Jim Hill is usually insulated from the action, his perch in the Colonial Forge press box far removed from the contusion-causing contact below.
The evening of Sept. 13, 2013 stands as an exception. Hill was working just his second game as the Eagles’ varsity football public address announcer, a tight contest against a Hermitage squad riding a 40-game regular season win streak.
In overtime, Colonial Forge needed an extra point to send the game to a second extra period. Hill’s gaze was fixed on the official, who was positioned just behind the goal post. The kick appeared to glance off the left goalpost, but both officials threw up their hands in unison.
No sooner had Hill pushed the button and made his call than something stung his right leg. It was a CD, flung through the trap door by a disgruntled Hermitage coach atop the press box.
“I’ll never forget that game as long as I live,” said Hill, 63.
Occupational hazards notwithstanding, Hill has become a fixture behind the mic. Entering the fall, he’s called 504 Colonial Forge zames across all sports. Hill likens a PA announcer’s role to that of an umpire.
“If you don’t notice the announcer, if you don’t notice the umpire, they did a good job,” he said.
That doesn’t mean Hill’s work has gone under the radar. In 2014, he won the Bob Sheppard national high school P.A. announcer of the year award from the NASPAA. In addition to calling games, Hill updates the school’s athletics website as a defacto sports information director.
Colonial Forge athletic director Jeff Berry said he doesn’t have to worry about whether his announcer will show up, or if a miscue with stadium music will result in a deluge of angry emails the following morning.
“It’s pro-level type of work, and that eases my mind,” Berry said.
Senior Madden Lowe reprises his role at quarterback and should be more fluent in the Eagles’ offense entering his second season as starter, but many of his skill-position teammates from last year have graduated, including all-state selection Josh Sarratt. Jamal Thomas will start at running back, while Max Kauthen provides a power element in short-yardage situations. After adding a substantial amount of weight in the offseason, 6-foot-1 Elijah Sarratt figures to be Lowe’s top target in the passing game. Seniors Mason Rega and Chase Harley will anchor the offensive line at left guard and left tackle, respectively.
Mike Vinson, a second-team all-state selection at defensive end, will be utilized as a pass rusher and also see snaps at outside linebacker. Rega is slated to start both ways and eat up double teams at nose tackle. Returning starters Josh Johnson and Kauthen are sure tacklers at inside linebacker. Speedy senior Avery Johnson-Edmonds returns at corner, while Sarratt will keep up the family tradition of roving the secondary as a ballhawking safety.
Junior Phillip Lovelace will handle kicking and punting duties for a second straight season. Johnson-Edmonds has emerged as the top threat in the Eagles’ return game.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In contrast to recent seasons, defense will likely buoy the Eagles as Lowe adjusts to new personnel at the skill positions. September dates against Class 5 state finalist Freedom and perennially talented rival Hylton will test Colonial Forge’s mettle early, and they face four-time defending Class 5 state champion Highland Springs in October. That gauntlet also assures the Eagles will be a battle-tested group come the postseason.