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Apparently, lightning does strike twice.
Two tries and two storms later, the weather had the ultimate say in the outcome of a Hunt High-Greenville Rose game originally scheduled for Friday, but delayed and again forced into a premature end Monday evening.
After lightning forced the teams off the field Friday inside Warrior Stadium, the decision was made to resume the contest Monday with the Rampants owning a 14-6 lead at the end of one quarter.
As Hunt trailed 21-14 with 9:49 remaining Monday, lightning was again spotted in the area. Approximately 70 minutes later, Hunt officials made the decision to halt the game with the Warriors owning possession 2nd and 12 from their own 39-yard line.
Since the game had progressed beyond halftime per North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules, the Rampants, 3-A members of the split 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference, were awarded the lightning-shortened victory to remain unbeaten through three games. Hunt of the 3-A Big East Conference lost its first game, falling to 2-1.
“I feel like that’s a very winnable game,” Hunt head coach Keith Byrum said. “And we didn’t get an opportunity to finish it. I’m frustrated for the kids. I wanted them to get an opportunity to go out there with nine minutes left, first down (actually second) with the ball. We had been moving the ball well; I wanted them to get an opportunity to see if we could move the ball down the field and stick it in.”
Trailing 14-6 in the second quarter, the Warriors’ defense halted a Rose march inside the Hunt 20-yard and took over with 4:09 left in the half. Senior quarterback Nathan Lemons, who was 2 for 3 during the drive for 55 yards, hit seniors Jihren Strickland and Elijah Anderson with key third-down conversions to keep the drive alive. The latter toss went to Anderson for 26 yards to get deep into Rose territory. In the final seconds of the half, Lemons found junior running back Tiquez Taylor on a screen pass after Taylor motioned out, creating an empty backfield. Taylor caught the ball for a 6-yard gain, and Byrum screamed for the Warriors to spike the ball. But matters were slow to develop at the line of scrimmage, forcing Hunt into burning a timeout with six seconds left.
Facing third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Lemons handed to senior Shyheim DeBerry, who burrowed into the end zone.
Initially, Lemons’ two-point conversion pass failed, but Rose was flagged for roughing the passer, giving the Warriors another chance from the 1 1/2-yard line. DeBerry finished off the conversion, leaving the score tied at 14 at the half.
However, penalties hurt the Warriors in the second half. Hunt received the second-half kickoff and threatened again on Lemons’ 34-yard strike to Anderson along the sideline. But fourth-and-1 arrived at the Rampants’ 15 arrived, and Rose stuffed Taylor for a loss of a yard to turn Hunt away.
Rose, which then needed 84 yards for a go-ahead TD, received over half of the total via Hunt penalties. The Warriors were flagged for a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls and a defensive pass interference on the drive. The final personal foul was the most egregious, turning what would have been a fourth-and-long into a Rose first down at the Hunt 31. Six plays later, Rose senior quarterback Grant Jarman faked the handoff and rolled to his left, finding receiver Jake Rogers for a 3-yard touchdown.
The Jarman-to-Rogers connection was responsible for all three Rose TDs over the span of four days, including a pair of 18-yard scores on Friday night prior to the delay.
“You never want it to end kind of like it has,” Rose head coach Dave Wojtecki said. “It has been a long few days. Both of us have teams to prepare for on Friday as well. You don’t want it to end that way, but you just want it to be over. Happy that our guys came out of halftime and kind of got a little energy out of half and played a little bit better. But it’s tough to start a game, stop and come back, start another one and stop. It’s tough on the kids that way.”
Both Friday hookups came on fourth down against the Hunt defense.
Half of Hunt’s six penalties came on what proved to be Rose’s game-winning drive. The Rampants were also flagged six times for 49 yards.
“There were a lot of big ones,” Byrum said of the penalties. “Pass interference, I struggled with that call. A personal foul where people are pushing and shoving back and forth and one guy gets caught — seems like that’s always the way it goes. We’ve got to be smart enough to not put ourselves in that position where there’s a reason for someone to throw a flag on us to begin with.”
Taylor finished with 20 carries for 67 yards and intercepted a Rose pass off a halfback option in the third quarter.
For Rose, Jarman finished 10 of 20 for 96 yards and his three TDs to Rogers, who had five grabs for 41 yards.
Hunt will now travel to New Bern on Friday night, while Rose gets a visit from Havelock in another meeting of unbeatens for the Rampants.