Westlake running back Dashon Hunt celebrates after scoring a third quarter… (Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles…)
Quarterbacks, beware when passing the football in the direction of junior cornerback Dashon Hunt of Westlake Village Westlake. He knows how to spring a trap and produce a game-changing interception, as was the case last weekend against rival Oaks Christian.
"He swooped in like a hawk after a wounded rabbit," defensive coordinator Richard Fong said.
Hunt returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, the sixth time he has scored on an interception return in two years of varsity football.
"He moves like a dancer on a football field," Fong said. "He's so smooth."
Hunt, 5 feet 9, 175 pounds, will be one of Westlake's key players Saturday when the Warriors (14-0) face Concord De La Salle (12-1) in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
He knows how to dance on and off the field. His mother was a belly dancer and his brother was on a dance team. Quick feet and agility run in his family. Besides becoming a standout on defense, Hunt has rushed for 1,231 yards and 18 touchdowns at running back.
"He's dynamic," Coach Jim Benkert said. "He makes plays. He's explosive. He's tough, and he wants the football."
Hunt also appreciates those who doubt him or his teammates.
"We've had a lot of doubters," he said. "They didn't know we had a lot of weapons. Haters are my gas; it's my fuel in my tank. The more haters I have, the more drive I have."
Hunt was a running back during his youth football days, then became a starting cornerback on varsity as a sophomore. He had seven interceptions, including four for touchdowns. It was his chance to show off his running skills.
He has quickly adapted to the mental and physical challenges of one-on-one duels with receivers.
"You've got to have the mentality [that] if you get beat once, you better not get beat again," he said. "You have to have a kill-or-be-killed mentality."
Added Fong: "It's that gunslinger mentality, 'I can take on anybody.' It's hard for me to find any flaws in him."
Hunt, who committed to UCLA last summer, is focused not only on football but academics. Two older brothers were good football players but didn't excel in the classroom, and it halted their athletic careers. He said he has learned the lesson.
"School comes first," he said. "My dad said, 'If I ever see a D on your report card, I'm yanking you from football.' I'm hard on myself. I have to work for it."
Hunt and his teammates have won a Marmonte League championship, a Northern Division title and beat rival Oaks Christian twice this season, but Saturday's game is the first bowl appearance for the Warriors.
"It's a dream come true," he said. "Everybody dreams to make it to the bowl championship game against one of the best teams in the state. We're going to represent the whole section. We're going to play our hearts out."
Westlake tried to save Hunt on offense during the regular season, not using him as much, but once the playoffs began, he joined quarterback Justin Moore as the Warriors' go-to players. And nothing is going to change on Saturday.
"Whenever I'm on the field, I believe I can do great things," he said.