Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
STANHOPE — Southern Nash High senior running back Zonovan “Bam” Knight is akin to a cheat code all unto himself.
Hand him the football, and there’s a solid chance that the N.C. State commit will end the play standing in the end zone.
It’s a formula that has worked masterfully for the Firebirds when they’ve been able to step onto the field this season.
Friday night against Hunt, it contributed to the Warriors’ worst loss in school history.
Knight accounted for five TDs — four rushing and on a punt return — as Southern Nash, ranked No. 5 among 3-A programs by the Associated Press, remained unbeaten through six games with a one-sided 63-6 victory on a homecoming night in Firebirds Stadium.
Hunt, which also surrendered a program worst in terms of points allowed, dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-2 in 3-A Big East Conference play.
Southern Nash won the opening kickoff and deferred, leaving Hunt to trot out its full-house backfield package for the first time. It was responsible for a pair of early first downs, with junior Zyquez Grooms busting a 16-yard run. But the Firebirds’ defense adjusted, forcing a Warriors punt. On the Firebirds’ second play from scrimmage in the double-wing, Knight took a handoff and sprinted 49 yards to the end zone, flattening a Hunt defender before he crossed the goal line.
On five rushing touches for 130 yards, Knight scored on sprints of 49, 11, 23 and 47 yards. He also got involved on special teams, taking a punt and dashing 69 yards for a score on special teams to go up 14-0.
But it wasn’t just Knight. His backfield mate, junior Quinton Cooley, scored on runs of 48 and 41 yards, finishing with 10 carries for 135 yards. With Southern Nash trotting out the wildcat and Cooley or Knight taking the direct snap, Cooley took the snap and went 48 yards for the score in the second quarter. In the second half with a running clock, Knight lined up in the wildcat and handed to Cooley, leaving a hole wide open for a 41-yard run. Cooley’s final touchdown jaunt preceded the eighth PAT by senior Carlos Garcia in as many attempts.
Defensively, the Firebirds were tenacious, ripping a pair of footballs straight out of the hands of Hunt running backs. Junior Jason Bland had a 43-yard fumble return in that manner early in the second quarter, while junior Devonte Edmundson ripped the ball away from Hunt junior Tiquez Taylor on his way to a 33-yard return.
The Firebirds again did not punt, and remain without one through six games.
Hunt generally struggled, but found a bit of traction using Taylor in the wildcat in conjunction with Grooms. Taylor dashed 29 yards on a fourth and 26 in the second quarter to avoid the shutout for Hunt. Grooms had 17 carries for 71 yards, while Taylor had 49 yards on 15 totes.
The proceedings did get chippy in the second quarter. Hunt junior Jaden Spruill and senior Darius Edmundson were thrown out of the game for their part in an altercation. Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster confirmed Edmundson was ejected, while Hunt’s Keith Byrum said he was unable to clarify if Spruill was ejected or disqualified.
The Firebirds also lost senior defensive back Trysten Roberson in the second quarter after a targeting call to the head of Hunt’s Taylor. However, Roberson’s removal went down as a disqualification, Foster said.
Hunt is home to Franklinton next week, while Southern Nash hosts Rocky Mount in the Big East’s game of the year.