NORTHSIDE: Hilliker wants to break long drought
Thu. August 23, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
New Northside coach Chris Hilliker talks to his players during a break in preseason practice. Hilliker said he is installing a run-oriented offense for Rams, who haven’t had a winning season since 1994. (Photo by Alicia Lavender)
SAMANTHA | Chris Hilliker accepted a challenge when he became the head football coach at Northside High School, which hasn’t had a winning season or playoff appearance since 1994.
Hilliker directed Hale County to five playoff spots in seven seasons. He was at Paul W. Bryant last year and led the Stampede to a 6-5 record and a berth in the Class 5A playoffs.
“We don’t have a whole lot of kids returning that played last year,” Hilliker said. “We’re very, very young. They haven’t had very many good seasons here lately, and we feel like we want to build a firm foundation here, have a good, young group, have them learn and build on that.”
Hilliker is installing a run-oriented offense.
“Our base set is a double-wing formation,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done for several years as a head coach. The teams that are able to run the football and stop the run win football games. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“We’ll have several people touching the football with a lot of misdirection. We want to hide the football as much as we can. At the same time, we’re trying to get to the point of attack with more people than the defense can handle. We’ll do a lot of pulling, a lot of trapping, things of that nature.”
Junior Justin Beck, a guard on the basketball team, is the probable starter at quarterback.
“I was looking for someone with good leadership skills and someone basically to distribute the ball,” Hilliker said. “He’s going to get some carries. We’re going to have some passing plays built in, but he’s got to be the leader out there and get everybody in the right place.”
Tanner Colburn is the No. 2 quarterback. Colburn will probably start on defense as an outside linebacker.
Zarrian Grant, leading scorer for the basketball team, will play at wingback.
“We like his speed and his size, and he’s very elusive,” Hilliker said. “Our other wing is A.J. Travis. He’s done good job in the weight room. He’s strong, which we need at those spots.”
Brady Robichaud and Christian Smith are reserve wingbacks. Terrance Lucas and Luke Crowe have been competing to start at fullback.
“The fullbacks have to do a good job of blocking, and they’ll get some carries as well,” Hilliker said.
Seniors Nick McCrae and Patrick Gear could line up as tight ends or wide receivers.
Senior James Moore will start at center. Other offensive line candidates are Cole Lee, Zac Henderson and Alex Perry.
Hilliker said the defense will have to take some chances to be effective.
“Physically, we’re not where we need to be yet,” he said. “We’re going to have to have several stunts prepared. If we want to win games, we’ve got to stop people from running right over us.”
Lucas and Crowe are slated for duty at inside linebacker. Moore will probably start at defensive tackle. The defensive secondary will include Grant at safety and Travis and Robichaud at cornerback.
School: Northside High School
Classification: AHSAA Class 3A, Region 3
2011 record: 1-9
2011 playoffs: none
Head coach: Chris Hilliker (first year at Northside)
Assistant coaches: David Green, defensive coordinator; Tommy Honeycutt, offensive line; Brian Swiney, defensive line; Robbie Jones, running backs; Ronnie Hubbard, defensive backs
Returning starters: 4
Keep an eye on: RB/DB Zarrian Grant (5-10, 160, Sr.), RB/DB A.J. Travis (5-9, 165, Sr.), C James Moore (6-3, 250, Sr.)
Key games: Aug. 31 Berry, Oct. 12 at Gordo, Oct. 26 Fayette County
Aug. 31 Berry
Sept. 7 at Holt*
Sept. 14 at American Christian Academy*
Sept. 21 Greensboro*
Sept. 28 Oakman
Oct. 5 at Sipsey Valley*
Oct. 12 at Gordo*
Oct. 19 Greene County*
Oct. 26 Fayette County*
Nov. 2 Oak Grove
* Denotes region game