Spending a great deal of his childhood in the Kansas City area, Jonathan Hunnacutt always thought he wanted to play soccer.
When fate moved him to Phillipsburg, though, a community where outside of summer club ball, opportunities to play on the pitch are few and far between.
When he moved to Phillipsburg, though, he went to a Panthers’ football game. There he saw a kicker named Justin Juenemann splitting the uprights for the Phillipsburg High School football team.
That’s in essence where Hunnacutt’s dream began.
“I thought ‘I really want to try that,’ ” Hunnacutt recalled. “So I hooked up with him.”
Juenemann went on to a five-year career at University of Minnesota, though he never saw any action. Juenemann’s success, however, made a lasting impression on Hunnacutt, who now is looking to ride his right leg to a Division I scholarship.
“I wouldn’t say it just came naturally,” Hunnacutt said of his knack for Phillipsburg’s kicking game. “But it was probably easier for me than most. I kind of just fell in love with it.”
The work he’s put into the specialty has paid off.
Going into his senior season, he is on the cusp of setting the state’s kicker scoring record. The last two years, he has combined to make 12 field goals and 126 point-after attempts.
He’s solid around the 40-yard mark, has a career best field goal of 39 yards, but is capable of hitting that 50-yard mark.
“It changes how you call plays from the offensive side,” said Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington. “He’s been real good from about 48 on in.
“We may take a few more chances compared to what we have in the past.”
But if his number were to be called, Hunnacutt wouldn’t hesitate to unload on a 50-yarder. He wouldn’t think much of it.
“I just step back and make sure I’m lined up,” he said. “Just focus on watching the ball and following through. If I start thinking about too many other things, it won’t go well.”
It’s gone well enough so far. Last season, Hunnacutt was 75 of 84 on PAT attempts and made eight of 11 field goals. He was named first-team MCL kicker.
“He’s taken a real liking to it,” Covington said. “He’s worked and worked and worked at it.”
That work included camps in Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma this summer in preparation for his final campaign.
He’s hoping all that work will not only result in another successful Phillipsburg run, but some offers to take his boot to the next level.