Chandler senior running back Dae Dae Hunter could not stop smiling after his Wolves defeated Saguaro 42-35 in the state’s first AIA Open Division Football Championship on Saturday evening.
Hunter, who had sat out the semifinal win over Salpointe Catholic two weeks prior due to injury, dominated from the beginning of the game on a team that led throughout the whole 48 minutes.
On the first play from scrimmage, he took a handoff from quarterback Mikey Keene, found a hole in the middle and sprinted for 70 yards. The play not only put the Wolves in scoring position but swung the momentum in their favor within the first minute.
“We got hyped, and everybody knew what was up from there,” Hunter said.
He finished the game with 247 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and made a few key blocks on big passing plays. That kind of statistical night was nothing new for Hunter this season. Through 12 games prior – including one he was injured for – he carried for 1,469 yards and 31 scores.
But there was no guarantee immediately this summer that he would fit in with the group. Hunter joined a Wolves roster that was already stacked with running back talent, including new transfer junior Eli Sanders, after moving from Colorado after his senior year. He knew just about nobody and was away from friends and family in a new environment.
His teammates, and offensive linemen specifically, noticed his skill and work ethic immediately, though. A bond was created from the first day of practice, and the Wolves knew they had something special.
“He’s so electric, there’s so much I could say about him because he’s just so good,” said senior tackle Alexis Castro, “He and every running back on this team are great to block for, and they motivate us on every carry.”
While the Wolves have become used to winning titles, it was a new experience for Hunter. He held up four fingers like his teammates in the photos following the game, signifying four consecutive titles, but celebrated in a fashion befitting his first.
As Hunter walked off the field, wiping the wet grass from the rainy field off his face, his smile was still intact. With a state championship to his name, and likely a bright college future ahead of him, the grin sufficed where words could not.
“I’m speechless,” he said. “This is just so crazy.”
Hunter is set to graduate in 2020 and will likely have several options to choose from as to where he plays college ball.