With Junior Transfer Gavin Anchoring Defensive Line, Hun Football Ends Fall By Edging Wyoming Seminary
By Justin Feil
While Michael Gavin has played on both sides of the ball in his high school career, he was excited to focus on defense this fall as he joined the Hun School football team.
“Last year, I played more offense, but I’ve been much better at defense,” said junior defensive lineman Gavin, who transferred to Hun from the Haverford School (Pa.).
“To play mainly defense this year was new to me, I hadn’t done that since my sophomore year. I played a little bit of it last year, but I’m much better at it than offense.”
Gavin helped to solidify the Raiders defensive line that held Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) in check for a 16-13 win Saturday to end their season. Down 13-8 at halftime despite a Dom DeLuzio 1-yard touchdown run, the Raiders rallied in the second half. Ahmad Dixon’s 35-yard touchdown run gave Hun the lead and a safety on a bad punt snap by Wyoming added some insurance as the Raiders closed their 2020 season at 3-3 overall.
“I think it was really important to us,” said Gavin of the triumph in the finale.
“For the season, it was a weird season, and a winning season was really important to us. I didn’t get to spend the summer with the guys like I was expecting to, but in the short time that I knew all the seniors, I really wanted to get the win for them, and I know the whole team felt like that.”
Coming to Hun, Gavin has made an immediate impact. The 6’3, 300-plus pounder joined a defensive line that also featured Jake Bingham, and the Raiders liked his ability to factor into every play.
“Mike is a force,” said Hun head coach Todd Smith. “He’s a force at defensive tackle. He’s built like a planet and he moves well. He has great hands. People often have to double team him to take care of him. He gets great pressure on the quarterback which a lot of guys his size aren’t able to do, but he has a great pass rush and he’s a run stopper if there ever was one. He’s a great player.”
Gavin helped the defense grow in an up-and-down season as it finished strong. The unit allowed just 10 points a week ago in a 10-8 loss to Malvern Prep (Pa.) after back-to-back weeks of allowing 35 points or more.
“Against Malvern last week, the defense really showed up,” said Gavin.
“We wanted to carry it through. We were riding the momentum from the week before. A lot of kids were playing when they didn’t think they would be. Everyone was playing for each other, which was really important. A lot of kids played up and played better than they thought they would.”
Hun was bedeviled by turnovers over the final four weeks of the season. The Raiders had 19 combined in their final four games, but were able to overcome them Saturday for a win.
“I thought the defense played exceptional in the second half,” said Smith of the win over Wyoming.
“We didn’t really let them move the ball that much. The offense came up where it needed to. We had a 70-yard touchdown run by Billy Guidetti midway through the fourth quarter called back by penalty. That was kind of deflating, but we played field position and it carried us in the second half. We made a great play to seal the victory. Marco Lainez made a great pass to Owen Anderson to get a first down so we could kneel out the clock.”
Gavin felt more comfortable in his role this year for Hun. When he transferred in, he came with the idea that he’d be playing solely defense. He played offense out of necessity the year before at Haverford, but at Hun he had a chance to focus on defense, relishing daily battles against the Raider offensive line.
“We do one-on-ones at least once a week,” said Gavin. “During team sessions, I get to go against them. It’s definitely made my game better. I don’t think I played a single team that had offensive linemen similar to ours. Practice was harder than the games, which I was surprised with. When you go up against kids like Kevin Wigenton and Jacob Allen in practice, it’s like a break then when you get to game day.”
Gavin’s combination of size and mobility is something that has always benefitted him. He was willing to use those talents to make others more productive around him.
“I know I might not always be the one that makes the play, but if I can play to the point where I make other teams double-team me, I know that frees up my other defensive linemen, like Jake Bingham, the other main defensive lineman this year,” said Gavin.
“He was able to get a lot of one-on-ones and made a lot of tackles. He was a pretty big force this year. I know I was able to help by creating those one-on-one situations for him.”
Gavin moved on campus once the school year started, but neither he nor his teammates had the benefit of much of a preseason. They had to mesh together quickly, and the adjustments continued when the season began. Twice this season, Hun did not finalize a Saturday game until two days before the contest.
“It was definitely a new thing to all of us,” said Gavin. “You’re used to getting a whole week to prepare for it. Then coming into it, we usually don’t do as many drills as we did this year. I think that worked to our advantage because we were able to get the basics down in those situations. We may not have been able to specifically game plan for teams, but we were able to be clear in our fundamentals which helped a lot.”
Smith appreciated the flexibility of his team as his players were able to prepare as best they could and compete each week in a year when other Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) teams did not play.
“This year, we’re just happy to get games when a lot of other teams didn’t play and schools couldn’t play because of COVID,” Smith said.
“Our kids did a great job this year. They got tested every week. We didn’t have to suspend play once, and we were proud of the kids from that perspective.”
Hun dealt with a lot of changes and even the make-up of their team was different than many seasons. The Raiders played far more young players than usual. The experience gained will help them as they look to develop over the offseason.
“I know I’m going to get closer with the rest of the kids that live here,” said Gavin.
“We’re going to be together for the next couple months, there’s not much else for us to do here. We’re going to be building a really good relationship and take care of our bodies and get ready for next season.”