Ricebirds' Hunt is Class 3A's best defensive player
EL CAMPO - El Campo held a 17-10 lead over Wharton, but the Tigers had the ball as the clock was about to expire in the fourth quarter.
Wharton's final attempt to win or send the game to overtime ended when Cole Hunt sacked the quarterback.
"I did a spin move with the left tackle," Hunt said, "and got the sack to end the game."
Hunt's ability to get to the quarterback from his defensive end position helped the Ricebirds capture the District 25-3A championship and finish the regular season with a 10-0 record.
"I think his motor just keeps running," said El Campo coach Bob Gillis. "He just doesn't stop. He's quick - he's quicker than you think. He uses his hands well and he developed the strength. If teams don't double team him, he's probably going to beat a single blocker.
"If he didn't sack them, he usually flushed it to the other side and we got a lot of sacks because of his pressure."
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound senior finished the regular season with 82 tackles, 15 sacks and five knockdowns and was selected as the defensive player of the year on the Associated Press Sports Editors Class 3A all-state football team.
"I like to get at the quarterback," Hunt said. "That's my favorite thing about playing defensive end. I use my leverage a lot, that's the main thing that helps me.
"My strength and my speed, it all works together as one to get to the quarterback."
Hunt also started at tight end and was the Ricebirds' leading receiver.
He has committed to Rice and is likely to play tight end for the Owls.
He rarely left the field this season, even playing on the extra point team.
"We told Cole we were really going to have to rely on him heavily both ways," Gillis said. "I tell you what he did that I appreciated. He spent a lot of time in the weight room. He knew as a junior he was tall, but he didn't weigh a lot and he wasn't real strong.
"As a junior during offseason he really dedicated himself and gained a lot of weight and gained a lot of strength and I think it showed."
Hunt enjoyed his senior season, which ended with a loss to Stephenville in the Division I state championship game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
"We had high expectations this year," he said. "We almost got the last goal, but we didn't achieve it.
"We were picked to go to the semifinals and lose to Carthage and we wound up beating Carthage and it was a pretty unbelievable season."
Gillis expects to see even more from Hunt in the future.
"Going from defense to offense and doing some of the things he did," Gillis said. "He had a vital role. He really improved and became a strong team leader for us this year.
"I think Rice got them a great football player with a lot of upside."