Southlake's New King of the Hill
Sep 19, 2011 04:49PM, Published by Mike, Categories: City+School
After overcoming adversity, Dragon QB Kenny Hill climbs to the top.
Entering the 2010 season, Southlake was mired in controversy surrounding the eligibility of quarterback Daxx Garman, a standout talent from Oklahoma who was poised to spend his senior year at Southlake before heading to Arizona on scholarship. The WFAA spotlight shined brightly on Garman, his family and CISD administrators for alleged missteps in a made for You-Tube mini-drama.
As the team bus was preparing to leave for Southlake’s 2010 season opener against Copperas Cove, the District 7-5A executive committee was in session determining the fate of the Dragon’s season. In a 4-3 vote, they ruled Garman ineligible. When the coaching staff asked Garman to step outside, the team knew what had happened. For a program best known for its tradition of winning and establishing high profile quarterbacks, losing the starting signal caller mere hours before the season kicked off was unchartered territory. That night the Dragons rallied behind Garman and his understudy Drew Ahmuty but despite their efforts, fell to the Cove 35-14.
Prior to the ruling, sophomore Kenny Hill was third on the depth chart, fully expecting to learn the potent Dragon system slowly and steadily behind Garman and Ahmuty from the sidelines. Kenny’s father, Ken Hill Sr. said, “We knew Kenny was going to play on the J.V. Green, we had no expectations of playing varsity. Once the ruling came down, we all realized he was one hit away from being in the game.”
According to Kenny’s mother Lorrie, “the news made for a long drive down to Copperas Cove.” By the end of the road trip, the Dragons were 0-1 and determining how to tackle the rest of the season. Hill immediately began prepping for a true backup role.
In the meantime Ahmuty filled in admirably winning the next three games as Hill continued to develop. During the early part of the season Kenny gained experience and confidence spelling Ahmuty in spot duty. On October 1st, 2010, Kenny assumed the starting role and completed 16 of 19 passes (84%) for 136 yards and a score in a 47-17 romp of Keller. With Hill at the helm, the team finished with a 10-4 record and put on an exciting post-season run – the longest since the team’s 2006 state championship season. Hill never got the chance to suit up at the J.V. level.
Looking back on the season that almost wasn’t Southlake Dragons Head Football Coach Hal Wasson said, “Kenny Hill was indicative of our team. It’s not where you start, but where you finish that counts.” No other single sentence could say it better. And no single player could be more representative of the development Southlake Dragon Football has seen in just twelve months.
During the ensuing practices Kenny started getting more reps and extra help with on field reads and signs from the coaching staff. “We did our best not to push Kenny too hard too fast,” says Coach Wasson. Nevertheless, it was apparent Kenny needed to learn and learn fast. “Daxx helped me out a lot,” says Kenny, “he took me under his wing even though he couldn’t play he wanted us all to do well. He is a great guy.”
The 2010 stat sheets are evidence to a gradual beginning of Kenny’s game. With Hill under center the generally high-flying Dragon offense posted only two games of greater than 200 yards. Instead, the system relied heavily on the power running of first team all-district running back Paul Stevenson. Allowing time for Hill to become acclimated, Stevenson rushed for 6.8 yards per carry adding 1,526 yards and 23 TDs for the season.
With Stevenson’s help in the backfield Kenny had a little easier time adjusting. He says, “The seniors last year really supported me, Paul [Stevenson] always had my back and the O’ line had me covered. I love them all.”
The early poise he showed in the pocket is rarely seen from college sophomores let alone one from high school. Young quarterbacks and even established NFL’ers cannot help but scramble in the backfield trying to make the big plays. On the contrary, Kenny has learned to trust his blockers more than his feet, staying in the pocket long enough to find open receivers. Once he is locked in, he has the arm to deliver an accurate throw. Despite his inexperience, Hill showed great composure completing 72.9% of his passes (156-214) for 1,761 yards and 15 TDs his first season. Both his arm and post-season leadership earned him district Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors, something area football experts never expected.
Son of a Gun
At the Hill household, competition reigns supreme. From card games to video games and even Monopoly Father Ken, Mother Lorrie, Kenny, and younger brother Marcus always enjoy a challenge. And if you ask Ken who has the better arm you’ll stir quite another friendly family rivalry. Kenny claims the younger arm prevails while dad says, “He’s got me in football, but I don’t know if he’s got me in baseball just yet.” After 14 seasons as a major league pitcher predominately with the St. Louis Cardinals, Montreal Expos, and Texas Rangers you just have to take Ken’s word for it.
Ken Hill grew up playing baseball in his hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts. In 1985, his gun of an arm was noticed and the amateur free agent was signed by the Detroit Tigers. He was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals and made his way up through the organization- making his major league debut in 1988.
Best known for his fastball and split-finger fastball Ken compiled a 117-109 record, tallying 1,181 strikeouts and a 4.06 career ERA. He truly made his mark as a member of the Montreal Expos in the early 90s – with two 16-win seasons. The latter of which landed him an All-Star appearance in 1994 as he went 16-5 with a 3.32 ERA finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting to Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux.
In 1996 Ken made his way to north Texas as the opening day starter for the Texas Rangers a spot held by such names as Nolan Ryan, Gaylord Perry and Charlie Hough. With young Kenny about to start school, Ken and wife Lorrie decided to buy a home in Southlake for its good schools and friendly people. Of course, proximity to the airport was another plus as the family often traveled to watch Ken pitch.
“Kenny was a clubhouse kid,” says Lorrie, “for him ‘Daddys’ just played baseball.” As a little boy, Kenny wanted to be just like his dad and very much enjoyed hanging around the clubhouse, eating lunch with the players and walking through the tunnels to the field. When the games started, he would take his usual place on his mom’s lap to cheer for his father. Ken admits, “It was always nice to have the family at the games, whether you win or lose, they support you no matter what.”
After his playing days, Ken started coaching his sons’ baseball teams and would play catch with his sons in the yard. Despite making football a priority starting in the eighth grade, Kenny continues to make the most of his arm as an accomplished 3rd baseman with a power-hitting streak. Younger brother Marcus (12) plays baseball and is in his first season of tackle with Dragon Youth Football.
Lorrie and Ken agree, “It’s a little more nerve-racking watching the kids play football than baseball but it is a lot of fun.” They just pray that no one gets hurt.
The Newest King of the Hill
It is well known in Texas and across the nation that Southlake is a hotbed for quarterbacks. Preceded by such successful QBs as Daniel, Wasson, McElroy, and Dodge, Kenny admits, “Its an honor to be a quarterback in Southlake. It’s incredible to be on that list, I don’t feel like I’m to that point yet.”
Maybe that is why he’s been working so hard.
With a full off-season of growth under his belt, Kenny and his teammates have been building muscle, speed and camaraderie during their Performance Course training sessions. Each day over the summer, Kenny was hitting the weights, running agility drills and working with his receivers. “Peyton [Williams] and Sabian [Holmes] have the speed and ability to go up and get the ball,” says Kenny, “Steven [Bergmark] is a good player, he is going to surprise people.”
Over the summer Kenny was invited to spend attend the Elite 11 Quarterbacks camp at TCU. He brought along friend and varsity receiver Ray Crocket for some extra skill building sessions. And when he’s not at a camp he’s usually home working on his drops and footwork throwing long toss in the yard with his dad.
All the extra effort in preparation of the 2011 season is quite a luxury when compared to a year ago. That preparation has paid off immensely in the early part of the season. In a rematch to last year’s opener Hill and company avenged the loss to Copperas Cove by heading a comeback to win 38-31 to an excited home crowd. The perpetually poised Hill completed 32-44 passes for 402 yards and 4TDs. More than doubling his per game averages from a year ago as he capped a fourth quarter comeback by running behind the massive offensive line and JJ Prince for the game winning score. In the early part of his junior season, Hill has even more confidence, which can only help, as he and the team will continue to face tough competition throughout the season. Expectations are up and people are once again taking notice of a team and its quarterback- both on the rise.