Speedy RB Hunt gives undefeated Jasper an edge
Whether on the track or the football field, Jasper High School junior Montavien Hunt always listens to his father’s advice: “Just run.”
Hunt took the lesson literally last weekend as he raced through the vaunted “Chain Gang” defense of West Orange-Stark with 375 yards and four touchdowns. His historic night was the latest act in a breakout football season for the speedy track star, and helped “verify” an undefeated start for Jasper (6-0, 0-0), coach Darrell Barbay said.
Hunt has always known he’s fast. Now, he’s bringing the Southeast Texas football world up to speed.
“I did feel like I had something to prove this season, but I’m just running like I know how and doing what I can for the team,” Hunt said. “If I see someone coming, I just try to get to the outside and burn everybody.”
Barbay knew Hunt was a weapon in the waiting for Jasper, but wasn’t sure what position he would play. Hunt started last season as the junior varsity quarterback before being called up to varsity because of injuries at the running back spot, Barbay said.
Entering this season, Hunt was still an option under center for the Bulldogs before the emergence of senior Colton Womack at quarterback allowed Hunt to switch positions permanently.
The change has paid of significantly. Through six games, Hunt has 1,176 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
“Womack has really stepped up and been a blessing for us in that way,” Barbay said. “Montavien ran that well as a quarterback and he’s doing the same thing at running back, which is certainly not a surprise to anyone around here.”
Although Hunt played freshman football during his first year at Jasper, his elite speed got him on the Bulldogs’ varsity track and field team that year.
Last year as a sophomore, he was a member of the Jasper relay team that made it to regionals in the 4-by-100- and 4-by-200-meter races. He also set a personal record at the area competition, finishing the 100-meter dash in 11.42 seconds.
Senior center Trent Bryant, the only returning starter on a Jasper offensive line that has outperformed expectations, said Hunt’s speed makes his job easier.
“You only have to hold your block for about two seconds with him, even though we’re supposed to stay on longer,” Bryant said of Hunt. “Once he gets past the linebackers, I know he’s gone.”
Hunt is not the only multisport athlete on Jasper’s roster. Barbay said the majority of his team plays more than one sport. Bryant (first base) and Womack (pitcher) each play crucial roles on Jasper’s baseball team.
Hunt’s performance against West Orange-Stark marked the first time a single player ran for more than 300 yards against the Mustangs. Accolades, including being a finalist for Dave Campbell’s Mr. Texas Football Player of the Week, followed.
“He’s such a humble kid,” Barbay said. “He’s got more helmet stickers than anyone on our team, but he refuses to put them on.”
After Jasper handled West Orange-Stark, the Bulldogs’ unblemished start to the season has brought comparisons to another Southeast Texas powerhouse just a short drive east.
Defending Class 3A Div. II champion Newton is also still undefeated, and likely won’t be challenged in district play.
Barbay said he can see similarities between the two teams. His father, Curtis, coached at Newton for 36 years. His brother Bryan, the current Jasper offensive coordinator, previously served on Newton’s staff.
“A lot of things haven’t changed as far as play-calling and things like that,” Barbay said. “But I think the biggest similarity is we’ve both great athletes, great kids and towns that support us.”
Jasper and Newton might also have the two best running backs in Southeast Texas with Hunt for the Bulldogs and TCU pledge Darwin Barlow for the Eagles. The two teams scrimmaged before the regular-season started. Bryant said he wishes they played for real this year.
“We had some young guys getting their first taste of game action, so they beat us pretty good,” Bryant said. “But I think if we played right now it might be different.”
Jasper will start its district schedule at home Friday night against Shepherd. Barbay thinks there’s no reason Jasper can’t join Newton at state in Class 4A.
“As long as we keep our intensity up, we feel like the only people who can beat us right now is us,” Barbay said.