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GREENVILLE — For a preseason scrimmage on a Saturday morning, there were lots of things the Hunt High varsity and junior varsity football teams could have done better but Warriors first-year head coach Ryan Sulkowski was mostly encouraged by what he saw.
Hunt joined host J.H. Rose and Kinston in a three-team jamboree at Rampant Territory Stadium and the Warriors came away feeling good, mostly, about their showing.
“Well, I was happy with a lot of it. Overall defensively, I think we played very well. We gave up two touchdowns all day,” Sulkowski said. “Overall, offensively I was pleased with it, the way we moved the ball. Defensively, we were solid.”
The jamboree was originally a four-team affair but West Craven pulled out at the last minute because, Sulkowski said, the Eagles were still waiting for some reconditioned helmets to be returned by the manufacturer. Luckily for Sulkowski, who has been dealing with the same problem from equipment manufacturer Schutt, the Warriors all had headgear, including silver helmets for every varsity player.
The teams rotated against one another, first in sessions of a predetermined number of plays and then in game conditions with each team starting at the 40-yard-line.
The most obvious area in which the Warriors excelled was running the ball with senior Tiquez Taylor and sophomore Christian Joyner inflicting much of the damage behind a line that did not include its most experienced player. Senior Adisen Jones was nursing a sore ankle and did not dress for the scrimmage.
“I’m wondering if the O-line blocked very well or if C.J. (Joyner) and Tiquez made them look better than they blocked!” Sulkowski said. “And that’s not a knock on the O-line. They were very good in certain positions and they were getting to where they needed to get to and there was a lot of daylight. I was pleased with the rushing game but the passing game has a way to go.”
Sulkowski said that he hasn’t had a chance to dissect the video from the scrimmage but with five players on the offensive line who were seeing their first action at the varsity level, he thought they more than held their own.
One thing that Sulkowski did not determine Saturday was who will be his starting quarterback. Senior Dalton Garwood, junior A.J. Kovach and Taylor all took reps at the position. Taylor showed off his arm with a pair of touchdown passes in addition to his running ability. However, Sulkowski said that the competition will continue at practice and in Wednesday’s scrimmage at Rosewood.
“We’re holding onto the ball a little too long in the passing game,” he said. “Our receivers, the different combos, we’ve got to get everybody meshing well. We have to be more consistent getting all of our receivers and quarterbacks on the same page.”
Senior Chris Artis and sophomore Davon Jones sparkled on the receiving end.
The defense, led by senior end Sincere Batts, senior tackle Schilick Sauls, sophomore end Christian Nicholson, senior inside linebacker Zion Barnes, senior safety Jamil Barnes, Taylor and Artis matched the athleticism of the Rose and Kinston offenses.
“We talked about it before we left today but our D-line, if we stay healthy, we’re going to give some people some fits,” Sulkowski said. “Our linebacker play wasn’t outstanding but it was good enough.”
“We did some different things defensively that we may not do in a game in a certain situations. But we rolled the dice and I made a bad decision versus Kinston,” said Sulkowski, explaining that he told defensive coordinator Keith Byrum to “send them all,” including the inside linebackers.
“And he (the Kinston ball carrier) bounced out and we didn’t have anyone there,” the Hunt head coach said. “But that was from the 3-yard-line. So that one’s on me.”
Sulkowski said that while he didn’t get a chance to watch the junior varsity scrimmage, coaches Ben Ellis and Allan Daniell provided glowing reports.
While there are plenty of things to work on, now is the time to do it. Hunt’s season opener is Aug. 23, at home against Eastern Wayne.
“We’re just going to have to clean up some things — a couple of holding penalties, a couple of procedure things and our sideline, we’ve got to work on that as well,” Sulkowski said. “But that’s why you have scrimmages.”