A beast stirs in Wilson County
Posted October 28, 2013
Updated October 29, 2013
Halloween is approaching as October is nearly over and we head into week eleven of this high school football season. In just a few days, kids will be putting on their best Frankenstein masks and scaring each other through a neighborhood near you.
In the spirit of the season, it's only right that I bring up one of the spookiest forces you may encounter during this fright-filled week: The Hunt Warriors.
Each year, Hunt is typically a mainstay atop area high school football polls and discussion thanks to excellent coaching, plenty of talent and one of the most electric game-night atmospheres in all of the area. But through the majority of the 2013 season, the Mighty Mojo has been relatively quiet.
This is all starting to change, as the Hunt Warriors (6-3, 3-0) are getting hot at the right time and looking like a team capable of winning the Big East 3A Conference.
There is a reason the team has not drawn much hype through the first ten weeks of this season. A non-conference schedule with long travel times and distant teams did little to help the Warriors with area exposure. It didn't help things when the team started 1-2 with losses to Hertford County (5-4) and New Hanover (6-3).
One of the most recognizable and feared forces of Wilson County was all but written off by many a few weeks later after a 15-13 loss to rival Beddingfield. Suddenly it appeared the team was greatly missing longtime head coach Randy Raper, who departed the program for Northern Nash during the offseason.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and that same Hunt team is now 3-0 since that loss to Beddingfield, posting an undefeated record in the Big East Conference after first taking down Raper and that Northern Nash team in a close 14-7 contest.
Follow up the nail-biter with two inexplicably important wins against Rocky Mount (6-3) and Southern Nash (7-2), and suddenly the Warriors are staring down Fike with a share of the conference lead and two games left to play.
If you get as excited as I do about late-season blockbusters with heavy playoff implications, you will know that if Hunt defeats winless Nash Central this Friday and Fike gets past Northern Nash (both likely outcomes), then a final, November 8 showdown is set up between Hunt and Fike in a winner-take-all duel for the Big East Conference championship. You can't ask for better dramatics than that.
But how good is this beast beginning to awaken in Wilson County, and does it have any hope of stopping undefeated Fike in a series finale? In this three-game conference win streak, the Warriors have scored 28.33 points per game, including a 48-point performance against the Rocky Mount Gryphons who had previously not given up more than 22 points in any game this season.
The Hunt offense is no joke. If you follow the team, you're already very aware of senior Dexter Wright, the 6-foot-2, 205 pound player recruited as a safety and outside linebacker by North Carolina State. But this season, Coach Steve Hinnant saw a roll that needed to be filled after departed Hunt superstar Josh Joyner graduated last year, and stuck Wright in at the running back spot. Smart move, coach.
After rushing for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the close Northern Nash victory, Wright exploded to double his numbers against Rocky Mount, rushing for 200 yards and four touchdowns a week later. A heavy workload with lots of carries means Wright and the Warriors have put a gigantic emphasis on the ground game. Sophomore Darius Barnes has also rushed for more than 500 yards on the year, and all the work running between the tackles means little vertical passing attack. In eight games this season, Warrior quarterbacks have completed less than 40 combined pass attempts.
It doesn't take a genius to predict Hunt's gameplan going into the Fike game: Run the ball, run it some more and then run it again. While defenses have keyed on the Warrior run game for weeks, few have had any luck in stopping it. You can expect Hunt to gain yards on the ground and put up points, making the defense the more interesting aspect of the team heading into the last two weeks of the regular season.
Fike has not scored less than 33 points this season, averaging a whopping 37.7. They command time of possession and force tough defenses to play them head-on. Will the Warrior defense be able to stop such a powerful offense? This will be the key to the game.
But we won't get too far ahead of ourselves here. Anything can happen in high school football and the two schools will be focused on their upcoming matchups before scampering to gameplan for each other in the season's final week. But if you're into history, you may be more likely to go ahead and jump on the Mojo bandwagon now, as Hunt as won its conference three of the last four years.
Football fans tend to have short memories, and it can't be forgotten that Hunt has history, tradition and (judging by its last few performances) plenty of talent on its side. All these factors combined with a shot at an undefeated conference record? That's a Halloween thought even more terrifying than Frankenstein.
Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT