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High school football: Hillcrest Huskies 2018 preview

Note: Hillcrest finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2017 and was fifth in Region 2 with a 0-4 record. It did not qualify for the 6A playoffs.

Hillcrest 2017 Offensive and Defensive Stats

MIDVALE — When Ron Hill interviewed for the open head football coaching position at Hillcrest prior to the 2016 season, he was asked if there were any specific assistant coaches he would be interested in bringing on should he get the job.

Hill mentioned the name Cazzie Brown, as the two had previously coached together at Judge Memorial. As it turned out, Brown had said Hill’s name when asked the same question during his interview. Brown got the job, and Hill joined him as offensive coordinator.

The two would have conversations about Hill eventually replacing Brown if Brown ever got a bigger job. Then just after the 2017 season began, Brown became critically ill and passed away on Aug. 27, leaving a family and the Hillcrest community in mourning.

Hill acknowledges that neither the coaching staff nor the players always knew how to best work through the grief that came with the unexpected tragedy.

“It took them a while to want to get back into playing football after last year, but they’re amazing,” he said. “They’re an incredible group of young men...the character that was built was amazing.”

After going through the interview process, Hill was ultimately hired as the head coach after last season. It’s a job he’s honored to have, but one that he quickly acknowledges he wishes wouldn’t have opened up under the circumstances that it did.

“It was like, ‘Yeah, I wanted to do this, but not at this moment,'” he said. “I would rather be an offensive coordinator for my friend.”

Once he was hired, Hill hoped to help kids understand the positive values that playing could bring, and now as the 2018 season gets set to begin, he feels his group can be collectively stronger for having experienced something so difficult together.

“I think their passion and then the lessons they learned off of all of that is really going to benefit us,” he said. “This senior group is definitely showing that. They’re very strong, very strong-willed. They want something.”

Hillcrest Huskies at a glance

Coach: This is Ron Hill’s first-ever high school head football coaching job. He was a longtime assistant at Judge Memorial before joining the Huskies’ staff in 2016.

Hillcrest offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Ron Hill

2017 offensive production: 15.5 ppg (20th in 6A)

  • 3 returning starters
  • Spread option offense

Returning offensive starters

Offensive newcomers to watch

Coach Hill’s comments on offensive lineman James Reich:

“He’s one of our captains. He’s definitely the leader of our offensive line.”

Coach Hill’s comments on depth at skill positions:

“We’re starting over, but we’re really excited. Our junior class is loaded. We have about the same amount of kids in the program as we did last year, but our depth is much deeper. We’re deeper at the skill positions everywhere across the board, so we’re really excited about them. They’re young, but I think they’re going to make a great impact.”

Keys for offensive success:

Hillcrest’s strengths are at running back and wide receiver. The biggest questions, though, are: Can the running backs get outside? Can the offensive line protect first-year starting quarterback Ryan Sharp? Can Sharp be an effective passer to allow his receivers to make plays in space?

Hillcrest defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Chase Jones

2017 defensive production: 40.5 ppg (20th in 6A)

  • 4 returning starters
  • 4-3 defense

Returning defensive starters

Defensive newcomers to watch

Coach Hill’s comments on his defensive line:

“I’m incredibly excited for what our defensive front can do...defense is where I’m the most excited. I think that’s where our biggest impact is going to be...I think the strength of our defense is what’s going to allow us to stay in games until we get that offense more fine-tuned.”

Coach Hill’s comments on defensive ends Aaron Julia and Gavin Hawley:

“Our defensive ends I think are probably two of the finest defensive ends out there that no one knows about yet. They’ve just got so much speed coming off the edges.”

Coach Hill’s comments on linebacker Brody Roemmich:

“Brody is our iron man. He is the guy. He drives it, and he’s driven it for three years. Brody’s been a team captain since he was a sophomore. He is the ultimate captain. He’s just aggressive and he knows how to run it.”

Keys for defensive success:

Can the defensive line be as good as Hill hopes? How far can Roemmich’s leadership carry the group? Can the defensive backfield mature in a hurry and avoid getting exposed too much?

Coaches preseason Region 2 straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News Region 2 prediction: Fourth

Key region game: Sept. 28 vs. Cyprus

Bottom line: Still reeling in some respects after Brown’s passing a year ago, the Huskies are trying to rebuild from a psychological standpoint, not to mention a football standpoint given that the team doesn’t return a whole lot of production, especially on offense. A program that had shown some signs of improvement in recent seasons before last year, can Hillcrest start making steps back toward that in Hill’s first year leading the way?

2018 Schedule

  • Aug. 17 — at West, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 24 — at Murray, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 31 — at Highland, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 7 — at Cottonwood, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 — at Granger, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 21 — PLEASANT GROVE, 7 p.m.
  • Sept. 28 — CYPRUS, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 5 — KEARNS, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 12 — at Hunter, 7 p.m.

Felt's Facts

All-time record: 228-313-8 (56 years)

Region championships: 7 (1966 co, 1968, 1975, 1980, 1981 co, 1983, 1984 co)

Playoff appearances: 22

Current playoff appearance streak: 1 (2016)

All-time playoff record: 10-22

State championships: 0

State championship record: 0-0

Most played rivalry: 42 meetings with Brighton dating back to 1969. Brighton leads 30-12. Last met in 2010.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Despite the proliferation of pass-happy offenses in recent years, Hillcrest still holds the school and individual (Brad Leggat) single-game passing yards record of 538 set in 2001.

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Last 5

  • 2017 — 1-9 (0-4 in Region 2 - Missed playoffs)
  • 2016 — 3-7 (3-2 in Region 6 – 4A First round)
  • 2015 — 2-9 (1-4 in Region 2 – Missed playoffs)
  • 2014 — 5-7 (2-3 in Region 2 – 5A First round)
  • 2013 — 1-9 (1-4 in Region 2 – Missed playoffs)

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Hillcrest coaching history

  • 2018 — Ron Hill (0-0)
  • 2016-2017 — Cazzie Brown (4-16)
  • 2014-2015 — David Hastings (7-16)
  • 2011-2013 — Casey Miller (7-23)
  • 2005-2010 — Kirk Merhish (15-44)
  • 2000-2004 — Bruce Takeno (29-33)
  • 1993-1999 — Lee Leslie (34-34)
  • 1986-1992 — Jerry Haslam (25-38)
  • 1978-1985 — Jerry Simonson (49-33)
  • 1975-1977 — Robert Burns (12-16)
  • 1967-1974 — Raynor Pearce (44-32)
  • 1964-1966 — Tom Lovat (11-14-3)
  • 1962-1963 — Mickey Culletson (1-14-3)

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Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

  • (None)

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.