Though the 2011 season featured adversity more often than not, there were plenty of highlights for the Harlem High School football team.
It’s no coincidence that many of them came from Alonzo Hill.
There was a kickoff return for a touchdown against Lincoln County that saw the junior show off his top-level speed.
There was an athletic play for an interception against Cross Creek from his safety position.
There was a 35-yard touchdown reception on a quick slant against Richmond Academy. The manner in which Hill left the defenders impressed even his veteran coach.
“He just blew them away when he caught it,” Harlem head coach Jimmie Lewis said. “They just stopped running.”
Hill contributes in almost every element of the game, as a hard-hitting safety on defense, a quick receiver on offense, and an invaluable special teams contributor.
But defense is where he shines.
“I’ve got a faster take-off than other players,” Hill noted. “I’m always reading the ball, reading the ball and the quarterback. I’ve got to make a play.”
Lewis said that the Bulldogs’ young squad looked to Hill for leadership during a tough season.
Without any wins in 2011, his big plays provided the highlights.
“Unfortunately, we just don’t have a whole lot to go along with him,” Lewis said. “He could’ve really had a fabulous season had we been a little older or a little bigger on the offensive line.”
Though the football field is where Hill feels most comfortable, he also is a significant contributor for the school’s basketball team.
Now that the football season is finished, he’ll make the transition between the two. He doesn’t have long; the Bulldogs open the season at home Tuesday against Greenbrier.
Hill said that it takes “a week or two” to get used to the different kind of fitness basketball requires.
“Footwork for basketball helps me a lot for football,” Hill said. “Basketball helps my moves in football and my agility.”
Hill averaged 8.8 points per game last season with a high point total of 17.
He also shot 30 percent on 3-pointers. He had a pair of them down the stretch against Grovetown, when Harlem held the lead until the final minute in a tight loss.
Harlem head basketball coach Kim Chambers said that he might move Hill from his customary shooting guard spot to small forward this season. It will give him some much-needed size inside.
That Hill is being depended upon in the big moments is a testament to his improvement in a short span. Last year was his first full season on varsity.
“He’s done nothing but improve,” Chambers said. “He’s very quick, a good defensive player, rebounds well and he hustles all the time.
“He’s a vital part of what we do.”