First Posted: 11/3/2010
ST. PAULS Six weeks into the season, things did not look promising for the St. Pauls football team. The Bulldogs had endured a brutal non-conference schedule and was projected to finish last in the Three Rivers Conference following a 2-10 mark the year before.
That prediction was all the motivation that Kalem Hunt needed.
“We’ve been down a lot this season and we just looked at that as an incentive,” said Hunt. “We were young last year with only a couple of seniors. This year, the seniors have stepped up and been determined to win.”
The senior quarterback has helped St. Pauls overcome a 1-5 start and now has the Bulldogs a win away from clinching an outright conference championship with a victory against Fairmont Friday night.
“This game means a lot to us because it determines who is the conference champion, something we’ve been working towards all year,” said Hunt. “We had a tough non-conference schedule which has made us better.”
Before league play began, St. Pauls (5-5, 4-0) was dealt a blow when running back Anthony Melvin suffered a leg injury during the Bulldogs’ win over West Bladen on Sept. 10. The senior was leading the team in rushing at the time.
When the team found out that Melvin’s injury was season-ending the following Monday, St. Pauls coach Trey Sasser entrusted Hunt with the offense, a decision that has paid off.
“He understands what’s expected of him and we have faith in him,” said Sasser of the two-year varsity member. We trusted him with the offense and he has the talent to throw the ball and make completions and he’s done that.”
A turning point for Hunt and St. Pauls’ season came against county foe South Robeson on Oct. 15 when the Bulldogs knocked off the Mustangs in triple overtime.
Hunt threw for 171 yards and five touchdowns, including three scores in the extra sessions.
“That was a big game for us and I knew that there was a lot of pressure on me when we went into overtime,” Hunt said. “I knew that I couldn’t afford to lose control. I stayed focused and helped my team get a victory.”
The offensive line has played a major role in Hunt’s success during Three Rivers play after having its share of growing pains during non-conference.
The line has allowed Hunt to throw nine of his county-leading 16 touchdown passes during conference play. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark in the win over West Columbus last Friday and now has 1,017 yards for the season.
Hunt has seen the maturation of the young line which has helped the Bulldogs’ offense score 125 points in four league games.
“In non-conference, we played three 4-A schools (Purnell Swett, Lumberton and Pinecrest) and coaches kept telling us that we were getting better and we just kept practicing hard every day,” said Hunt. “The O-line has continued to get better as the season’s gone on and I’ve been able to gain the trust of my receivers because they know that I’m going to get the ball to them.”
As Hunt enters the Senior Night contest against the Golden Tornadoes, he will have more than just conference title aspirations on his mind.
Prior to the game against the Vikings, Daniel Lee Hunt, a close friend of Kalem’s, died in a motorcycle accident.
“It’s weighed a lot on me, but I know that he’s going to be with me on Friday,” said Hunt.