AIKEN, S.C. - Rashad Hunter knew it would be up to him to carry South Aiken in its opener against Midland Valley. From the opening kickoff until the final seconds ticked down, he just kept running and never looked back.
Hunter was the workhorse for the Thoroughbreds on Friday, rushing for 253 yards on 40 carries while guiding South Aiken to a 26-13 victory.
"Coach (Dan Pippin) told me before the game we were going to run a lot," Hunter said. "He just said to take the ball and run as hard as you can."
Hunter followed orders as the Thoroughbreds went to him time after time in the first half, during which he racked up 162 yards on 26 carries.
South Aiken, along with Hunter, did most of its damage early in the game, scoring two of its touchdowns in the first quarter.
He carried the ball eight times in South Aiken's first possession and capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run four minutes into the contest.
On South Aiken's next possession, Hunter continued to carry most of the load, but Thoroughbred quarterback Byron Bush surprised the Mustang defense by tossing a 29-yard touchdown pass to Brandy Franklin, giving South Aiken a 13-0 lead.
In the second quarter, a pass interference call worked to the advantage of Midland Valley, giving the Mustangs first down at South Aiken's 15 yard line. Two plays later, Dontrell Jones scampered five yards into the end zone to cut the lead to 13-6.
Later in the second quarter, Bush showed the Thoroughbreds might not be a one-man squad, converting a fourth-down pass play and dashing 15 yards on a keeper two plays later to give South Aiken a 19-6 edge with 26 seconds left in the half. The lead proved to be all the Thoroughbreds would need to wrap up the game.
"Byron is a kid who's going to make plays for us," Pippin said. "I'll take Byron Bush over pretty much any quarterback around here."
South Aiken lightened the load somewhat for Hunter in the second half by using Thomas Crawford at tailback in the fourth quarter. Crawford, who finished with 53 yards rushing on seven carries, scored the final Thoroughbred touchdown with 7:06 left in the game on a four-yard run.
Midland Valley scored three plays later on a 40-yard fumble return by Jones but it was too late for the Mustangs to pull off a comeback.
Mustangs coach Rick Knight said the battle was won in the trenches, crediting South Aiken's experienced offensive line.
"I'm not taking anything away from (Hunter), because he's a good football player," Knight said. "But it was their offensive line against the rest of us."