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NEW BERN — The last momentum shift belonged to the Hunt High varsity football team in pulling off a 27-22 nonconference triumph against 4-A New Bern of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference on Friday night.
Leading 14-0 in the first half, the Warriors of the 3-A Big East Conferenence found themselves trailing 22-21 early in the fourth quarter, and the offense had become stagnant.
However, senior defensive end Terry Perry yanked the football away from the New Bern ball carrier and, dragging two defenders the final 10 yards, returned the football 30 yards for the decisive TD.
After losing 21-14 to Greenville Rose on Monday night in a game halted early in the fourth quarter because of lightning, the Warriors of third-year head coach Keith Byrum rebounded to boost their record to 3-1 and match their win output of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Coming off its only win, New Bern tumbled to 1-3.
“With the Greenville game ending like it did, it’s been a hard week,” Byrum said. “The players and coaches thought we could have won the Greenville game and wanted a chance to finish it and go 4-0 (after beating New Bern).
“We had to suck it up and deal with the way it went and deal with what we could control. And that was tonight’s game. There were times things were not going well and we could have let down. But they didn’t let down at all.
“I am really proud of them. It was just refusing to lose. If we keep playing with that kind of mentality, we can look for more good stuff.”
Hunt returns to Warrior Stadium to oppose archrival Beddingfield at 7 p.m. next Friday.
Against New Bern, Hunt marched to a 7-0 lead its first possession. The payoff was senior quarterback Nathan Lemons’ 15-yard toss to junior back Tiquez Taylor. Kevin Moreno kicked the extra point.
“That one point gave us a big lift,” Byrum declared.
After a drive bogged down and a field-goal attempt was wide, the Warriors pushed the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter with Lemons outrunning the New Bern defense on a 38-yard keeper. Moreno again kicked the PAT.
The Bears scored late in the first half and added the two-point conversion to axe the deficit to 14-8.
But with some two minutes showing before intermission, Hunt seized a 21-8 advantage. Junior Zyquez Grooms bolted 23 yards for the TD and Moreno added the PAT.
Hunt then repelled a Bears’ threat seconds before intermission.
“It was a game of momentum shifts,” Byrum reviewed. “We started off really well. We were up 14-0 and everything was going quite well.”
Hunt received the second-half kickoff. But instead of building upon the 13-point halftime lead, the offense stalled. The Bears not only blocked the punt but returned it for a TD. The Warriors led only 21-14.
Another Hunt possession went nowhere, forcing a punt. This time, the punter could not handle the low snap and could not get the punt off. The Bears capitalized and grabbed a 22-21 lead.
“It felt like just a gigantic shift in momentum,” Byrum admitted. “When you give up a touchdown on special teams, it feels like it counts more than six points.”
But Terry came to the rescue and, during the final 10 minutes, crucial sacks from senior Christian Phaby and 6-foot-5, 285-pound senior Jordan Lucas helped the Warriors’ defense prevent New Bern from denting Hunt’s 40-yard line.
Hunt’s three 2018 victories have come against opponents that defeated it in 2017.
Lemons sparkled for the Warriors, completing 8 of 19 passes for 119 yards and a TD — with no interceptions. He also rushed for 61 yards and a TD on nine carries.
Grooms also picked up 61 yards on nine rushes. Leading rusher Taylor was limited to 28 yards on nine carries. His lone reception went for 15 yards and a TD. Senior wide receiver Elijah Anderson wound up with five grabs for 87 yards.