Nov 10, 2012
In a battle of unbeaten teams, Hunt high school defeated Cardinal Gibbons, 25-20, in a down-to-the-wire battle Friday night.
Led by senior running back Josh Joyner’s three rushing touchdowns, the Warriors were able to eek out the win, advancing to the third round of the 3AA North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs.
The game looked to be in favor of the Crusaders as they returned the opening kick-off for a huge gain and scored on the following play. Junior Dante DiMaggio connected with his big target, senior receiver Trevor Zaruba for a 29-yard touchdown pass, giving Gibbons a 7-0 lead with all the momentum in their side.
Down, but not out, the Warriors defense held tight, as Zaruba’s score would be the only tally on the scoreboard in the first quarter.
“We came in here knowing it was going to be a tough, tough game,” Hunt head coach Randy Raper said. “We’re not fast starters. It takes us a couple of series to get acclimated to what’s going on.”
The second quarter belonged to Joyner and the Warrior offense, as they came alive, taking the lead. Joyner had two touchdowns in the quarter, one from 12-yards out, and the other, a 39-yard dash, showing off his game breaking speed. Hunt led 13-7 going into halftime.
“First quarter, they shut me down, I wasn’t getting any movement off the ball but in the second quarter we tightened up,” Joyner said. “The line adjusted, they told me to trust them, that they’d get the hole, and they did.”
In an attempt to regain momentum, at the start of the second half, Gibbons attempted an onside kick and gained possession on the opening kick-off. DiMaggio smoothly led the offense down the field on the opening possession. All game, he was able to elude would be tacklers and found open receivers downfield.
After the onside recovery, DiMaggio led his team down the 3-yard line. Sophomore fullback Carson Lyndon eventually rumbled into the endzone, reclaiming the lead for the Crusaders, 14-13.
Play went back and forth, as both teams traded blows for a couple possessions but neither team was able to capitalize. Each squad had opportunities to extend their leads with field goals but was unable to capitalize.
After one of the Crusaders’ missed field goal opportunities, late in the third quarter, the Warriors offense took to the field and, again, was led by Joyner down the field.
Hunt’s senior quarterback Daniel Westbrook stuffed the ball in Joyner’s chest and the senior star broke through the Gibbons line for a 60-yard run. The huge gain set up a touchdown pass from Westbrook to sophomore receiver Darrion Ballard with just 1.6 seconds left in the third quarter, reclaiming the Warrior lead at 19-14.
On the first play of the Crusaders’ ensuing possession, DiMaggio rolled outside to the left, after being flushed out by the Warriors defense. He attempted a pass down field, but the pas was tipped and went straight up in the air in the vicinity of four Hunt defensive lineman and picked was off, giving the Warriors excellent field position.
Joyner, again, led the Warrior offense down within the redzone. He found the endzone again, from 14-yards out for his third score of the night, padding their lead, 25-14.
“He’s solid as a rock,” Raper said. “He’s a leader on our football team and when it’s crunch time we go to him.”
Cardinal Gibbons added another later touchdown. DiMaggio snuck into the endzone with 37.7 seconds remaining but was unable to convert a two-point conversion.
Following the score, Gibbons successfully recovered another onside kick with under a minute remaining, but DiMaggio threw an interception on the first play of the drive.
Next week, the Warriors will take on Cleveland High School in the third round of the 3AA NCHSAA playoffs.
“Our guys hung in there, we fought, we made some terrible mistakes but overall I thought our guys did what they had to do to win the football game,” Raper said. “They came up with some big plays and I’m proud of them.”
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