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No. 9 Hunt hosts RM in battle of unbeatens

October 5, 2012
Rocky Mount High School

WILSON - As the high school varsity football calendar flips to October, it can be difficult to fathom that the final month of the regular season is underway.

But with that understanding comes a watershed game within the 3-A Big East Conference as Hunt, ranked No. 9 in the latest Associated Press 3-A poll, entertains a revived Rocky Mount squad Friday in a mammoth collision of two 6-0 squads that each passed their first league tests.

Kickoff from Warrior Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a big game,” veteran Hunt head coach Randy Raper assured. “When you get into the conference, every game is big. With only (six) teams in it, you’re pushed real hard. On top of two 6-0 teams, it’s a great matchup.”

The Gryphons of first-year head coach Jason Battle actually lost their opener to Bunn 37-21, but the discovery of an ineligible Wildcats player quickly reversed the result. Since then, Rocky Mount has outscored foes 131-65 in five other victories.

Led by senior running back Mason Hines, the Gryphons have re-installed a wing-T look offensively as part of a resurgence that saw 2011 conclude with a 3-6-1 record and a winless five-game stretch through Big East play.

Last week, Rocky Mount claimed its conference opener on the road 13-6 at Nash Central, while the Warriors seized a lightning-shortened affair with Northern Nash, 40-0.

“They’re doing a really good job,” Raper said of the Gryphons. “They have confidence in what they’re doing, and that’s key. Those guys are going to play hard. They know what’s at stake, and our guys know what’s at stake. The Hines kid, I remember him from last year. He has great size and is very aggressive. It’s going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes.”

While the crux of the Hunt offense still rests on the legs of senior running back Josh Joyner, who leads The Wilson Times readership area rushers with 1,051 yards rushing and 16 TDs, the Warriors offense is steadily becoming more than just No. 28.

Friday’s games

• Rocky Mount at Hunt (Radio: WLLY 1350-AM; Online: ihigh.com/absports)

• Nash Central at Fike

• Beddingfield at Farmville Central (Radio: WZAX 99.3-FM; Online: www.jammin993.com)

• Cleveland at C.B. Aycock

• North Pitt at SW Edgecombe

• NW Halifax at North Johnston

• Southern Nash at Northern Nash (WHIG-TV Game of the Week)

At 6-foot-9, senior quarterback Daniel Westbrook has emerged as the area’s most efficient passer, throwing for 520 yards and six TDs. Classmate Brad Williamson, a Princeton High transfer, has also been effective behind center. Neither has thrown an interception this season.

On the outside, junior wide receiver Kentrell Brown has caught 12 passes for 303 yards and three TDs.

“We’re always trying to do that,” Raper said of evolving the Hunt offense. “We know what Josh is capable of doing and so does everyone. It’s not a one-horse show. We’ve got some good athletes and we’ve got to be able to use all of them.”

Defensively, the Warriors have been defined as a swarming, opportunistic unit that has not hesitated to take the football away from the opposition.

Hunt enters Friday play with a healthy plus-9 turnover margin, an area best, and has outscored its opposition 239-66 in part due to a defense that features senior end Lewis Neal, an LSU commit. Junior Dexter Wright, senior Cody Pittman, senior Alvin Artis, senior Khy’Tari Wiggins, junior Tre Spearman, senior Nick Talley and senior Javis Neal Hill also patrol the formidable unit.

Aside from ordinary bumps and bruises, Raper reported that his team is “as healthy as when we started.”

“It’s going to take a big effort from our guys,” he assured. “Sound football on both sides and the kicking game has to perform at a high level. We have to eliminate turnovers and keep the penalties to a minimum.”

Rocky Mount leads the all-time series by a slim 16-13 margin, but hasn’t beaten Hunt since a 44-6 outcome in 2008. The Warriors have won 18 consecutive regular-season games.

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