Hunter among county’s coaching legends

Coach+Charles+Hunter+is+pictured+with+the+1961+Evarts+Wildcats.

Coach Charles Hunter is pictured with the 1961 Evarts Wildcats.

(Part of this story was written and published in 1988. It has been updated to honor coach Hunter, who died 15 years ago in September, on his birthday on June 7)

Through a quarter century of success, Charlie Hunter was the leader of the Evarts High School football program and left his mark on hundreds of Clover Fork youth.
Hunter, a World War II hero, arrived at Evarts in the early 1950s as an assistant under Charlie Bentley. He took over as head coach in 1955 and led the Wildcats through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, instilling a hard-nosed style of football that defined the program from the time he arrived until the school closed in 2008.
“If you loved sports and lived in Evarts, Kentucky, you were soon going to cross paths with Charlie Hunter, or simply coach Hunter,” said Doug Hampton, a star for the Wildcats in the 1960s who went on to play at Eastern Kentucky University. “He let me be a ‘manager’ for the football team when I was in sixth and seventh grade. This was hog heaven for a little fat boy because I could race over to practice after school and hang out with the players AND I got to ride the bus to and from the games. I learned the words to every “naughty” song they sang after wins, and I learned to be real quiet and stay away from coach Hunter after losses.
Before arriving in Evarts, Hunter served in the 5th Infantry Division under the command of General George Patton. He won two Bronze Stars during his service, including the Allied invasion of Normandy. He won his first Bronze Star for actions in 1944 in France when he used an anti-tank rocket launcher to force an entire enemy unit to surrender. He earned his second Bronze Star for actions in 1945 in Germany where he led a successful attack against the Germans.
“Two things I remember most about the honor of playing for coach Hunter was the military bearing that he had and the way he could actually incorporate military language into our drills,” Hampton said. “For example, we had one blocking drill that instead of a football cadence such as down, set, hut coach Hunter would call out ready, aim, FIRE!! Also he took great pride in our game uniforms, buying us the best and insisting that we keep it in like new conditions, which again reflected his military heritage.
“The second thing I remember is how well prepared for what the opponent would do and this was in a time when we would only film two or three games a year. Coach would send assistant coaches to watch two or three games in advance of our game, and most of the time we knew exactly what the other team was going to do in certain situations. “
Hunter coached basketball at Lone Jack after graduating from Union College in 1951. He then moved on to Evarts and coached football, basketball and baseball before eventually focusing on football.
Over 40 years after he coached his last football game, Hunter still holds the county record for wins with his record of 154-88-10. He led the Wildcats to three district championships, all in 2A, in the days when only one team per district made the playoffs. Hunter’s teams posted winning records in 18 of the 25 seasons he led the program.
“I think his record speaks for itself. He did a great job and always got a lot out of his boys,” said Perky Bryant, who starred for the Wildcats on their 11-1 team in 1959 before going on to a memorable career at the University of Kentucky as a member of the “Thin Thirty” team.

Roy Evans was a standout lineman for Evarts in that era before going on to play at Eastern Kentucky University and several of Evans’ brothers followed before going on to college careers in football or baseball.
Homer Goins also played for Evarts at that time before going on to play at the University of Kentucky. He coached at Paris where he won a state championship in 1973.
“He was an excellent coach and he cared for his players,” Goins said of his high school coach. “He and his wife were a credit to Evarts, and I think they were responsible for me being able to go to UK.”
Luther Kirklin was the quarterback for the Wildcats on their 1964 district championship team and one of Hunter’s favorite players.
“He demanded a lot of respect and had rules to go by,” Kirklin said. “We had somewhat of a father-son relationship. What I learned from him made me a better person and I really respected him.”
Kirklin remembered a game against Corbin when the Wildcats were down by one and had the ball on the Hounds’ 4 on fourth down.
“During a timeout, I told him I was going to score a touchdown for him,” Kirklin said. “We scored a touchdown and I ran by him and winked and he smiled.”
The Wildcats played Belfry for a regional title in 1967. Evarts led when the lights went out and the game was moved to Harlan. Belfry rallied for a win.
“They had a real good running back that wasn’t doing that well at Evarts,” Hunter said. “But he had about an hour’s rest and he came back strong.”

Coach Charles Hunter is first in county history in victories over 25 seasons with the Evarts Wildcats.

Evarts’ success on the gridiron slowed in the 1970s and Hunter left as head coach during the 1979 season. He went into the coal business for several years but returned to Evarts football as an assistant in the mid 1980s when Ron Johnson, a former player under Hunter, took over as head coach. Hunter played a key role in the program’s resurgence under Johnson and then Bill Musick. Evarts won its first and only regional football title in 1990 with an 8-7 victory over three-time defending state champ Pikeville. Hunter also returned to baseball as the program’s head coach for several years in the 1990s before retiring for the second and final time.
The football field at Evarts where Hunter led so many teams through the years was eventually named Charles Hunter Field and is still used today for grade school football where many of the sons, grandsons and great grandsons of his former players wear the blue and gold.
“Coach Hunter still had an influence on the program when I played and also when I coached at Evarts. Most of the drills we did when I played were things he had done since the 60s. Most of the drills I did during practice were things coach Hunter had taught us,” said Ovie Canady, who played on the 1990 championship team and was the last head coach at Evarts before the merger.

“I loved Coach. He got on you when you needed it and loved you when you needed it. He was toughness personified. When I was a freshman he’d just had surgery to remove some cancer. He got ran over that night in pregame by Jason Carr, the high school version of Mike Alstott. He jumped right back up and told everyone he was fine. He never sat down and kept on coaching. That says all you need to know about him.”

 

Evarts coach Bill Musick (second from left) is pictured with coaches Bill Cole, Charles Hunter and Marvin Cottrell around 1990.