When playing the quarterback position, timing is everything.
Whether it’s getting the ball to one of your receivers at the right time, or deciding to keep the ball on a read option play – every second can be crucial.
Golden Tornado quarterback Deacon Hill seems to have his timing locked down, as he has led a dangerous Santa Barbara offense to more than 40 points in its first two playoff games. After throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in the regular season, Hill has been more impressive in the pocket during the playoffs. He’s thrown for 543 yards and 8 TDs in two games – though it has been his running ability that is turning heads.
He carried the ball only 17 times in the playoffs for 75 yards, but his 25-yard scamper late in the game against Palm Desert helped Santa Barbara force the Aztecs to use all of their timeouts in hopes of getting one more shot with the ball.
Hill would go on to throw a 24-yard touchdown pass on a 4th and 11 play with just over a minute to go to put Santa Barbara two wins away from its ultimate goal.
“We have a bunch of read plays where I will read the end,” he said. “I give and I give and they finally bite and I pull the ball. It really comes in handy in clutch situations when they’re crashing hard and everybody gets to the running back and I’m running free.”
Hill has taken pride in his development as a leader this season. After serving as the backup quarterback for most of last season, he realized that even if he spoke up that not many people would take notice. He’s used his starting role on offense to lead others, while also leaning on seniors like Jackson Gonzales, Moki Nacario and Dakota Hill to keep the offense in check.
Hill has completed 30 of his 41 pass attempts in postseason play, something he credits to the chemistry and timing he’s developed with his wide outs.
“That’s always something that’s nice because you know exactly where they’re going to be and exactly where you want to go with the ball,” Hill said. “To see it all come together and see it on film, that’s been one of the best things so far.”
Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone said he has had many conversations with his QB on how to dictate the tempo and timing of the game. Stone was thrilled with Hill’s performance a week ago against Palm Desert and has high hopes in mind as the season rolls on.
Although Santa Barbara has now won seven games in a row dating back to the regular season, Hill said the team took a lot from its 31-6 loss against St. Bonaventure in September. The team was able to rally following the loss and ended up going unbeaten in Channel League play, including a 27-21 victory over Lompoc at the Braves home field.
“That game we really found out the personality of the team, who we can be and what we need to do moving forward,” Hill said.
Before the season even started, the junior signal caller announced his verbal commitment to Wisconsin. The early decision was calculated, but also came with risk involved.
“In one aspect, it put me at ease because I didn’t have to worry about recruiting,” he said. “I could just worry about my team and how I could get better with what we needed to do. But then the other aspect, there’s pressure behind it – he’s the quarterback going to Wisconsin, he’s got to play the perfect game.’
“This team has taken that off my shoulders. The defense has taken that off my shoulders. We mess up on offense and they take that off my shoulders and this offense can just go back out and we can do what we need to do.”
Hill said he has gotten letters from other schools and invites to attend games, but the Badger-to-be is locked in on his college choice.
“I don’t think I’m going to change my mind,” he said. “Wisconsin kept their word. They haven’t offered any other 2021 quarterbacks and they’re not taking a 2020 quarterback. I gave them my word and I’m not really going back on that.”
While Hill has enjoyed a stellar season on the gridiron, he fondly recalls his days in the pool as a water polo player. He switched to football full time as a sophomore, but said the time spent in the water helped him develop the arm strength that has made him the player he is today.
Throughout his junior season, Hill said he often wakes up to texts from Stone going over a route combination that may work later in the week, or an audible for the team to consider. If it’s not Stone filling up his inbox, its early morning texts from John Uribe, Santa Barbara’s record-setting quarterback from a decade ago who continued on to play football in college and is now playing for a team in Greece.
“He’s still playing, but if we make it to the ‘ship he’s coming back to the game. The time is way different but I get a text at like 3 a.m. He sends me pre-game notes, after game texts… and a scouting report.”
Santa Barbara’s Peabody Stadium remains under construction, which has forced the football team to take their show on the road for the past two seasons. Hill and his teammates have relished the chance to show off their talents for all to see.
“I call ourselves road warriors,” Hill said with a smile. “We had a huge crowd at that Palm Desert game and that’s a long trip, so it helps to have all of them there and cheering.
“Nothing really feels like an away game to us. It just feels like another day and another game.”