Friday, January 4, 2013

Hinnant an easy choice for Hunt job

The announcement Thursday by Hunt High Principal Jerry Simmons that Stevie Hinnant would be the school's next — and fifth — varsity football head coach really comes as no surprise. That is, at least since Randy Raper's shocking announcement two weeks ago that he was leaving Hunt after 22 seasons and head coach to take the job at Northern Nash.

Hinnant, the school's athletic director, was the assistant head coach and had been the offensive coordinator since 2002 and basically has been at Hunt, well, forever. He and I walked through the doors as freshmen in the waning days of summer in 1980 and, except for two years while he was a student at Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College, Stevie has been a Warrior. Heck, he was a Warrior the day, probably in sixth grade, he found out Rock Ridge High was turning into an elementary school and he would go to Hunt. As a ninth-grade football teammate at Hunt, I seem to recall there being some jests made that he would probably end up being the football coach there one day. Well, 33 years later, here we are.

I still remember him shoving a wad of Skoal in his mouth before football practice and thinking he was plumb crazy. Remember, this was well before tobacco prohibition on school campuses or during athletic events. It was one thing to stick in a chaw for baseball but another to have tobacco in one's mouth (and Skoal no less!) while playing football.

But Stevie was a little bit crazy back then and he had to be. He was an undersized linebacker at maybe 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds soaking wet, but daggone if he wouldn't do just about anything to drag somebody to the ground. And that team, with Stevie right in the middle of the defense, our senior year (I was just a spectator by then) in 1983 went 12-2, winning the Big East Conference title and making it to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A Eastern final before losing to a Fayetteville Byrd team with future NFL players Donnell Woolford and Brad Edwards, among others.

As a head coach Hinnant's got a deep legacy to meet in Raper, who had one losing season out of 22 and won 203 games. But Hinnant has been there nearly every step of the way. In fact, he got to Hunt as a ninth-grader a year before Raper started working there. So perhaps a bit of the credit for all those winning seasons should go to Hinnant.

For a 35-year-old program to only have four head coaches is remarkable, especially considering two of the coaches were one-and-dones. Give Bill Williamson credit for building the foundation and Raper credit for putting up the sides and the roof. Now maybe Hinnant will be the one to put the finishing touches on it and get the one thing the program still doesn't have — a state championship.

He'll have plenty of time because Stevie Hinnant will more than likely be at Hunt for the duration, either his or the school's!


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