By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
When Southeast Alamance began the football season, Daniel Bunker wasn’t much a part of the offense.
Lately as the Stallions have been checking off historical markers, Bunker has carried a big role for the first-year school.
The freshman running back became the first Southeast player to reach 200 rushing yards in last week’s Class 2-A playoff upset of Cummings.
“It felt good,” Bunker says. “I was just doing my thing.”
Bunker says it has been a big change from the beginning of the season, when he was fresh out of Woodlawn Middle School and figuring to play safety and receiver.
Stallions coach Tony Aguilar says the team’s rushing attack wasn’t efficient across the first few weeks. To him, it seemed like a running back by committee approach.
Bunker had few carries here and there across the opening part of the season.
“Bunker came in and Bunker is a little freshman,” quarterback Ryan Dodson says. “Bunker messes around and doesn’t take it seriously. Bunker got the starting spot, and now he’s just working his butt off. He has really changed. He has been starting on defense all year and he has been pretty good on defense. But once he started going to running back, he really made an impact.”
That’s exactly what the Stallions needed. The latter part of the season, Bunker has sparked the rushing attack and added versatility to the offense.
“Bunker separated himself and started running on a different level,” Aguilar says. “Every week he was getting better and better. Plus, the O-line has definitely given him those chances.”
Bunker, 14, is listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds. He says his confidence has grown across the past month, so rushing for more than 100 yards in both games against Cummings wasn’t a surprise. Still, last week’s 204-yard output on 22 carries seemed special.
“I’m not really surprised,” Bunker says. “I was surprised when I had 200.”
Bunker’s role as a safety has been important for the Southeast defense. That also allowed him to ease into the expanded role on offense, Aguilar said.
“He really capitalized,” Dodson says.
Bunker is up to 760 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns.
“The best part about (playing) running back is scoring and winning,” he says.
With a roster dominated by sophomores and freshmen, the Stallions (8-4) visit top-seeded Clinton (12-0) for Thursday night’s third-round game. Bunker and his teammates are gaining invaluable experience.
“It has been awesome to see these guys grow up,” Aguilar says. “They’re not used to playing this many games.”
Southeast would like to play some more beyond this week. If so, Bunker figures to be part of that.
“You get to November, you have to run it to win,” Aguilar says.