike rushing attack, with senior linebacker Garrett Browder a mainstay on the maligned Demons defense.
Beddingfield (6-1, 2-0 EPC) welcomes in Nash Central for its homecoming, and the Bruins will attempt to keep a potent ground game churning against the Bulldogs (2-5, 0-2 EPC).
Junior Jalil Hutcherson leads the wing-T onslaught, with sophomore Raekwon Batts and senior Zach Adams providing ancillary carries. Junior Avery Huggins and senior Zion Hinnant give the Bruins a pair of quarterbacks with varying styles, although Huggins drew starting duties in last week’s win at North Pitt.
SouthWest Edgecombe (6-1, 2-0 EPC) and its wishbone offense gets a visit from Farmville Central (2-6, 1-1 EPC) as the Cougars have dominated the series between the run-oriented programs in recent years. Senior Darntrell Council leads a multi-headed SouthWest backfield.
C.B. Aycock (2-5, 0-3 ECC) has lost four in a row, a circumstance tied somewhat to the loss of sophomore quarterback Clay Matthews to a season-ending injury. But the Saints (1-6, 0-3 ECC) may be just the temporary salve the Golden Falcons need as they begin the second half of conference play. Junior Taevian Jackson leads the CBA offense at running back.
Greene Central (5-3, 2-1 2-A ECC) heads to Deep Run to face South Lenoir (1-5, 0-3 2-A ECC) after the Rams were handed a 29-6 setback at home by West Craven last week. Senior A.J. Dupree, a do-it-all player on both sides of the ball, is the engine for the Rams.
North Johnston (3-4, 1-1 EPC) is in a prime position to continue its momentum and return to the .500 mark when North Pitt comes to Ben E. Strifert Stadium. In this battle of Panthers, North Pitt has lost 18 straight dating back to last season following a 41-13 loss to Beddingfield last week.