Dolan Hills had some big footsteps to follow with the Hunting Hills Lightning football program, and he’s more than excelled.
Hills, who had Edward Kim and Kallen Vickery as role models, has turned into one of the premier linebackers in the province.
After competing for both the U16 and U17 Alberta squads he was selected to the Team Alberta U18 team to compete in the Canada Cup this July in Calgary.
“Any time you play provincially it”s a great experience,” said the six-foot, 200-pound Grade 11 student. “It definitely helped me playing with the provincial teams as I could draw on that experience. I went in knowing a lot of the players and the coaches. But I also went in trying my hardest, as I always do.”
The provincial team coaches know what they’re getting from Hills and didn’t have to tell him much.
“Just practice my drills and work on my foot work,” he said.
Hills became involved in football when he was eight and in the Red Deer Minor Football Association atom program. He played peewee and bantam and helped the Hunting Hills bantams win the league title and reach the provincial semifinals.
With Team Alberta he’s listed as a middle linebacker but spent the last two years on the outside with the Lightning.
“When I was younger I played linebacker and some running back, and did play a little on the O line,” he explained. “But I enjoy linebacker and be the one doing the hitting. I like playing on the outside as I’m used in coverage and rush the quarterback, which is exciting.”
One of the things with football, which is a big worry these days, is head shots and concussions. Dolan says that’s talked about at all levels.
“All the coaches at high school and Team Alberta, talk about that and making sure we work on form tackling, not using our head,” said the 17-year-old. “It’s important for sure and the coaches know what they’re doing.”
Physically Hills has all the attributes to be a star player plus he understands what it takes to excel.
“The mental side is extremely important,” he said. “You have to know your assignments … prepare before the game, know what is expected of you and what you have to do.”
Hills watches game film almost every day and not just for his position.
“I like to know what the defensive backs and defensive linemen are doing as well, so we’re all on the same page.”
Hills looks back at Kim and Vickery as leaders in his development.
“Eddy Kim took me under his wing when I first got with the team and really helped me, as did Kallen. They taught me the tricks of the trade and what to do. We also have good linebacker coaches and all the veteran players do a good job of working with the younger guys, no matter if they’re starters or backups.
“I know for myself, going into Grade 12, it will be important to work with the younger guys in Grade 10 and help them develop.”
Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick likes the leadership shown by his veteran players.
“That really helps the development of the younger guys,” he said. “Dolan will be that way. He’s one of our leaders. He’s also very athletic, fit and works hard.”
Hlls attended camps with the junior Edmonton Huskies and Wildcats, but isn’t sure what he’ll do after high school.
“It was a great experience to go to their camps, but I’m not sure what I will do yet. I have a year to decide … even decide what I want to take in university.”
* This is the second of three columns on Red Deer high school players who are on the U16 and U18 Team Alberta football teams.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org