Lineman turned running back leads undefeated Preble Shawnee

Hunter Crockett
Hunter Crockett

Arrows face Versailles Saturday in Division V, Region 20 final

Hunter Crockett’s journey from backup offensive lineman to senior star running back happened one revelation at a time.

He knew he like the position because he carried the ball in junior high, and that discovery never left his mind. But as it goes with smaller rosters at schools like Preble Shawnee, when Crockett got to high school, he filled a need on the defensive line because there were older, more established running backs.

After a good sophomore season on defense, his body began to change.

“I was pretty fast coming off the ball, but I wasn’t that fast yet,” Crockett said. “Going into my junior year I got taller and skinnier and that’s when they started moving me around to linebacker.”

After another good season on defense and as the No. 1 backup on the offensive line, Crockett got even faster.

“For summer conditioning, we’d go out to the track and run, and I thought, ‘My gosh, he’s one of the fastest kids we’ve got,’” head coach Dave Maddox said. “I don’t know how he got so fast over the offseason, but he did.”

Crockett realized the same thing. His family told him they wanted him to play running back. On the first day of preseason practice, Crockett told the coaches he wanted to try his old junior high position. So they let their 6-foot-2, 220-pounder practice with the running backs.

The Arrows’ first scrimmage was against Brookville, and all was revealed.

“We handed him the ball a few times and we all looked at each other and said, ‘I think we might have something here,’” Maddox said.

Crockett rushed for 99 yards and five touchdowns in a season-opening win rout of Miami East. If doubt remained after that performance, the next game cinched it that Crockett was playing the position he was destined for.

In the first quarter against Tri-Village, he suffered a dislocated shoulder. Tri-Village scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to tie the score at 14. Crockett returned in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown to lift the Arrows to a 26-14 victory.

“If he doesn’t come back, I don’t think that happens,” Maddox said. “Aside from all the stats, I think you judge a kid by how big of a game changer he is. In my opinion, he’s one of the biggest that I’ve seen this year.”

Crockett and his teammates are program changers. The Arrows had never won more than seven games before this season. Now they are 13-0 and face Versailles (12-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Division V, Region 20 final.

Crockett missed two games in the middle of the season but still rushed for 1,389 yards at 8.2 yards a carry and 26 touchdowns. He has a 309-yard game and three 200-yard games. Through 13 games he is up to 1,842 yards and 28 touchdowns.

“I was confident in what I could do on the field,” Crockett said. “And I knew if I ran hard, it would be a good season.”

The season got better earlier this week when Crockett was named the Division V offensive player of the year in the Southwest District.

“For real? That’s crazy,” he said. “It’s definitely a team award. Honestly, without my line I don’t think any of this would have ever happened.”

Crockett still plays some defense, and a little more often this deep in the playoffs. But first, for the first time since junior high, he’s a running back now.

“He’s a very good natural running back,” Maddox said. “He’s got good vision, he’s got great hips and obviously being 6-foot-2, 220 pounds that’s a big load to bring down. When he runs, he looks like he’s been doing it for years.”

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