Columbus North’s hopes of upsetting top-ranked and eventual state champion Center Grove in last year’s sectional opener took a big hit on the Trojans’ first offensive play.
The play wasn’t a big one for Center Grove, but it resulted in a huge loss for the Bull Dogs. Nose tackle Hunter Wolford tore his Achilles and was lost for the game.
“I kept my guy from reaching me, and whenever I fell down, I tried to catch myself with my foot, and I landed on it wrong, and it snapped,” Wolford said. “It all happened so fast, I thought I rolled my ankle, so the next play, I tried to go at it again, and when I tried to push off on it, it completely gave out, and I fell right on my face.”
Despite Wolford’s absence, North allowed only seven points in the first half and were tied 7-7 midway through the third quarter.
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But the Trojans eventually wore down the Bull Dogs and pulled away for a 34-7 victory.
“He was a key cog in our run defense,” North coach Tim Bless said. “Losing him early certainly had an impact on the game.”
Wolford fought back his emotions as the game progressed, feeling helpless to aid his team on the field.
“Emotionally, I was distraught,” Wolford said. “I couldn’t think straight. I was mad. I was upset. I was almost in tears. I was upset I couldn’t play against a team that we had put so much emotion into trying to beat all season long.”
Now a senior, Wolford is back on the field in the middle of North’s defensive line. Although he has made only five tackles in four games, he’s often times taken on two blockers.
That has allowed defensive tackle Coleman Tennyson and others to rack up big tackles numbers.
“Stats wise, I’m not happy with how everything is going, but I’m doing my job well enough that they’re not even running my way,” Wolford said. “They’re running toward Coleman, and he’s making the tackles. But as long as we’re winning games, that’s fine with me.”
Bless said Wolford doesn’t have the mobility he had last year, and that is affecting his number of tackles. Bless thinks as Wolford’s lateral movement continues to improve, he’s going to get more comfortable and more confident.
Wolford’s role, Bless said, is that of a “space eater.”
“You’re not going to run the ball through that A-gap more times than not,” Bless said. “He does command that double team.”
Following his injury last October, Wolford was in a cast for two months. He was in an air cast for another month or two and did rehab three times a week.
Wolford missed most of track season but returned to throw the shot in the sectional. He missed the Bull Dogs’ team camp and Indiana University camp this summer, but did everything else with the team.
“Once I got to the point where I could put my weight on it and get running on it, I did as much as I could,” Wolford said.
Wolford, who started at center as a sophomore before moving to the defensive line, set school record with a 410-pounds bench press this spring. He also has squatted 500 pounds.
A few NAIA and Division III schools have talked with Wolford about the possiblity of playing at the next level. But Wolford, who was born club-footed, likely won’t play college football unless he receives a scholarship offer.
“For awhile I was (planning to play), but after tearing my Achilles and talking to doctors about my ankles, I think that will keep me from any kind of a career beyond high school,” Wolford said. “If I get some kind of offer, I would take it because I absolutely do love the sport, and anything that could help me get into college would be fantastic.”
Wolford is looking to possibly study something science related such as biology or anatomy in college.
This season, Wolfred has helped North get off to a 4-0 start and a No. 5 ranking in the Associated Press Class 6A state poll. He hopes the success can continue into the postseason.
“We want to go undefeated the rest of the season, and once we get that goal completed, we’ll look at the next step, which is Center Grove,” Wolford said. “If we have that momentum going into the sectional, I don’t think Center Grove is going to be a piece of cake, but it’s something we might get done.”
Name: Hunter Wolford
School: Columbus North
Position: Defensive tackle
Sports: Football, track and field
Favorite sport: Football
Favorite athlete: Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett
Other activities: Student Assembly, works with soup kitchens through St. Bartholomew Catholic Church