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Following Friday night’s game debut as the program’s head coach, Ryan Sulkowski viewed his Hunt High varsity football team’s resounding 36-13 conquest of Eastern Wayne in Warrior Stadium as a “typical first game.”
Chances are players and onlookers were not in complete agreement with his assessment. They viewed Hunt’s successful debut as stout encouragement to hopes of returning to winning ways and exceeding the four victories of the 2018 team.
Hunt of the 3-A Big East Conference shook off a slow start to roll up a 30-0 margin before 3-A Eastern Wayne of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference notched its initial first down on the final play of the third quarter. Eastern Wayne posted a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns against Hunt reserves.
“There were penalties, mistakes and everything else that we need to clean up,” Sulkowski remarked. “But the defense played extremely well. The offense took a while to get clicking, but Eastern Wayne did a few different things and all we had to go on was last year’s film. We adjusted well. Overall, I was pleased.”
Senior Chris Artis paced a parade of big-play Hunt performers — scoring the first 2019 TD, intercepting a pair of passes and providing spark with some 50 yards on two kick returns.
“It feels great,” Artis exclaimed. “We have worked hard for this; we have practiced since April. A lot of people doubted us and we had to prove them wrong.”
Hunt got effective play from the trio of senior Tiquez Taylor, senior Dalton Garwood and junior A.J. Kovach at quarterback in deep sets.
Taylor thundered 64 yards for a TD and wound up rushing for 104 yards on just nine carries. Garwood and Kovach each rifled a TD pass.
Junior Aundrey Loftin, senior Zion Barnes, sophomore Christian Nicholson and senior Robert Best anchored an energetic Hunt defense that limited Eastern Wayne to 108 yards total offense and to minus yardage until the final play of the third quarter.
Sophomore running back C.J. Joyner complemented Tayor with 87 yards on 16 rushes. Sophomore Tychaun Clay zipped for a pair of second-half TDs.
Artis tallied the first Hunt TD in the final minute of the first quarter, stepping out of a tackle attempt and scoring on a 6-yard end-around. Junior Shai Richardson kicked the extra point.
Hunt’s lead became 9-0 on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter. Nicholson swarmed in and dropped Eastern Wayne quarterback Andrew Fricks in the end zone for a safety.
The margin became 17-0 on the final play of the first half when Garwood zipped a 22-yard scoring strike to senior Jaylin Daniels. Hunt failed on the extra-point try. However, Eastern Wayne was penalized and Garwood plunged over for the two-point conversion.
Hunt finally broke the big play on its first second-half possession, with junior tackle John Edwards’ block springing Taylor for his 64-yard jaunt.
The end-around play produced a second TD late in the third quarter. Clay exploded for a 27-yard gallop.
“Blocking and hard work,” Artis described the success of the end-around.
Finally, with slightly over three minutes remaining, Kovach pitched a 24-yard TD pass to Clay.
Eastern Wayne’s TDs in the final quarter came on senior Prentice Uzzell’s 26-yard burst and Uzzell’s fourth-down plunge from 3 yards out with 21 seconds showing.
Eastern Wayne was without senior quarterback Desmond Vaughn, who is lost for the season with a wrist injury. The senior passed for 2,400 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
“Our problems started at the very beginning with bad field position,” declared Eastern Wayne head coach Leander Oates. “When you get down like that with a bunch of young guys, it’s tougher to get out of that situation — especially with Hunt having a stud like No. 1 (Taylor).
“They controlled the ball, milked the clock down and did a good job of limiting our opportunities. He’s going to be all right.”
Hunt welcomes Hertford County with a 1-0 record.
“Any win is a good win,” Sulkowski contended. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first one or the last one. The kids played their tails off and played to win. I’m happy for them.”