The Sentinel-Record/Mara Kuhn JACK OF ALL TRADES: Lakeside's Jack Henry Hill (49) makes a stop on Little Rock McClellan's Bennie Kemp III (8) in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs on Nov. 11, 2016, at Austin Field. Moving from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, Hill finished with 101 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season.
Lakeside senior Jack Henry Hill has excelled on both the football field and the tennis court. Just don't ask him to pick a favorite sport.
"I can't answer that," he said. "I like them both for different reasons, but I could never pick just one over the other."
With two Class 5A state doubles titles (along with Spencer Kauffman) and three all-state selections in tennis and all-state honors at linebacker this season, Hill's accolades speak for themselves and he believes his tennis success played a role in his football success.
"Playing tennis definitely helped me with cardio and staying in shape," Hill said. "As a tennis player you have to move side to side, up and down, back and forth, and it's the same in football. Footwork was important in both sports for sure."
Moving from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, Hill finished with 101 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season, earning recognition as The Sentinel-Record's defensive player of the year on the all-Garland County team.
"More practice time with my coaches was the biggest thing for me," said Hill, improving from 61 tackles last season. "Moving to middle linebacker also gave me more opportunities to make plays. I was able to cover both sides of the field instead of just one at outside linebacker."
Hill took on an expanded leadership role after leading tacklers and all-state performers Maurice Bradford and Kennedy King both graduated from a squad that brought Lakeside its first conference title in football since 1975.
"When guys like that leave, you've got to step up and fill the void as a senior," Hill said. "There were a lot of leaders on the defense for us this year. We had a lot of good guys out there, a lot of other seniors that helped lead the younger guys."
Lakeside's defense took its lumps in a 2-4 start, surrendering an average of 42 points per game, with the low point a 64-36 loss to White Hall in Week 6. White Hall's Lance Smith and Montrell Roberson gashed the Rams for 134 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while Cameron Walden passed for 221 yards and two scores.
"The White Hall game was definitely a tough one for us; we kind of got our hopes down during that one," Hill said. "They were a good team and they had a great offense. After that, we just decided that we wanted to play football a little more. We figured out our defense a little more, switched up some positions and just got to it."
The adjustments became evident as the Rams allowed just 17 points per game in a four-game winning streak, clinching a share of the 5A-South title, before a second-straight playoff loss to Little Rock McClellan at Austin Field.
Lakeside forced six turnovers in a 48-14 win over De Queen and held a potent Watson Chapel offense to 20 points a week later before welcoming Hot Springs to Austin Field in the regular-season finale. The Rams had added motivation to beat their crosstown rival after last year's 17-15 loss spoiled an undefeated conference record.
The Trojans marched right down the field on their opening possession, quarterback Korey Wasson running the last 25 yards. That was the only threat Lakeside's defense allowed for the remainder of the game.
The Rams limited Hot Springs to 116 yards after the first drive and forced two fumbles in a 39-7 rout. Hill had 10 tackles in the game, including a team-high four for loss.
"I think the biggest thing about the first drive was we were caught on our heels and kind of taken off guard," said Hill. "Their offense is always tricky with all the options and so many different ways they can run. After the first drive, we saw how they were going to play, got our footing under us and just played how we had been practicing."
Despite the McClellan loss, Hill gave Lakeside fans one last heroic performance, racking up 10 tackles and four tackles for loss against a lethal offense.
Hill has no plans to pursue a college career in tennis or football, instead focusing on getting his degree. Even if he never steps on another football field or picks up a tennis racket again, he left a legacy at Lakeside that will live on for years to come.Sports on 01/11/2017