It’s hard to win in a sport like football without key pieces on both sides of the ball. Teams need an offense that can put up yards and a defense that can limit its opponent’s advances.
Some teams such as Central Hardin are blessed with a player who can excel in both of these areas of the game. That special weapon for the Bruins is senior Trent Hill.
It’s been a strange season, but that hasn’t stopped the running back and linebacker from being a force on both offense and defense.
Hill is leading the Bruins in tackles with 56 total, 38 coming as solo tackles with another 18 assisted. On offense, he’s been among the team’s top rushers, with 125 yards on 26 attempts.
With the start of the postseason just four days away, Hill is looking to continue playing an important role as Central Hardin looks to get past Meade County on Friday.
“I just need to make sure I stay conditioned and stay focused on both sides of the ball and keep everybody focused,” Hill said. “Everybody has to do their own part for everybody to succeed.”
Hill has been a starter on defense for the varsity team since he was a sophomore in 2018. That first season, Hill finished with 52 total tackles through 11 games played, 16 solo and 36 assisted. His junior season in 2019 saw him jump to 62 tackles, with 17 solo and 45 assisted.
On offense, Hill went from 24 rushing yards on just three attempts last year to breaking past 100 yards so far this season.
While this is the first of his three seasons on varsity in which he’s led the team in tackles, Hill missed four games last season because of a broken foot.
Had it not been for this injury, Central Hardin coach Tim Mattingly believes Hill would have finished the season leading the team in this category.
Mattingly also believes Hill’s ability to bounce back from this setback and continue to excel amid the uncertainty of playing through the COVID-19 shortened season has earned him plenty of respect among his teammates, especially the younger guys.
“He’s just a hard-nosed player who likes contact. He likes the physicality of the game. He kind of thrives on that. Some people shy away from contact. He runs towards it, so he’s just a physical player and he’s been a really good player for us,” Mattingly said of Hill. “He’s definitely a leader for us and somebody that I think especially our younger players look up to and hopefully they model his physicality, so a good role model for our young kids.”
Being a key two-way player means there isn’t much time for Hill between when Central Hardin’s offense or defense is coming on or off the field. He has to stay dialed in, but also shift his focus from linebacker to running back and vice versa.
“You’ve just gotta switch quick and go switch it up to offense,” Hill said. “Then when I get off offense and I need to switch to defense, I’ve gotta make sure I know who’s lined up where and just get everything going.”
Playing this type of role isn’t without its challenges. Having less time to recoup on the sideline means Hill needs to make sure he can operate on all cylinders without as many breaks.
“Sometimes it’s just conditioning. I’ll be so tired from running, getting tackles every play and then I’ll go run the ball two or three or four times,” he said. “It’s just about trying to stay focused and not let my mental game slip.”
At the same time, the perks of having a multi-faceted skillset means Hill can help the Bruins in a wide variety of ways. This is what he enjoys most about the added responsibility.
“Just helping the team out basically,” Hill said. “Helping the team any way I can.”
Just like Hill has proven to be versatile as both a linebacker on defense and a running back on offense, Mattingly believes it’s a combination of factors that’s allowed him to have this kind of success. This combination referred to both Hill’s mental and physical approaches to the game.
“All of that roles together because his toughness attitude, that toughness mantra, so to speak, carries over onto offense and defense because that’s just how he plays and that’s what you need. You need tough guys to play this game,” Mattingly said. “I wish we had a few more of him, but he’s a good one and hopefully we can finish out his career with hopefully, maybe, a few more wins. That would be nice. That’s what we’re gonna shoot for and hopefully he’s gonna help lead the way.”
It will take more than one player to accomplish this goal.
While Central Hardin has only played in five games this season and enters the postseason with a 1-4 record, Hill knows this group’s capabilities. He believes if they can clean up some mistakes and execute their specific tasks, the Bruins could surprise some people.
“Everybody just needs to stay focused on their position and not just worrying about ‘Hey, this person missed a tackle. This person didn’t block,’” Hill said. “Just need everybody doing their own thing and doing their own objectives every play.”
Whenever the season does come to an end, Hill’s memories of the work he and the rest of the team have put in will be among his biggest takeaways from his time as a Bruin.
“The coaching and the brotherhood, just us coming every single day for the last four, four and a half years,” Hill said. “Just out here playing every single day.”