As I stepped carefully onto the field in Warrior Stadium Friday night following Hunt's state 3-AA playoff game against Southern Nash my mind wandered ever so briefly back to early August.
I milled outside the clubhouse waiting for practice to begin so I could shoot some photographs and I couldn't help but notice the stadium field was a pristine green, shimmering in the summer heat as it awaited its 32nd season. Fast forward to around 10 o'clock Friday night and the once green and robust turf was in shambles, much like Hunt's season.
The Warriors never could seem to find the traction on their own field that the Firebirds did as they slogged out a 20-10 victory to end Hunt's season in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. Southern Nash churned out 285 tough yards in the mud while the Warriors never got their offense in gear.
Maybe it was the fact Hunt kept going to the passing game which produced next to nothing. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Page, usually sure-handed and strong-armed, seemed bewildered by the marshmallow-like surface, caused by days of rain as he struggled to plant his feet for his deliveries. Meanwhile Hunt receivers seemed to be running through molasses as they just couldn't get to Page's throws. Only one of the 12 Hunt passing attempts was caught by a Warrior, Travoris Lofton, and for just 3 yards. The last pass Page threw was snagged by a Firebird, Luke Mercer, and it all but finished off the Warriors.
A fumble also killed a promising fourth-quarter drive for the Warriors right after Southern Nash had taken a 14-10 lead. But rather than try to dissect what Hunt did wrong, let's look at what the Firebirds did right. Even though they fell short of their quota of 2.5 fumbles, both turnovers they had hurt the Firebirds. The first ended the opening drive in Hunt territory and the Warriors turned it into a quick six points, courtesy of Jazzy Kirby's 62-yard run after taking an option pitch from fill-in quarterbackTyrell Vinson.
The other Southern Nash turnover came on a squib kickoff by Harry Lamm following Kirby's TD that Kyle Pittman recovered near midfield. Hunt got a field goal from Lamm out of that.
But that was it. Even Southern Nash's 66 yards on 10 penalties, including two drives that were absolutely killed by yellow flags, didn't keep the Firebirds from winning. I was impressed by them early in the season after back-to-back wins against Beddingfield and Bunn and I was not surprised that they beat Hunt Friday night.
They believe in themselves and they believe in head coach Brian Foster and his staff and good things have happened for them.