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Note: Hillcrest finished with a 3-7 overall record and a 1-4 record in Region 7 in 2011. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
MIDVALE — Negative stereotypes are extremely difficult to overcome. Once something becomes ingrained, established and written as law — it becomes the truth.
That’s why second-year Hillcrest coach Casey Miller is painting a new image of a program that has had the reputation of not being competitive — at all. Miller is tired of the Huskies being nothing more than a punch line.
“I don’t want anyone to think Hillcrest is even the same school,” Miller said. “That word "Hillcrest" with the bad attitude towards it — I want that gone.”
Construction is currently underway for a new field turf to accentuate one of the most unique stadium structures in the state. New uniforms complimented with a different logo resembling the Washington Huskies dog rather than the Hawaii “H” will also be unveiled this fall.
“You’ve got to change the culture. When I came in I got rid of all the black and dark green,” Miller said. “We don’t use any black in our jersey anymore. We’re back to Kelly green and white. I’m trying to change the helmet color, jersey color, what we do in practice — I’m trying to change everything.”
The only thing left after Miller’s inaugural year as the headset at Hillcrest is the white visiting jerseys.
“My coaches and I are half serious, half joking — 'cause I could only buy one set of jerseys last year; we played awful in our white jerseys every single game. We were like we’re going to burn these jerseys after the year,” Miller quipped. “I want to burn them right now, but we need money so we need to sell them. I was going to burn them and make the whole team watch. It’s the last thing that’s part of the old program that’s still here.”
The changes are definitely not limited to fashion and equipment, however. Everything within the football infrastructure has been remodeled, including offensive and defensive philosophies, structure, expectations and the inclusion of mandatory study hall before every practice.
“I think the kids know what they’re being asked to do. They know what’s expected of them, so now it’s just a matter of getting it done,” Miller said. “They feel like they know there’s a goal, whereas before we had some kids pushing for one goal, some kids push for another. We’re all pushing in the same direction.”
The program is still very much a work in progress. The Huskies will be one of the youngest teams in the state with nine sophomores starting — including five on the defense alone. Youth dominates the second- and third-string positions on the depth charts, too.
So growing pains are around the corner.
“We’re going to have some issues. They’re going to make some mistakes but they’re 15,” Miller said.
Last year, cognizant of a hugely unfavorable turnover ratio, Miller invaded the little league and promoted a swarm of freshman to the JV level in preparation for this season.
“We kind of planned ahead. We had 28 seniors, no juniors. It was a sparse sophomore class and then I had this huge freshman group,” Miller explained. “So, we kind of said, ‘We would love to keep all these freshman down but some of them have to start varsity next year.’ So, we kind of picked that group and put them on JV and trained them to expect to be varsity players now.”
The results have shown.
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