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GOLDSBORO — Coming off a pair of 3-8 seasons, the Hunt High varsity football team had precedent for self-doubt to creep in as it stared at a 31-26 deficit with six minutes to play at Eastern Wayne on Friday night.
However, the simple cure for any second thoughts was simple. Hand the football to junior running back Tiquez Taylor.
That’s exactly what Hunt did in this battle of Warriors with the game on the line, as Taylor dashed his way to the go-ahead 64-yard touchdown run with under three minutes remaining to lift Hunt to a thrilling 34-31 victory.
Hunt of the 3-A Big East Conference piled up exactly 500 yards of total offense, with Taylor accounting for 230 yards on 20 carries. He capped Hunt’s opening drive of the game with a 41-yard TD run before turning in a 66-yard scoring dash in the third quarter.
In the interim, senior quarterback Nathan Lemons put his stamp on the starting quarterback position, tossing a pair of TD passes to senior Elijah Anderson and junior Chris Artis. Lemons also added a two-point conversion on a bootleg run to cap the scoring in the fourth quarter.
“He was in charge of the offense itself,” third-year Hunt head coach Keith Byrum said of Lemons. “He’s done it all spring. He’s won this job — he could have won a lot of jobs.”
Eastern Wayne, which defeated Hunt in the 2017 season opener, took over for its final possession. But after encroaching upon midfield, a deep ball down the sideline was intercepted by senior free safety Shyheim Deberry, turning away the final opportunity of value for Eastern Wayne, a 3-A member of the split 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference.
Hunt, which piled up 367 yards rushing, got 138 yards on the ground from junior Zyquez Grooms. Byrum mentioned that Taylor was lined up as a receiver at times, which opened lanes for Grooms in the middle.
Although trailing 7-6 after one quarter, Hunt surged ahead on Lemons’ 60-yard toss to Anderson. The defense later produced a safety, with senior defensive tackle Jordan Lucas swallowing up the Eastern Wayne ball carrier in the end zone for a safety.
Hunt took a 26-17 lead into the fourth on the strength of Taylor’s 66-yard TD run and Lemons’ 31-yard pass to Artis.
Lemons finished 5 of 16 for 133 yards to go along with his two TDs.
“We just wanted to start well,” Byrum said. “Everyone wants to open and start well, and we are coming off a couple seasons where they were dissatisfied. Starting well was important.”
Hunt visits Hertford County next Friday.