By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
ONSTED – Travis Hill only played in three games for the Onsted football team last season.
But it was those three games that helped pave the way for the senior to rush for more than 1,300 yards and help the Wildcats reach this weekend’s Division 6 Semifinals.
Hill broke his collarbone at practice the Wednesday before Onsted’s season opener in 2018.
“They told me I wouldn’t be back that season,” Hill said. “I recovered quick, I guess.”
Hill’s competitive drive put him on the fast track. He was back on the field for the final three games of the season. The Wildcats finished 3-6 on the year, but Hill’s return was important.
“It was pretty difficult (to come back),” Hill said. “But, those three games helped me be mentally prepared. … The first couple of plays, I was hesitant. But ever since then, I’ve felt good and confident in it.”
Last football season wasn’t the first time Hill had to miss time from the court or field. He broke the same collarbone during his sophomore basketball season. He was one of the key players on Brad Maska’s varsity hoops team when he went down with the injury.
“Travis is as competitive as any athlete I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached a lot of really competitive guys,” said Maska. “He’s one of those rare athletes who could be all-state in baseball, all-state in basketball and all-state in football. He works hard and has a lot of drive.”
A healthy Hill has paid huge dividends for the Wildcats football team. Onsted started this season 2-0, slipped to 2-2 and hasn’t lost since. Two playoff wins avenged the Wildcats’ two regular-season losses – against Blissfield and Lenawee County Athletic Association champion Hillsdale.
“It’s been great and so much fun,” Hill said.
“We had a hot start, and then lost two games in a row. We could have either went up north and played really well, or we could have went south. We decided to get our stuff together and play well as a team. We’ve been playing pretty well since then.”
Hill has been a big reason why.
Through the Regional Final win over Hillsdale, Hill has 186 carries for 1,312 yards on the ground and another 23 receptions for 390 yards receiving. He has rushed for 14 touchdowns, caught four passes for touchdowns and returned a kick for a score.
On defense, he has 52 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown.
He seldom takes a play off.
“He’s very talented but, more than that, it’s his competitive spirit,” Onsted coach Dan Terryberry said. “He just wants to win so bad. He’s explosive and doesn’t want to be denied.”
The Wildcats will face Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in their Division 6 Semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ypsilanti Lincoln High School. For Onsted, this has been the deepest run in the playoffs since Hill’s uncles – including one of the most prolific passers in Lenawee County history John Hutchinson – led the Wildcats to the 1993 Class CC championship game.
Hill isn’t the only 1,000-yard back in the Wildcats’ backfield. Terryberry also leans heavily on Rourke Barth (1,025 yards). Junior quarterback Dylan Terryberry has more than 1,000 yards passing.
Coach Terryberry credits the Wildcats offensive line for much of the success.
“This is the first year that line has played all together, and a couple of them are playing new positions,” said Coach Terryberry. “They have grown a lot this season. They’ve bought in and are playing well.”
Dylan Stevens is one of those linemen. He’s a senior, like Hill, and is glad to have his classmate back for this season.
“It’s made a huge difference,” Stevens said. “Travis is an outstanding athlete on both sides of the ball. Not having him last year hurt us quite a bit.”
Terryberry, in his 16th season as Onsted’s head coach, is from Charlevoix. A former high school quarterback, he walked on at Michigan State. He started teaching and coaching at Tecumseh, where he served as offensive coordinator for the varsity football team and as the junior varsity head coach.
Having Hill play in those three games at the end of the 2018 season, Terryberry said, put any fears about the injury to rest.
“He’s pretty fearless and super competitive,” Terryberry said.
Hill has had numerous big games. He had 190 yards rushing against Dundee, and more than 175 against Blissfield in the first round of the playoffs. The Onsted faithful are hoping for at least one more big game Saturday against the Falcons (10-1), who were the No. 1-ranked team in the final regular-season Associated Press poll.
“It’s been a great experience so far, and we hope we aren’t done yet,” Hill said. “… I think it’s a mindset. We’ve played well. We knew we had the opportunity; if we put the work in, we could just keep going and keep going farther.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTO: Onsted's Travis Hill (No. 5) rushed for more than 1,300 yards this season, a year after missing six games due to breaking his collarbone. (Photo courtesy of Onsted Athletics/T.J. Olsen.)
Five showdowns of undefeated teams highlight this week's Michigan high school statewide schedule as we begin our second-half buildup toward the end of the regular season.
If you're not watching in person, check out most of the matchups highlighted below, and several others, on MHSAA.tv. Check in as well with the MHSAA Scores page for all of them as they come in. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)
Bay & Thumb
Croswell-Lexington (5-0) at Almont (5-0) - Watch
Just past halfway through the Blue Water Area Conference schedule, half the teams are 3-1 or 4-0 in league play – with these the co-leaders. Croswell-Lexington hasn’t played a game closer than 19 points this fall, but did lose last year’s meeting with Almont 37-26. The Raiders, meanwhile, have won the last two weeks by seven and one point, respectively – but opened the season with three straight shutouts as the stifling defense they’ve become known for has given up only 34 points total.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (3-2) - Watch, Linden (4-1) at Fenton (4-1) - Watch, Birch Run (4-1) at Freeland (5-0) - Watch, Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1) at Marine City (4-1).
Westland John Glenn (5-0) at Belleville (5-0) - Watch
Belleville’s 42-3 victory over Livonia Franklin last week was the team’s 30th straight, and the Tigers now own the state’s longest active winning streak with Powers North Central’s coming to an end at 41 on the same night. Belleville’s next challenger is John Glenn, which under second-year coach Jason Mensing has as many victories this fall as the last two combined and has nearly guaranteed its first winning season since 2014. Mensing guided his former team Ottawa Lake Whiteford through several memorable moments, and this will be the Rockets’ biggest so far under his leadership.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Trenton (4-1) - Watch, Romeo (3-2) at Macomb Dakota (4-1) - Watch, Lake Orion (5-0) at Rochester Adams (3-2) - Watch, Marine City Cardinal Mooney (3-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (3-2) - Watch.
Goodrich (5-0) at Corunna (5-0) - Watch
The winner of this matchup clinches a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship, similar to last season when Goodrich won the league and Corunna was second thanks to the Martians’ 42-7 win in their Week 5 matchup. Both arguably have been even better this fall. Goodrich has handed the only losses this season to Frankenmuth and Linden, and Corunna has given up only 31 points this season and no more than 17 in a game while scoring at least 38 every time out.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (4-1) at Beal City (5-0) - Watch, Grand Ledge (5-0) at DeWitt (2-2) - Watch, Fowler (5-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1) - Watch, Montrose (4-1) at New Lothrop (4-1) - Watch.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Charlevoix (4-1) at Elk Rapids (2-3)
There’s more riding here than the initial glance my indicate. Charlevoix, with a win, would clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title – its first since 2020 and after finishing second to Boyne City both of the past two seasons. The Rayders haven’t had a game closer than 13 points since falling to Traverse City St. Francis by one in their season opener. Elk Rapids got off to a tough start but has won two straight – both in shutouts – and is looking for its first win over Charlevoix since 2018.
Southeast & Border
Jackson (4-1) at Adrian (4-1) - Watch
Jackson has a chance to set up a Week 7 winner-take-all matchup with Chelsea for the Southeastern Conference White championship – a nice jump after finishing third last season. The Vikings haven’t defeated Chelsea since 2018 but lost by a respectable 17-0 last fall. But they can’t overlook Adrian, still enjoying its best season since 2016 despite falling to Chelsea 28-18 last week. The Maples would love to hand Jackson a loss tonight and cheer for the Vikings next week with a title share possible.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Michigan Center (4-1) at Grass Lake (4-1) - Watch, Flat Rock (4-1) at Milan (3-2) - Watch, Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Saline (5-0) - Watch, Hudson (5-0) at Blissfield (3-2) - Watch.
Parma Western (5-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1)
We’re halfway through the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference schedule, and this has emerged as an important matchup with Parma Western tied with Hastings for first and Harper Creek only a game back after falling to the Saxons 34-6 last week. The Beavers struggled to 3-6 a year ago but already have avenged 2022 losses to Battle Creek Lakeview, Battle Creek Central and Marshall – and Western defeated them 34-0 last season before Harper Creek went 2-1 to finish the fall. Western’s defense is a notable strength again, giving up only 37 points total this season despite taking on Dearborn Divine Child and Detroit Country Day over the first two weeks.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-0) at Edwardsburg (3-2) - Watch, Constantine (4-1) at Allegan (4-1) - Watch, St. Joseph (3-2) at Portage Northern (5-0) - Watch, Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2) at Schoolcraft (4-1) - Watch.
Gladstone (4-1) at Menominee (5-0)
This is the first of three games that will tell a lot about Menominee’s season as the Maroons enter this stretch alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper at 4-0 but with Gladstone, Week 7 opponent Negaunee and Week 8 opponent Kingsford all 3-1 in league play. While this is a new conference for the Maroons this season, they have plenty of history with Gladstone as both came from the Great Northern Conference – and Menominee had won three straight in the series before Gladstone’s 28-6 victory last fall. Gladstone’s lone defeat this year came Week 3 to Kingsford, 35-12.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) - Watch, Manistique (3-2) at Iron Mountain (5-0) - Watch, Marquette (2-2) at Escanaba (1-4) - Watch, Houghton (2-3) at Calumet (1-4) - Watch.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at East Grand Rapids (5-0)
We’ve been watching East Grand Rapids’ rejuvenation this fall with this among games circled for special attention, and Forest Hills Central’s 15-14 loss to Byron Center last week hardly lessens the intrigue. The Rangers are still among favorites statewide in Division 3, ranked No. 2, and East Grand Rapids is right behind them this week at No. 3 (while Byron Center is No. 2 in Division 2). The Ottawa-Kent Conference White title won’t be decided with this matchup, but it surely will be impacted – and the Rangers have defeated EGR all three times they’ve met since the Pioneers rejoined the division in 2020.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allendale (5-0) at Spring Lake (4-1), Lowell (4-1) at Byron Center (5-0), Caledonia (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1) - Watch, Zeeland East (4-1) at Muskegon (3-2).
Mendon (5-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0) - Watch
Movement on the overall 8-player enrollment list have made this a matchup we’ll see just this once this fall, as Mendon – last year’s Division 2 runner-up – has moved to Division 1 and is ranked No. 2, while Lenawee Christian is top-ranked in Division 2 after winning Division 1 titles in 2020 and 2021 and reaching a Regional Final last year. Still, many 8-player eyes will be watching. The Cougars have given up just 32 points this season and no more than 12 in a game, and that defense should be part of the key matchup within the matchup because Mendon is scoring 52 per contest and coming off an 80-point performance.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (5-0) at Coleman (4-1) - Watch, Brown City (5-0) at Mayville (5-0) - Watch, St. Ignace (5-0) at Newberry (4-1), Norway (4-1) at Ontonagon (4-1) - Watch.
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PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central and Orchard View players reach to get a hand on the ball during their meeting this season. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)