By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
Kareem Hunt’s reputation preceded him, and he was off and running on Friday night.
The senior, who is a main candidate for Ohio’s Mr. Football award, scored on runs of 59 and 50 yards on South’s first two plays from scrimmage, and they were off and running. The hosts scored touchdowns all eight times they had the football in the first half, and went on to a 63-20 win over Lakeside.
On the first run, Hunt took the ball around left end and cut back to the right. The second run came to the right side.
“The one thing that really disappointed me is that I think a few of our kids out there were scared (of Hunt),” Lakeside coach Ryan David said. “And I think that’s the reason why he broke that (first) touchdown. And that was disappointing to me.
“The play was right in front of our sideline, so I was there first-hand to see it. It really disappointed me that some of our kids were scared. He’s a great running back; don’t get me wrong. But that was the only disappointment. And it wasn’t all of our kids — just a few of them.”
Hunt didn’t keep that pace up. But he kept on running. With all of his carries coming before halftime, he totaled 263 yards in 18 attempts. He had six touchdowns, adding scoring runs of 2, 10, 1 and 44 yards, and now has season totals of 2,043 yards on 169 carries (12.1-yard average), 34 rushing touchdowns and 37 TDs overall in his team’s eight games.
Hunt, who surpassed the 2,000-yard mark as a junior, went over that plateau again late in the first half, but was then nailed for a 5-yard loss to put him at 1,999. On the next play, he broke the 44-yard run up the middle on what would be his last touch of the evening.
Andrew Venclauskas scored the other two first-half touchdowns, as the undefeated and four-time defending Premier Athletic Conference champion Rebels (8-0, 5-0) built a 56-0 halftime lead. Venclauskas returned a punt 66 yards to paydirt and hauled in a 56-yard pass from Casey Klicman for his two scores.
The Dragons (1-7, 0-5) were able to put the ball in the end zone three of the four times they had the ball in the second half. Tyler Loftus (14-of-30, 206 yards, 1 INT) hooked up with Chase Knight (6 catches for 76 yards) for a 29-yard scoring pass play and found Nick Meola (82 yards on 5 receptions) for a 27-yard TD. In-between, Manny Lucas took the ball in from 15 yards.
“The one thing I’m proud of is we went out in the second half and our kids didn’t quit,” David said. “That was the one thing that made me very, very proud.”
Loftus did throw for 93 yards in the first half, despite the fact the Dragons didn’t advance farther than the South 44 during that time.
“They have a great defense,” David said. “And (the fact we moved the ball some during the first half against them) gave us some positive to bring into halftime with. But they’re as good as advertised.”
Marcell Ballinger blocked a punt to set up Lucas' score. A 16-yard punt return by Shawn Gilbert and a personal foul gave Lakeside possession at the Rebel 29 three plays before Knight’s score.
“We were happy that we scored,” David said. “They’re ranked (6th in Division I) in the state for a reason.”
South scored its last touchdown on a 1-yard run by Shawn Mackey (19 carries, 61 yards) that capped a 63-yard, 16-play march on which South ate up more than 10 minutes. The bulk of the Rebels’ plays after the intermission were runs up the middle.
“Their coach (Matt Duffy) is an absolute class act,” David said. “I told him after the game (that) they played a great game, but he was really, really classy. And that was something that everyone at South should be proud of; they’ve got such a classy coach.”
South, which has not lost a PAC contest since the final game of the 2007 season, racked up 403 yards on the ground and 472 total yards. Lakeside was held to 31 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.
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