Catawba Football: Carnes’ style unique
By Mike London
Hunter Carnes reported for Catawba’s summer weigh-ins with a hairstyle that stamped him as a unique individual as well as an All-SAC offensive lineman.
Unfortunately, Carnes’ luminous red Mohawk had roughly the same shelf life as a 150-pound DB trying to take on the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Carnes.
“When I showed up with the hair, my teammates were just kind of looking at me and shaking their heads,” Carnes said with a laugh. “They asked me why I did it and I said, ‘Why not be a little different?’
“But the first day of class my education professor kind of pulled me aside and said it might be inappropriate when I went out and observed and met people.”
Since then, Carnes, an outgoing future teacher and coach, has reported for duty with a more conventional mane. It’s made No. 72 a little more anonymous, but his blocking hasn’t suffered.
Catawba’s offensive line ó left tackle Terence Crosby, left guard Kemp McSween, center Zane Gibson, right guard Kevin Hamaker and right tackle Carnes ó has stayed intact and has been a strong point in a 5-4 season that could have been 8-1 with a few key plays at a few key times.
“Injures happen, but it’s tough when you’re shuffling everyone around like we had to last year,” Carnes said. “This year we’ve stayed pretty healthy and the chemistry has been really good.”
Young veterans, who will return as a unit in 2009, Catawba’s O-line controlled Saturday’s 24-10 SAC win against Brevard.
“We were struggling to throw the ball early, but we were opening good holes running the football,” Catawba head coach Chip Hester said. “We just kind of put it in the hands of Cutty (running back Jamelle Cuthbertson) and the offensive line and they took over.”
Brevard knew what was coming, but knowing and stopping were two different things. Thirty-six of Catawba’s 49 offensive players were runs, but 236 rushing yards is always a positive.
“Brevard had small, quick linemen and they were sliding off our blocks at first,” Catawba O-line coach Ben Hepler said. “But once we started maintaining blocks better, we overpowered them. We were just a lot bigger then they were.”
Carnes and his linemates ó Hamaker who toils next to him is his roommate ó maintained blocks so well Cuthbertson rushed for 156 yards and had no negatives among his 16 carries.
Cuthbertson, Catawba’s Offensive Player of the Week four times, has rushed for 918 yards this season. The school record is Kory Fisher’s 1,079 in 2005.
“Cutty needs 162 for the record Saturday against Lenoir-Rhyne,” Carnes said. “That’s the goal and the talk of the team. The line really wants it for him.”
The line could get it for him because the line is capable of dominating when it’s playing penalty-free.
Carnes, vocal, emotional and fiery, has been a junior rock at right tackle this fall after being penciled in at left guard, and then playing just about everywhere in 2007 when injuries struck.
“Some guys play emotional and some guys play more subdued,” Hepler said. “Guys have to be who they are.
“Hunter had to play a lot of positions last year, but he’s used that to his advantage this year. He can concentrate on one position now, but it still helps to know what every other guy’s assignment is and what every other guy is supposed to do.”
Carnes starred in just about everything at “middle of nowhere” 1A Ayden-Grifton, which isn’t far from Greenville.
Carnes pitched shutouts, belted homers and drilled 3-pointers for the Chargers.
In football, he was an All-State monster. He was the long snapper, he handled kickoffs with an old-school, square-toed shoe and he played on both lines.
His senior year, he allowed no sacks and produced 113 knockdown blocks. On defense, he made 34 tackles, including two sacks.
“We were scheduled for four homecomings and two senior nights, but we won them all,” Carnes said.
“Against Princeton, they gave me the ball on the 3-yard line and I ran for a touchdown.”
Carnes had two career prep carries and one TD. Even Cuthbertson doesn’t go to the house 50 percent of the time.
Catawba might have missed the boat on Carnes, but assistant coach Matt Barrett, spotted him long-snapping at a Shrine Bowl camp. Always a fellow with an eye for eastern talent, Barrett figured the burly long snapper might make an ideal right tackle down the road.
Carnes visited Salisbury, and the rest is history.
He redshirted in 2005 and earned a starting role late in the 2006 season. The P.E. major showed his versatility last season while earning second-team All-SAC honors. This season, he’s kept things interesting ó with both his preseason hair and his vocal leadership.
“Hunter’s a throwback, plays with a tough-guy attitude and gets real ornery on Saturdays,” Hester said.
“He’s that guy that if he’s not on your team you really hate him. But if he’s on your team, you love him.”