OAK HARBOR – Oak Harbor senior Hunter Wilkins is not a vocal leader on the team, but his play speaks loudly.
Wilkins has made plenty of noise on the field as the 5’10” safety led the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division with six interceptions with two resulting in touchdowns.
Five of Wilkins’ picks have come in the last three weeks of the season.
“I don’t like to be that loud guy,” Wilkins said. “I’ve been preached to be humble and true to where you come from.”
Junior Clay Schulte who leads the team in tackles defensively and one of the key sparks on offense, praised the leadership of his upper classman Wilkins.
“Wilkins is a heck of a football player and he’s a better person off the field,” said Schulte. “This year he has been a ball hawk on defense. You know that if the ball is thrown in his direction there is a chance for an interception.”
Oak Harbor coach Mike May noted the importance of Wilkins not only on defense, but on all the dimensions of the game.
“Wilkins is a senior captain and one of the best leaders on our team,” May said. “He has an excellent work ethic and attitude.
“(He) has made a huge impact on offense, defense, and special teams this season. He is our second leading receiver and an excellent blocker on offense. He has also been on multiple special teams all season.”
Wilkins, who also recorded 64 tackles during the regular season, said that his success and the success of the entire defense started way before the season kicked off.
“Very early in the year we started lifting, very early like other high school teams,” said Wilkins. “However, this time what was different was that we stopped looking ahead and focused more on working on day to day stuff and trusting the process.”
Schulte complimented Wilkins’ off-season work ethic and noted how it has made him a better player.
“Wilkins did a bunch of stuff this summer, so he could improve and that shows with how he is playing this year,” Schulte said. “He’s worked for everything he has got this year. Every practice he comes and gets better and helps get everyone else aboard that train.”
Coach May added that Wilkins’ character not only benefits his team, but everyone around him.
“Hunter is an excellent role model for the other players on our team and in our school,” May said.
Schulte agrees: “Hunter has made a ton of hue plays this year and we definitely would not be in the spot we are in right now without him. He is for sure one of the leaders on the team.”
The off-season preparation certainly has helped the Oak Harbor defense that gives up less than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards passing a game, but Wilkins said that the talent of the Rockets’ defense makes them even stronger.
“We have skilled guys in every position,” Wilkins stated. “If we mess up and miss a tackle or something, the other ten players are there to help pick it up.”
Another of those skilled players, Jac Alexander, shared that Wilkins brings a spark to everyone around him.
“He brings great leadership to our team especially on defense,” said Alexander. “He makes plays at crucial moments and always has a positive attitude.
“I love being around him on and off the field because he is an easy person to get along with and isn’t one to complain about much.”
Wilkins and the Rockets could have easily lost some confidence in the second week of the season as Oak Harbor allowed 34 points to Division V #1 AP Poll Genoa in a 34-14 set-back on the road.
However, Wilkins stated that the loss actually worked to Oak Harbor’s advantage mentally as it helped change the course of the season.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we wanted to lose, but the loss put us where we needed to be,” said Wilkins. “It (the loss) got our heads straight and taught us that you have to work in order to be good. With that loss, we realized just how much better we could be if we didn’t make the mistakes that we made.”
While Wilkins leads the team in interceptions and is fourth in tackles, his humbleness is quick to shine through as he praised his team for him being in the right spots at the right time.
“I’ve been there to make the plays but it’s because of the rest of the team,” Wilkins said. “The defensive line getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing him to make a choice and I’m there to take advantage.”
Despite Wilkins and the Rockets winning the division title and finishing the regular season at 9-1, Wilkins said there is still a lot of work to do this year and noted just how bad his team wants to continue to keep on playing.
“I think we can go as far as we want to go,” Wilkins said. “The team is still hungry. We accomplished something already, but we are excited.
“It’s been unbelievably amazing, to think this is the senior class that we’ll always remember that brought the tradition and culture of football back to Oak Harbor.”
Wilkins, who said he’d like to continue playing football in college if the opportunity arises, is now preparing for Saturday’s contest against Marion Pleasant.
“My dad used to always tell me that he didn’t play a lot and he’d teach me that this could be your last play and to live this play now,” Wilkins said. “He taught me since I was young that on any play you can change the game and that I should do what I can do.”
Rockets’ fans are eager to watch what Wilkins and his team will do next.