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December 28, 2013

All County Defensive Player of the Year: Hunter Harding

Harding made impact through double teams all season

MILLEDGEVILLE — John Milledge Academy used a dominant defensive line to crush GISA opponents in an 11-win season.

Several players finished the fall with big time stats. One senior in particular made plays through double teams, while providing teammates lanes to attack.

“We knew I would get double teamed every week, so it freed up the linebackers a little bit,”  JMA’s Hunter Harding said.

Harding’s 87 tackles, 19 for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles made him All-County Defensive Player of the Year. The impressive stat line mounted up during short work in several games.

Trojan head football coach J.T. Wall said sometimes it’s hard to see how important the 2013 All-Region and All-State first team selection’s role was the last two successful seasons.

“He set the tone up front,” Wall said. “Harding got double teamed every game this year and last year pretty much. His ability to beat a guy off the ball is probably his strongest attribute. He’s a quick cat that’s hard to block.”

Harding’s brute strength doesn’t hurt. The 5-foot-9-inch, 250-pound wrecking ball set Trojan bench press and squat records.

“He’s one of the strongest to come through,” Wall said. “We threw different challenges at him, and he accepted every one full speed. He just continually got stronger.”

Opposing coaches had to game plan against Harding. Word traveled fast around the GISA as other coaches always mentioned his ability to change the game. Harding made plays through two guys all year.

Harding seems stoic, but the senior raised his voice to boost the team this season.

“I had to be a lot more vocal to get the guys hyped up,” he said.

Harding agrees with his head coach that a fierce start off the snap is his gridiron calling card.

“He was a great kid to coach. Hunter steps up the level of play of everyone around him,” the Trojan coach said. “He’ll have a great future playing football at the next level.”

Versatility as a running and blocking fullback and on the obvious defensive skill has college programs prowling for Harding.

Wall believes his former player could be a college threat on either side of the ball.

The University of West Georgia and Valdosta State University are two in-state institutions seriously eyeing the Trojan.

“Most of (the colleges) are talking to me as a defensive lineman right now,” Harding said.

The senior has deceptive quickness to chase down a ball carrier.

The Player of the Year embodied the “play every game like its your last” cliché. He impressed his Trojan coaching staff on more than one occasion.

“To be so big, he has a great motor and skill set,” Wall said. “When you look at him he’s not an overpowering looking guy, but when he puts that helmet and shoulder pads on, he’s unstoppable. Hunter will be sorely missed I can tell you that.”

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