Gaining ground

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Southampton Academy junior Tonee Hill carries the ball during the Raiders’ win over Halifax Academy. -- GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS


COURTLAND—Southampton Academy junior Tonee Hill is having a remarkable football season.

In his second year of playing eight-man ball with the Raiders, Hill in five games has racked up 1,361 yards and 22 touchdowns on 72 carries. During the Hobgood Academy game alone on Sept. 21, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound halfback scrambled 410 yards and scored seven touchdowns.

Missing the third game of the season with a sprained neck, Hill has helped the Raiders to a 6-0 start, outscoring their Colonial Carolina Conference opponents 380-190.

“Tonee is a tremendous athlete,” said SA Coach Dale Marks. “He is a fine young man. His impact has been extraordinary on our team because of the fact of all the assets he brings to the game.”

“He will be the first to admit that football is very much a team game and a lot of his success is due to the fact that we have some good people in front blocking for him,” Marks added.

Things didn’t come easy for Hill.

“I had got in some trouble at Southampton High School,” Hill said.

A family friend suggested he try the academy.

“Basically, when I got here, I saw that people take things more seriously,” he said. “I know that I can’t play around a lot. In school, the students don’t put up with it so I had to mature.”

Marks believes high school athletes, like Hill, learn more than a sport. They learn life lessons.

“Football teaches a young man as much about growing up and what he is going to have to face in life as any sport going,” he said. “Football is a tough sport, played by tough individuals, under tough circumstances and that is life too.”

The season thus far has Raider coaches scratching their heads over the number of points scored.

“I think it’s just everything coming together on the offensive side of the ball as well as what we are doing new this year from an offensive scheme,” Marks said. “Also, it’s harder to defend in the eight-man game as opposed to the 11-man. There is a lot more pressure on the defensive ends. And not to take anything away from Tonee, he is an incredible athlete.”

“You have setbacks, you get knocked down, you get up and you gotta keep going,” he added.

Hill says he has improved on and off the field.

“I could not have done it without my coaches and the players I play with,” he said. “I feel like my team needs me and I need them of course. I feel pretty happy to contribute.”

A state title and going undefeated is this year’s goal.

“We just have to take it day by day and game by game,” said Marks.

A noted baseball and basketball player, Hill hopes to play baseball at either the University of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute, Radford or Duke.

Tonee is the son of Roosevelt Hill and Anita Doles.