FAIRBORN — Hunter Warner learned a valuable football lesson from his father, Owen that he keeps in mind every game.
“Dad taught me to just play your game and not talk,” the Fairborn High School senior linebacker said. “Let your game do the talking. Stuck with that.”
Warner’s 65 tackles and two sacks in seven games spoke loudly and clearly to a panel of sports writers in southwest Ohio, who chose him as the Division-II defensive player of the year for the second straight season.
“It’s an honor that people look at me like that,” Warner said Tuesday. “It’s crazy to be honest. Two years in a row, man. I never think about stuff like that, awards. I was more worried about winning.”
Fairborn won a lot — six times in seven games during a season shortened by COVID-19. Warner had a lot to do with it, rushing for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns while accumulating the aforementioned tackles. He had at least 10 tackles in three games.
Warner credited the defensive changes made this year because of the shortened pre-season and regular season.
“Coach (Mike) Derry put us in a very good, all-around defense,” Warner said. “Made it super easy on me. Super simple. It was a natural fit. Everybody knew what they were doing. Some of our guys really stepped up this year so I didn’t have to make as many (tackles) as in prior years.”
Warner had 133 tackles last season and Coach Randy Kerns said he would have had more than 100 again this year if a 10-game season was played.
“What he does on the field I’ve just hardly ever seen anyone do,” Kerns said. “He’s one of the best all-around high school players I’ve ever seen on the field. He’s an absolute stud out there. He has no regard for his own body and he just lays it all on the line. He plays so hard.”
Warner was also under consideration for district honors on offense. He had back-t0-back seasons of at least 1,000 rushing yards and had four games of at least 130 rushing yards this season.
“He can control a game on both sides of the ball,” Kerns said. “For me personally, what he has meant for our program during this building process the last two years, I can’t even put into words. He’s the kind of player you wish you had 10 of. I’m so thankful he took a chance on our program and stayed in our district. He could have easily transferred elsewhere, but he stayed and helped us build. I’ll always be grateful to him and his family for that.”
Warner’s loyalty to the Skyhawks helped them post their first winning season since 2011. Leaving was never really an option, he admitted.
“I grew up here,” Warner said. “All my buddies were playing since pee wee. They were super big on changing the culture. Don’t regret it at all. It was frickin’ awesome. That was the first winning season I think I’ve ever been a part of.”
As a first-team southwest district performer, Warner will be under consideration for All-Ohio honors. He was first team All-Ohio last year, a special mention as a sophomore and will likely be on the short list for defensive player of the year in Ohio.
But Warner, of course, didn’t want to talk about that. His performance speaks for itself.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.