Hanging touch

A slow start caused by a broken leg and mononucleosis couldn't keep Winters Mill running back Garrett Hill off the fast track for long

November 12, 2006|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN REPORTER

It's taken nothing short of a broken leg and a bout with mononucleosis to slow Winters Mill running back Garrett Hill this season.

Despite experiencing his share of adversity over the past five months, Hill has emerged as one of the county's best runners.

Although he has missed three games, Hill entered last Friday's playoff game against Francis Scott Key second in the county in rushing with 841 yards and he is averaging a county-leading 7.5 yards a carry.

The senior suffered a broken leg while playing lacrosse last summer. Then, shortly after recovering from the injury, he was diagnosed with mononucleosis three weeks into the season.

"It was actually like the worst thing that could happen," said Hill, 6 feet and 200 pounds.

"I'd never broken anything or gotten that sick. Then it all hits, and I'm out for two weeks with mono."

Hill never once mentioned how the absence for two weeks cost him the county rushing lead (he's second to Francis Scott Key's Brad Martz), preferring to focus on how much he had missed the sport.

"I couldn't wait to get back," said the three-year starter who returned to action the second week in October.

Hill made an impressive return, as he rushed for 246 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in the Falcons' 33-7 rout of Liberty.

"It was really sort of his coming out," Winters Mill coach Ken Johnson said.

"It was his best yardage game ever. He's had a lot of real tough yardage games.

"He played a good game against Century. He rushed for 160-170 yards in a real tough physical game and played on both sides of the ball [linebacker on defense]."

So exactly how does Hill accomplish such running feats game after game?

"He's very explosive," Johnson said. "A very powerful young man and a heck of a linebacker. We're using him primarily on the offensive side to keep him as fresh as we can. But when the chips are down, he's playing defense, too."

When Hill was asked about his production, he said, "I have a real good line. They're real big and block very well."

He said the best run of his career went for 80 yards and a touchdown against Liberty this season.

"I remember getting outside and having half my line blocking for me," Hill said.

"We're all a team, and I probably wouldn't be up where I am if it weren't for them."

One of those Winters Mill offensive linemen who has provided the blocking for Hill this season is 6-5, 300-pound junior Jeff Braun, who credits lifting weights and running as the primary reasons for the line's ability to spring Hill for long gainers.

Braun said Hill is a tough runner because "he's physical, but he also has some speed to him. He can lower his shoulder and hit you. And he also can run away from you.

"We open the holes and just let him do his job. We draw people out and let him run them over. Once he does that, we get in the end zone and score touchdowns."

Braun called Hill a "great athlete. He's not only good on the football field, but he plays lacrosse and is great there. Any sport he would play he'd be great at."

Braun recalled a spectacular run by Hill three weeks ago against Liberty where "it looked to me like he jumped four feet in the air over somebody and kept on going."

Although Hill is hesitant to talk about himself, he did discuss how he caught up to other top youth players in the Westminster area.

"I wasn't the best player when I started in the fourth grade, but I really pushed myself hard," he said.

"I would play around with my neighbors and everything. Once I hit high school, I worked really hard in the weight room."

With the re-emergence of neighboring Westminster High as a force, it has added some drama to Hill's career, since he played youth football with many of the Owls and would have attended that school if Winters Mill hadn't been built.

"It's pretty difficult playing against them," he said.

"One of their big linemen is a senior and he's pretty much played football since I started, and I've been competitive with him in everything growing up."


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