Hunt keeps Royal alive
By Loren Ledin, lledin@VenturaCountyStar.com
November 10, 2006
As a transfer from Hackensack High in New Jersey, Marcus Hunt's key rivalry games the past two years have come against nearby Teaneck. Now he says he's found something better.
Getting his first taste of the Royal vs. Simi Valley intracity rivalry, Hunt rushed for a season-best 230 yards and one touchdown to help spark the Royal High football team to a 24-21 victory in the regular-season finale Thursday night.
"People have told me this is the biggest game of the year, and I can see that now," said the senior running back. "This is the kind of game you remember when you're a grown man. I loved it. The atmosphere was tremendous. It doesn't get better than this."
With Royal's playoff hopes on the line, Hunt turned workhorse too. He carried the ball 42 times, including eight attempts on the Highlanders' crucial fourth-quarter drive that covered 11 plays and 78 yards and ended in Danny Jennings' 20-yard field goal.The three-pointer, with 2:43 left in the game, snapped a 21-21 tie, turned out to be the game-winning score and put Royal in a position to secure the Marmonte League's fourth and final playoff spot.
Royal needs a Thousand Oaks victory over Newbury Park tonight to force a three-way tie for fourth place, and then must win the coin flips to break the deadlock.
"We basically knew our season was on the line tonight," said Royal quarterback Michael Long, who completed 9 of 13 attempts for 157 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown toss to Thomas McCormick in the second quarter. "We had to do our part, and do our job on the field."
In holding off its crosstown rival, Royal evened its record at 5-5, including 3-4 in the league. The Highlanders hold a 23-13-2 series edge against Simi Valley, including nine victories in their last 10 meetings.
Simi Valley, despite 143 rushing yards from Langston Jackson, ended its season at 3-7 overall and 1-6 in league. The taut loss typified the Pioneers season: close but another tough loss.
"That's us in a nutshell," said Simi Valley coach Todd Borowski. "Our kids played great, but we just came up one or two plays short of a victory."
In typical fashion for this rivalry, the two teams swapped big drives and big performances.
Three times, Simi Valley forged ties, including Jackson's 41-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that tied the game at 7-7. His 2-yard scoring run with 5:03 left in the third period knotted the game at 14-14.
For good measure, the Pioneers mounted a seven-play, 94-yard drive in the final quarter to produce a 21-21 tie, Brandon Fricke's 20-yard hookup with Sammy Scherr rescued the Pioneers from third-and-nine at their own 7-yard line. The duo ended the march with a 15-yard touchdown connection with 8:29 left in the fourth period.
As they had all game, Royal responded.
Long opened the drive with a 42-yard connection with Jake Mittel, who was playing wide receiver only because McCormick was lost with a broken collarbone in the first half.
From there, it was Hunt taking over the rivalry. With eight carries, he covered 33 yards and took Royal to the 2-yard line. Jennings, who won last year's game against Simi Valley with a 41-yard field goal, cooly converted the game-winner.
"I'm not tired," Hunt said with a smile at game's end. "I was getting great blocking from Jared Debo and the offensive line. They were opening up the holes and all I had to do was run through them."
Copyright 2006, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.
Royal likes this Hunt in victory
BY LEE BARNATHAN, Special to the Daily NewsInside SOCAL
Article Last Updated:11/10/2006 12:38:37 AM PST
SIMI VALLEY - Even as a transfer from Hackensack, N.J., Marcus Hunt recognizes the importance of a rivalry game. Back East, it was Hackensack against Teanack. Here, it's Simi Valley against Royal, and he said it's bigger and better here.
Hunt put on a bigger and better performance Thursday night, rushing 43 times for 226 yards and a touchdown in Royal's 24-21 Marmonte League victory over the visiting Pioneers.
The victory gave the Highlanders (5-5, 3-4) some hope toward making the Southern Section playoffs. Royal needs Thousand Oaks to beat Newbury Park tonight to force a coin flip for the fourth and final postseason berth (Agoura also finished 3-4 by beating winless Calabasas). Simi Valley finished 3-7, 1-6.
Hunt rushed for no yards in the first quarter, no doubt in part because he broke his right thumb. But after getting it taped, and after Royal switched fullbacks, Hunt turned it on with 100 rushing yards in the second quarter, including his 4-yard touchdown run that gave Royal a 14-7 lead, and 85yards in the third quarter.
His value was also evident when, following Simi Valley tying the score at 21, Hunt rushed eight times for 34 yards, eating up valuable minutes and setting up Danny Jennings' game-winning 19-yard field goal with 2:43 left to play.
"We gave him the ball and let him do what he does: Let him run," said Royal quarterback Mike Long, who completed 9 of 13 passes for 156 yards and a 35-yard touchdown to Thomas McCormick in the second quarter that opened the scoring. Long also ran in a 1-yard score. "It makes it fun for him, too. He gets to do all the fun stuff. I wish I could run the ball that much."
The victory was not easy, as is often the case with rivalries. After the teams combined for just 32 yards of offense in the first quarter, the offenses awoke.
Hunt was the key cog for the Highlanders, but Simi Valley tailback Langston Jackson (four first-quarter yards) rushed for 79 yards in the second quarter, 41 of which came on a touchdown run just 36 seconds after Royal took a 7-0 lead.
Jackson finished with 145 yards on 16 carries and a second touchdown run of 2 yards that tied the score at 14 with 7:46 remaining in the third quarter. Jackson also returned a kickoff 60 yards, but the Pioneers failed to score off of it.