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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / McMinn County (17) Jalen Hunt bursts into the open on Friday. McMinn County High School played at Cleveland High School on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

In a season of uncertainty, Jalen Hunt has been as close to a sure thing as there is in Tennessee prep football.

McMinn County's senior running back has consistently topped the 100-yard rushing mark and helped carry his team to a 9-win regular season. Last Friday, with second place in Region 2-6A and a homefield first-round playoff game on the line at rival Bradley Central, the 5-9, 165-pound speedster again took matters into his own hands.

Hunt delivered multiple big plays, rushing 25 times for 292 yards and five touchdowns — all covering 26 yards or more — to lead a second-half rally that resulted in a 41-25 win, which also earned him Times Free Press Player of the Week honors.

"He's our security blanket," Cherokees coach Bo Cagle said. "We're never afraid to give him the ball in any situation."

Hunt, a Western Carolina commitment, leads the state with 2,161 rushing yards — averaging 9.6 yards per carry — and has 24 touchdowns. He also owns program records for career rushing yards (5,464) and all-purpose yards (6,149).

His totals last Friday helped the Cherokees rush for 400 yards on 44 carries, averaging 9.1 yards per carry as a team.

After Bradley Central had scored on its opening possession, Hunt answered with a 42-yard TD sprint to tie the game. When the Bears regained the lead, again it was Hunt who countered by racing for a 32-yard TD which brought the Cherokees within 14-13 after missing the extra point.

One minute into the second half Hunt again broke free, this time on a 40-yard run, to put McMinn County ahead for the first time. It would also be for good as the Cherokees defense handed the ball back to their offense and Hunt began to help his team pull away with a 26-yard TD.

After the Bears closed to within 10 with a field goal, Hunt put the game away with an electrifying 63-yard scoring sprint, giving him three TDs in the third quarter alone. He also added four tackles on defense.

"He rarely comes off the field," Cagle added. "He plays special teams as well as safety and linebacker and that gets forgotten because of what he does on offense. But we know what he can do anytime he's on the field."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis

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