Hunter Aquino puts on a show in leading ANC to a 43-20 win over Belmont Charter
PHILADELPHIA, PA — The game was well over for probably an hour. Still, a Belmont Charter player sat there in exhausted resignation, shaking his head and wondering aloud from the Tigers’ bench, “What can’t that kid do?” in reference to a 58-yard punt in the closing minute of Saturday’s game.
The punt came from a player you probably never heard of, from a school you never heard of, yet Academy of the New Church senior Hunter Aquino could easily be the best high school athlete in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
All he did on Saturday was rush for a touchdown, score on a 40-yard pick-six, boot a 58-yard punt, and throw two touchdown passes in leading ANC to a 43-20 victory over visiting Belmont Charter, the tiniest school in the Philadelphia Public League.
Aquino finished the game rushing for a team-high 73 yards on eight carries and completing six of seven passes for 133 yards and two scores, finishing with six straight completions after throwing an interception on his first pass.
What’s more, Aquino never played quarterback before Saturday, replacing his brother, Conner, the Lions’ regular starting quarterback who suffered a torn ACL the previous week and was lost for the season.
Hunter’s No. 1 sport is not even football. It’s lacrosse, where he is considered one of the best high school midfielders in the country, heading to Penn State for lacrosse, though very capable of playing football for the Nittany Lions.
On Saturday, anything the 6-foot-6, 190-pound Hunter wanted to do, he did. Anywhere Hunter wanted to go on the field, he went. He finished by producing a combined 206 yards from scrimmage between rushing and passing.
At halftime, Hunter even hopped into a nearby Bryn Athyn fire truck and put out a fire (just kidding).
His otherworldly athleticism enabled him to seemingly do anything.
“Believe it or not, I was very nervous at the start, and I had my brother, my main man, right by my side telling me I could do it,” Hunter said. “I was asked by Penn State to play football, but the priority is lacrosse there, which makes this really hard. I really enjoy playing football. My brother got me into it. I never had a game like this, even playing in my backyard. My teammates were behind me.
“To be honest, I really did not know what I was doing. This is the first time I ever threw a varsity pass as the starting quarterback. I can’t juggle, and I didn’t put out a fire at halftime (laughs). I didn’t come off the field today and I loved every minute of it.
“I think what will last for me is winning for my brother Conner. Before the game, Conner told us he knew he could not play, and if we could do it for him. I get emotional thinking about it even now. I have a feeling I won’t be forgetting about this game for a while.”
Ty Klippenstein has been associated with the ANC since 2002. He has been the head coach of the Lions since 2012 and started as an assistant at ANC in 2006.
He has had some quality players come through ANC, though none like Hunter.
“We’ve had some good kids through the years, and Hunter could play Division I football for Penn State, for anyone, I know, I field the calls,” Klippenstein said. “Hunter caught the most amazing high school football catch I ever saw, and it happened last year in this game. Conner, his brother, threw Hunter the ball, the defender had an angle on him, when Hunter tipped the ball in the air with his one hand. When the defender went under, Hunter reached up and caught the ball with his other hand and scored a touchdown.
“Special athletes have a spatial awareness, and Hunter has that ability to slow things down. Conner and Hunter are an unstoppable duo. It’s a shame Conner got hurt.”
The Lions put the game away in the second quarter. Hunter threw a pair of touchdown passes, rushed for one score and his 40-yard pick-six wrapped up the quarter, instituting the 35-point mercy rule and running clock.
But there has to be some credit given to Belmont Charter. The Tigers showed up with 22 players. They are coached by 24-year-old Tyrell Brent. They are primarily a young team, though there is some talent in Shamere Davenport, who scored twice, tailback Khiyuan Rigsby, who finished with a game-high 134 yards rushing on 13 carries, sophomore Ramier Haynes, who opened the game by intercepting Aquino, and sophomore defensive tackle Mason Billingsley-Walker, who recovered a fumble and played hard the entire game.
“We shot ourselves in the foot, and that has to be corrected in the way we practice,” Brent said. “We are the smallest school in the Pub. We need to keep better heads in the playoffs, but overall, we never gave up and we have the state playoffs ahead.”
Next week, Hunter may be playing in his last organized football game. But the best overall athlete in Southeastern Pennsylvania faces an interesting dilemma this winter, whether to start for the championship-level ANC basketball team or be the starting goalie for the ANC ice hockey team.
What high school athlete in Pennsylvania, let alone the Delaware Valley area, has the athletic dexterity to handle that dichotomy?
As for Hunter’s inability to juggle, “Hunter is so talented if you gave him five minutes,” Klippenstein said, laughing, “he would be able to figure it out.”
Belmont Charter (3-6) 0 0 6 14-20
Academy of the New Church (7-1) 6 30 0 7-43
ANC – Ryan Farrington 28 pass from Hunter Aquino (kick failed), 5:41
ANC – Aharon Bloshuk 67 pass from Aquino (Farrington pass from Aquino), 11:47
ANC – Aquino 5 run (Bloshuk run), 9:23
ANC – Farrington 8 pass from Aquino (pass failed), 4:59
ANC – Aquino 40 INT return (Aquino run), 4:28
MC – Shamere Davenport 53 pass from Qaumeer Alexander (run failed), 7:54
ANC – Lamar Joseph 9 run (Aquino kick), 8:41
MC – Davenport 31 run (Davenport run), 7:01
MC – Khiyuan Rigsby 2 run (No attempt), :00
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
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