Victory worth one final climb for Hill

By: Erick Taylor
Published: Monday, December 3, 2018
Little Rock Christian quarterback Justice Hill (3) shoves away Pulaski Academy safety Blake Titus (34) during the fourth quarter of Little Rock Christian's 52-38 win in the Class 5A State Championship football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Little Rock Christian quarterback Justice Hill (3) shoves away Pulaski Academy safety Blake Titus (34) during the fourth quarter of Little Rock Christian's 52-38 win in the Class 5A State Championship football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

— Justice Hill had plenty of time to think about what would've happened had he played in Little Rock Christian's 56-14 loss to Pulaski Academy on Sept. 28 but living in the past was the last thing on his mind going into Sunday's Class 5A state championship.

For Hill, who has signed to play basketball for the University of Arkansas, it was all about the present and what he could do to help the Warriors win the rematch.

"All I wanted to do was come out and do what I could to lift my team," he said. "We've been dealing with so much adversity this year and all through the playoffs. When we played [Pulaski Academy] in that first game, the team had to deal with adversity.

"We said in the tunnel before we came out that we knew we'd face adversity against them again, but if everybody stayed the course, the better team would win. We didn't win that first one, but we thought we were the better team [Sunday], and we came out on top."

The senior quarterback made sure Little Rock Christian ended its 2018 season at the top of its class with a performance that left Coach Eric Cohu shaking his head afterwards. After a disastrous start, Hill bounced back to complete 12 of 25 passes for 218 yards with 2 touchdowns and carried 15 times for 112 yards and 2 more scores as the Warriors put an end to the Bruins' run as Class 5A kingpins with a 52-38 victory in front of a spirited crowd at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

"I can't really say enough about him," Cohu said of the game's Most Valuable Player. "I mean, look at the kind of start he had. He probably had a little bit too much adrenaline going on early because he didn't get to play against them that first time.

"But he came back, settled down and made plays. That's what he's done for us all year long, and he delivered again in this one."

Hill was nursing a hamstring injury in the earlier meeting against Pulaski Academy and admitted he was a bit "amped" up at the start. That excitement may have played a part on the Warriors' first offensive snap. After Little Rock Christian recovered an onside-kick attempt following the Bruins' first touchdown, Hill had the ball slip out of his hand on the ensuing play and was intercepted by Pulaski Academy junior linebacker Chris Connell. The Bruins scored seven plays later to take a 14-0 lead.

"I may have been a little too excited at the beginning," Hill said. "I was so hurt out there watching the guys lose the first time against them. I transferred from PA in the fifth grade so I know all of those guys.

"I just had to settle down. To get the opportunity to play against them for a championship is big so I had to try to take advantage of it and do the things I know I'm capable of doing."

Hill shook off the turnover to toss a 45-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver M.J. Loggins on the Warriors' next possession. He then led Little Rock Christian to scores on its first four series of the second half as the Warriors erased a 31-21 halftime deficit. Hill's 4-yard touchdown run with 5:02 to go in the game virtually locked up the victory.

"It's just incredible because it was all God's plan," said Hill, who's set to enroll at Arkansas later this month. "I've been telling the team that we were going to win the state title ever since I came back out for football. Knowing I'm about to be in Fayetteville in 17 days to begin my college career, I can't think of a better way to go out."

Sports on 12/03/2018

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