Friday night after Friday night this prep football season, the Hunter Wolverines destroyed helpless opponents with their brand of good ol' fashion smash-mouth football.

One game it was 5A MVP Tauni Vakapuna grabbing all the headlines, while the next game it was junior sensation Matt Asiata. Through it all though, one constant remained — they were usually running behind Ray Feinga. After all, why wouldn't you run behind a 6-foot-5, 285-pound lineman who runs a 4.9 second 40-yard dash?

"I bet in every critical situation this year we ran behind Ray," said Hunter coach Wes Wilcken. "And I bet 95 or 98 percent of the time, whatever we needed, we got."

The defensive lines of Skyline, Alta, Clearfield and many others can confirm this. They all had chances to beat Hunter this year, but when push came to shove, Feinga and his cohorts usually just toppled opponents.

For simply being the most dominant player in high school football this year, Feinga is the 2003 recipient of the Deseret Morning News Mr. Football award — the second Hunter player to receive the award. David Fiefia was the first in 1998.

Feinga is different from the previous six recipients. Past winners were all skill position players who scored touchdowns. Feinga did the dirty work.

"He's a very mature individual," said Wilcken. "He's not one to pat himself on the back, but he's earned it."

One of those honors was being one of 78 seniors nationwide invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 3.

Without Feinga, there's no telling whether or not Hunter would've won its first state championship. Would Vakapuna have rushed for 1,800 yards and 24 touchdowns? Would Asiata have rushed for over 1,500 yards and 21 scores?

Would Hunter's defense have shut out half its opponents without Feinga's presence on the defensive line?

Such speculation doesn't matter.

In the eyes of his coach, Feinga's work ethic is what separated him from others. Despite the dozens and dozens of letters from college coaches, the senior never let his ego slow him down. Despite his god-given talents, Wilcken said no player worked harder than Feinga this year.

"He could've been a player who big-leagued it," said Wilcken. "When you're a two-year starter and you've already been offered scholarships, you could dog it. But he didn't. He had a real hard-working season."

That attitude paid off mightily in the state playoffs, particularly in the semifinals. Hunter racked up 407 yards in the semifinals against Alta and 268 yards in the championship against Skyline.

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Now that his prep career is over, Feinga can focus on college football. Where will he end up? Three of the past Mr. Footballs have signed with Utah, two at Utah State and one BYU.

While BYU seems like the logical choice — after all, he's been a Cougar fan his whole life — an ex-Ute is hoping to sneak him off to the SEC. Former University of Utah coach Ron McBride was in town Tuesday to try to finish the recruiting job he started last year.

With Feinga's size and athleticism, he would be a great fit in the SEC, or anywhere else for that matter.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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