After ending his senior season with a Class AA championship and with Mingo Central coach Yogi Kinder announcing his retirement, running back Joe Hunt probably figured he’d never play a game for his old coach again.
But this week has provided one last shot as Kinder was selected as the South’s coach and Hunt selected as a player for the WCHS-TV 8 Fox-11 North-South game to be held at University of Charleston Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday.
It was a remarkable season for the Miners a year ago as Mingo finished 14-0 and with a 32-7 win over Fairmont Senior and it sent Kinder and the graduating seniors, like Hunt, off in fairytale fashion.
And it came as part of a community that relentlessly backed the squad along the journey.
“You asked me that question and I got chill bumps,” Hunt said, answering what last season meant to him. “It means so much to me and the whole team. I know [the community] was all behind us. We brought a huge crowd to Wheeling. On the way to Wheeling, we saw coal miners walking down the street with their coal mining outfits, it made you think. We did that for them, not just for us, the whole town.”
Listed at 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Hunt was the counter punch to Mingo’s aerial attack led by Kennedy Award-winning junior quarterback Jeremy Dillon a year ago.
His bruising, straight-ahead style was quite the contrast to Dillon’s touch passing and speed running and together, they created quite the dilemma for opposing defensive coaches. Too many in the box and Dillon could shred a team through the air. Too many defenders committed to the pass and Hunt would pound the interior into submission.
All told, Hunt rushed for 1,506 yards and 25 touchdowns while catching 12 balls for 162 yards and two more scores. He was all the MVP of the state championship game, rolling up 31 carries for 212 yards and two scores as Mingo rode the back while protecting a big lead and running clock throughout the second half.
This week, Hunt is one of seven players listed at running back on offense who weigh 210 pounds or more, giving the South team an option to hammer the ball behind an offensive line that consists of five players weighing in at 300 pounds or more and another at 295.
“We’ve got four running backs that rushed for over 1,500 yards last year and we’ve got a lot of big players, a big offensive line too,” Hunt said.
Kinder said he will plan on using the spread offensive system he used to capture state supremacy a year ago, but an alternate plan is indeed in place if needed.
“We’re going to come out in a spread set but we’re going to have a little package for that, I guarantee that,” Kinder said. “We’ve got some big boys and we’ve got some fast boys. [Determining workload] is going to be a problem, so this is what I can do — I’m going to give them all a chance and whoever is packing that mail is going to keep after it, because number one, we want to win this game. I know these kids do. They don’t want to come up here and put all this time in . . . because a lot of them were working and getting ready to go to school. A lot of times, it boils down to who wants to win the game more.”
Hunt said it didn’t take long to find team chemistry, something he was a bit nervous about heading into the week.
“When I was first coming down here, I was worried that all of us were from different schools and we wouldn’t get along, but I can honestly say there’s not one dude on this team I haven’t became close to this week so far,” Hunt said.
Hunt chose to walk on at Fairmont State next season and will continue to play there. He pointed to a commitment to winning as the determining factor in the decision.
“I think it’s a great fit up there,” Hunt said. “I visited a couple of colleges and none of them had the winning mentality that I was used to except for Fairmont.”
And as for the team he’s leaving behind at Mingo Central, Hunt provided a last prediction before his exit.
“That team will be fine without me,” Hunt said. “They’re going to states again, I’m calling it right now.”