Santa Cruz vs. Benson

Santa Cruz Valley running back Hunter Ogle bursts through a hole Dec. 12 during the 2A state championship game against Benson. Ogle rushed for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

SCOTTSDALE — Heading into the unpredictable 2020 football season, Santa Cruz Valley had its sights set on a state title. Its star running back also had an ambitious individual goal — rush for 2,000 yards.

Playing a season during a pandemic was a serious challenge on many fronts. Teams had to cancel or postpone games at any moment, and some had to forfeit postseason games.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Hunter Ogle set a personal goal to rush for 2,000 yards in his senior season. It would be a prestigious achievement in any season.

But with the schedule condensed due to COVID-19? That takes rock solid confidence.

For Ogle, it was confidence in himself and also his teammates.

“Everyone has their own personal goals, and mine was to get 2,000 after an 1,800-yard season last year,” he told PinalCentral after Santa Cruz won the 2A state championship with a 42-7 destruction of Benson on Dec. 12. “And I just gotta thank my team, always pushing through, even when it’s hard.”

Ogle also thanked his coaches. He never forgets to thank everyone around him.

Due to the pandemic, the Dust Devils played six regular season games instead of the normal 10. With a play-in round game and then another three playoff games, Santa Cruz played a total of 10 games.

In 2019, Santa Cruz reached the state semifinals and played 13 total games. Ogle rushed for 1,844 yards and 23 touchdowns, averaging 141.8 yards per game and winning the PinalCentral Football Player of the Year.

He managed to top that rushing total in three fewer games this season, eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark on a 59-yard TD in the third quarter of the championship game. He rushed for 244 yards and three scores against Benson, finishing the year with 2,096 yards and 25 TDs.

Ogle averaged 10.5 yards per carry and 209.6 yards per game in a historic season, physically dominating the competition with power and speed. He was also an intimidating presence at linebacker.

A state champion wrestler at 160 pounds, the two-sport star has options for his athletic career in college. But surprisingly, the football scholarship offers have not come to fruition yet.

“I’m planning on going to college for either wrestling or football, academics, whatever I can go for — it’s more about the scholarship,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten one (offer) from a New Mexico school, but other than that, not much.”

Maybe it’s that Ogle is a little undersized. He’s about 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, give or take.

Maybe it’s that he doesn’t run a blazing 40-yard dash. Maybe it’s because he played at the 2A level.

Santa Cruz coach Rishard Davis is flabbergasted that Ogle hasn’t received more attention from colleges. He said Ogle is “special” and can be a highly productive college football player, just like he was in high school, if someone gives him a chance.

“I honestly think he can play running back (in college),” Davis said. “A lot of people have been saying (he would play) the defensive side of the ball. But you’re getting an athlete, regardless, if you give this guy a chance. And if I was a college coach, I would.”

Davis has been reaching out to college coaches, trying to help Ogle secure the opportunity to play at the next level.

“I’m gonna continue sending out film to coaches. Hopefully somebody bites,” Davis said.

Casa Grande coach Jake Barro said anyone who doubts Ogle’s ability to play against a higher level of competition should look at the game Ogle played against Barro’s Cougars — the No. 1 seed in the 4A playoffs. Casa Grande advanced to the 4A state semifinals.

Ogle rushed for 138 yards and two TDs on 24 carries against Casa Grande, a game that 2A Santa Cruz lost 35-14, its only defeat of the season.

“We couldn’t stop him,” Barro said.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.