PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Oncken has huge opening night
By LANCE CATCHINGS
Senior Hunter Oncken is the definition of a team player. The 5’10, 180-pound fullback and linebacker had a monstrous game in Liberty Hill’s season-opening 56-13 win over La Vernia, but you won’t hear him brag about his three rushing touchdowns. Oncken simply says he was doing his part in a total team effort.
“We had to come out focused, do our jobs and dominate our play,” Oncken said. “We wanted the town to know we were ready to play some football. Splitting the reps between backs is really important to us. The tailback and halfback sweeps really help open up my inside play. Our passing helped to keep the defense honest, and making sure everyone got a little bit of everything is how we were successful. Our offensive line played pretty well and made sure our quarterback had time to get the ball downfield. They gave us a great push down on the goal line. Everyone just did their job, and I take pride in making sure people know they can count on me to get things done.”
While Oncken won’t give himself a whole lot of credit, his Head Coach, Jeff Walker, is happy to do so.
“It all goes around him,” Walker said of Oncken’s impact. “Our offense runs around our fullback. We ask him to do a lot of things, and it’s no secret that he’s our workhorse. We try to make it a four-headed deal, but he’s huge. If you don’t have a good fullback in our system, you can’t be very productive. We try to put one of our better players there, no doubt.”
Oncken comes from a football family, and can’t recall a family member that did not play the sport. His father introduced him to the game around the second grade, and Hunter followed in his footsteps.
“My family is big on the game,” Oncken said. “My dad played running back and linebacker in high school and at Sul Ross State. He got me started, and now I play the same positions that he did. Football is big for our family.”
Oncken has lived and played football in Liberty Hill since he was young. He remembers watching the Panthers and hoping one day he would get his chance to hear the cheers of his hometown from the field on a Friday night.
“Honestly, it’s like a dream come true,” he said. “You grow up always wanting to be one of the players on the field. Just to be that now is truly an honor, to be blessed enough to have this chance and opportunity.”
As a senior, Oncken knows this is his last ride in the purple and gold and promised to give it everything he has. He believes in the “one family” motto that Walker has instilled in the team this season.
“I can say that I am just going to continue to give it my all,” he said. “I will leave everything I have on that field every time I touch it. I’ll continue to put it all on the line every Friday night. Against La Vernia, we all came together and did our jobs as best we could, not for ourselves, but for our teammates next to us. You don’t want to let down your family, and that’s what we were trying to do.”
While he was happy with Friday night’s win, Oncken believes the team is far from where it needs to be to reach its goal. The Panthers will go back to work to continue to get better for themselves and to represent their town.
“We have a lot of little things we have to fix,” he said. “This week in practice, we will take care of those things. We need to carry out our fakes, hang onto our blocks and come together to make sure those little things don’t become big things down the road.”