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East Oktibbeha's Hunter learns to read, react on field

 

Adam Minichino

 

CRAWFORD -- Chris Hunter is seeing a clearer picture of what will work on the football field. 

 

Even though he has only a year of experience playing quarterback at the varsity level, Hunter showed Friday he is learning how to play the position and that he is maturing as a leader. 

 

Hunter rushed for five touchdowns and threw for another Friday in a 60-13 victory against Edinburg on homecoming. Hunter scored on runs of 3, 10, 14, 60, and 79 yards. He also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Halbert and a two-point conversion pass to Halbert. 

 

For his accomplishments, Hunter is The Dispatch''s Prep Player of the Week. 

 

"I had a good feeling because I knew it was our homecoming and everybody was going to be out here watching," said Hunter, who said his father and his brother and his sister were at the game against Edinburg. "I felt I had to go out and perform."  

 

Hunter rushed for 219 yards on nine carries to help the Titans improve to 2-6 and 2-4 in Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A, Region 3. 

 

East Oktibbeha coach Randy Brooks told Hunter at the beginning of the season he wanted him to come to him if he saw something on the field that might work for the team. He was pleased at halftime Friday night to see Hunter suggest to him that East Oktibbeha could use its Single Wing offense for big plays. Brooks considered Hunter''s comment and told him to run with it. The decision paid off, as Hunter broke free for touchdown runs of 60 and 79 yards in the second half. 

 

"He said they are overmatched at the tackle on the right side and we can really run that Single Wing," Brooks said. "We came out in the second half and started running it, and that''s when he scored his two big touchdowns." 

 

Brooks said Hunter''s ability to recognize defenses is his biggest area of growth. He said Hunter can read a defense and take what it gives him. 

 

Earlier in the year against French Camp, Hunter showcased that ability when he recovered a snap that went over his head and left him on his 1-yard line. Instead of throwing, Hunter took it back 99 yards for a touchdown. 

 

"He wasn''t looking to throw it, and he had receivers open, but he felt he made the right decision at the time," Brooks said. "He is faster than I realized, and he is one of the better receivers we have on the team." 

 

Brooks removed Hunter from the game with about six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He said he likely would have left him in the game to attempt to break the record had he known he was so close. 

 

Records aside, Hunter is having an impact season for the Titans, who have won back-to-back games entering Friday''s game against Weir. Brooks said the 6-foot, 175-pound senior has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and is approximately 130 yards shy of rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season. 

 

Hunter feels he is throwing the ball better and is running the ball better. The statistics bear his assessment out, as he now has 11 rushing touchdowns on the year. 

 

In addition to his improvement as a player, Hunter feels he has matured as a leader. 

 

"I am trying to get them to do the same thing I am doing, running ball hard and stuff like that, and to keep them motivated," Hunter said. "I am trying to keep their minds focused on the game." 

 

Brooks praised the play of a "banged up" offensive line, which features young defensive linemen up front, and senior Monte Horsley, who plays fullback, defensive tackle, and offensive tackle every game, for helping Hunter have a career night. 

 

Brooks, who is the offensive and defensive coordinator for the Titans, doesn''t have a lot of time on the sidelines to talk strategy with Hunter, which is why the senior''s ability to read defenses is so crucial.  

 

"I think it is very impressive (that he has made that much of an improvement reading defenses)," Brooks said. "I think he is just starting to play his best football. Next year as a freshman in college, if someone signs him as a scholarship, I think they will get a player who is starting to come into his own as an athlete." 

 

Brooks said Hunter will hone his skills this spring as a member of the school''s track and field team. He feels that experience will help make Hunter even more attractive as a possible college recruit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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