CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock senior linebacker Owen Hunt weighs 140 pounds — soaking wet.
But that doesn’t matter. Neither does his height, 5-foot-6, which screams everything but defensive specialist. Above all else, Hunt has heart.
Second-year head coach Jim O’Hara knew that the moment he met the then-junior in 2014, fresh off a state finals (2013) run under previous Royals’ head man Pat Echeverria.
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“I liked him right from the get-go, he has a lot of passion and is a very honest person,” O’Hara said. “He’s usually the first guy out to practice and one of the last to leave.
“Size really doesn’t matter. It’s his heart is why he’s successful. He’s just a hard-nosed kid.”
Hunt’s passion for the game has led to a stellar senior season, where his 81 tackles from the outside linebacker position leads the team, 32 ahead of the next player. He also has two interceptions and eight tackles for loss (second on the team) for a defense allowing 12 points per game.
“Basically, he sets the edge,” O’Hara added. “He contains the running plays and on passes he covers the flats. It’s a lot of work, you have to read your keys. He’s just gotten better at that and trusting what he’s seeing.”
A large number of his takedowns, according to O’Hara, come on special teams. Hunt is also the team captain, voted by his teammates, and long snapper on extra points, punts and kickoffs.
The modest Hunt gives credit to the Class 2A No. 2 Royals’ new defensive scheme, which was implemented when O’Hara arrived last season. A scheme that’s given Eastern Hancock, mixed with its potent offensive attack, a 17-3 record the last two seasons.
“It took some time to get used to it and get good at it,” Hunt said. “We all know the guy next to us has our back, and I think we really trust each other to get their job done too.
“And we may not be the biggest team out there, by any means, but what makes us good is making up for our lack of size, and using our speed to cause problems for the opposing offense.”
O”Hara teaches a rugby-like tackling style that has been a proven success at higher levels of football. For instance, the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, who play with a fast and aggressive style.
And Hunt’s teammates would describe him as exactly that, sometimes too aggressive, he said. To him, it’s just football. In his mind, he’s just doing his job.
Hunt’s primary responsibility is to be physical, which is exactly why he’s included on Eastern Hancock’s goal-line offense.
“My teammates often joke, but are serious when they say I would run to the opposite side of the field just to hit someone, rather than just taking the open touchdown,” Hunt, a four-year letter winner, said.
That type of play, mixed with his playing experience the last three seasons, have paved the way to his successful 2015 campaign.
As a sophomore, Hunt started every game for the 14-1 Royals, who lost to Tri-Central 20-10 in the state finals. His junior season was solid as well, as Eastern Hancock won another sectional title (10-3 record) with Hunt collecting 72 tackles, third best on the team.
“Playing at Lucas Oil was like a dream,” Hunt recalled. “I was lucky to start all season long, especially as sophomore, with no previous varsity experience, so being able to play there was literally just something you dream about.”
Eastern Hancock faces a more immediate challenge, however.
Hunt and the Royals will face a major test with a trip to Class A No. 9 Shenandoah (6-1) tonight.
The Raiders feature three athletes capable of reaching pay dirt in their wing-T offense. Hunt’s ability to contain the outside will be key, as the wing-T spreads the ball all over the field.
“With the wing-T, you attack all phases of the field,” O’Hara said. “They are very sound and well coached.”
A win tonight and next week at home against Lapel wraps up a perfect regular season for the Royals. A sectional featuring several tough opponents, like 2A No. 9 Triton Central, stands in their way, though.
Hunt will use a souvenir from 2013 as inspiration to make a return trip to Indianapolis at season’s end. He has been carrying around a red “runner-up” ring on game days he received from the state finals that year.
“Every time I see that red ring, I feel the pain and remember how close we were to putting another one (state championship) in there (trophy case),” he said. “I’ve always dreamed about playing (in the state finals), and walking out with a blue ring and a state championship trophy.”
Position: Outside linebacker
Weight: 140 pounds
Statistics: 81 tackles (eight for loss), two interceptions
Style: Prefers contact
Other duties: Special teams, long snapper, running back
Outside football: Eagle Scout for Troop 233, volunteers Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Therapy Center
After High School: Plans to attend Ohio Technical College for welding