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2016 Prep Football Previews: Ruber will play dual role in Walton-Verona’s bid for third district title

The NKyTribune will be providing focused coverage of NKY high school football throughout the season, thanks to support from St. Elizabeth Healthcare Sports Medicine. See all of our pre-season features on each of NKY’s 21 high school football teams and follow our coverage, including roundups each week at Northern Kentucky High School Football.

By Tom Ramstetter
NKyTribune contributor

Hunter Ruber does not shy away from the big guys. Not to make a tackle. Not to avoid a tackle. And certainly not on the wrestling mat where the senior linebacker/fullback took on athletes who were at times 50 pounds heavier than he was last season on his way to a fourth-place finish in the 285-pound weight class at the state meet.

Hunter Ruber 1

Hunter Ruber, No. 44, made 106 tackles as a starting linebacker for Walton-Verona last season. (Photo by Carla Martin)

He’s not going to shy away from some big expectations either. Despite losing two 1,000-yard rushers from last season, the Walton-Verona football team is setting its sights on a third straight Class 2A district title and the program’s first regional title.

The Bearcats will be disappointed if they’re not playing well into November is how coach Jeff Barth put it.

“I think we’ve got the talent on the field and we’ve put an insane amount of work in during the offseason,” Ruber said. “I think that will reflect in the upcoming season.”

There may be no bigger key to that success than Ruber, now a four-year starter at inside linebacker with an increased role on offense as a fullback. His coaches and teammates will look upon him to lead on the field and in the locker room.

“He’s a hard worker,” Barth said. “Some guys are more vocal leaders. I’m not saying he’s not a vocal leader, but he definitely leads by example. He’s the first guy up in drills. He busts his butt on the sprints. He doesn’t take plays off. He’s focused. When the best player on your team is busting his butt in drills, you better be busting your butt too.”

Ruber had his eyes on success this football season several months ago going into his junior wrestling season. Instead of cutting his weight from between 235 and 240 pounds in order to compete in the 220-pound weight class, he decided to stay at his football weight and compete against the big boys at 285.

“I didn’t want to drop to 220 for the coming football season, so I stayed what I was,” Ruber said. “My coach said I could compete with everybody who was bigger than me. I put some work in and stayed there. State came around and I ended up getting fourth.”

It was a challenge, but the experience gave him the confidence to go up against the bigger people on the football field and not have to worry about their size. Wrestling helps football players in other ways as well.

“You do a lot of takedowns and there is so much leverage involved for shedding blockers,” Barth said. “The wrestling part of it can help in taking ball-carriers to the ground and can help with your leverage. Certainly, he wasn’t shying away from the big bodies, so we expect big things from Hunter this year.”

St E Football plugRuber did big things for the Bearcats last season as well. He became the third player in school history to record more than 100 tackles with 106, which led the defense by a wide margin. He also recovered two fumbles and made one interception.

“He’s got a great nose for the ball,” Barth said. “You hear that a lot for good linebackers, but he makes very good reads and is very good with his footwork. So many people don’t pay much attention to that. You get so many guys who take false steps and this and that. Hunter usually dissects the play pretty quickly and has a good mind for the game.

“He’s really a coach’s dream and he works at his craft too. He takes the work and the drills seriously and it shows. He’s definitely the leader on defense and we’re going to need him out there every play.”

Ruber said he’s more of a downhill player who can stop the run really well and drop back into pass coverage when he has to. When he hits someone, they won’t forget it.

“When he gets a hold of guys, they remember him,” Barth said. “He’s probably the biggest hitter we’ve ever had.”

On offense, the Bearcats lost Halsey Page and Noah Richardson to graduation. They provided a whole lot of yardage that will have to be replaced. Page set a school single-season record with 1,595 yards on the ground in 2015 with 16 touchdowns and Richardson added 1,113 yards and 10 scores. Ruber will have to help make up some of that production from his fullback position.

“We lost a lot of our speed backs and I’m more of a power back, so I step into that position as a big runner,” said Ruber, who had 34 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns in 2015.

“He’s been primarily a blocking fullback for us,” Barth said. “At his size and his hitting ability, he was very effective at that. But he also got a decent amount of carries last year in short yardage. He’s not lightning-fast, but he’s quick. He was a good short-yardage back for us last year who is tough for the defense to bring down and we see him just taking a bigger role with that this year.”


2015 SEASON: 6-6 record, lost in second round of Class 2A playoffs.
DISTRICT: Class 2A, District 5 with Carroll County, Gallatin County, Owen County and Trimble County.
HEAD COACH: Jeff Barth (53-29 in seven seasons at Walton-Verona).

Aug. 19 – at Lloyd, 7 p.m.
Aug. 27 – at Holy Cross, 1 p.m.
Sept. 2 – HOLMES, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 – HENRY COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 – LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 – at Carroll County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 – at Owen County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 – GALLATIN COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 – TRIMBLE COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 – at New Richmond (Ohio), 7:30 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:
Dixie Heights

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