Hills providing thrills in Wildwood

Posted: October 17, 2012

WILDWOOD - Wesley Hills grew up in this resort town, not far from the neon lights and carnival attractions of the world-famous boardwalk.

But in the fall of 2012, it has been Maxwell Field, and not Morey's Pier, that has been the scene of Wildwood's wildest thrill ride.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hills has turned Warrior Stadium on Park Boulevard into the place to be on Friday nights at the Shore. He has turned Wildwood football into a happening.

"It's been great to see so many people come out and watch our games," Hills said. "It means a lot to me and my teammates."

Hills leads South Jersey with 1,536 rushing yards. He's on pace to break Glassboro senior Corey Clement's year-old record of 2,510 rushing yards in a season.

Hills has run for more than 200 yards in every game as Wildwood has opened 4-2 to move into position to qualify for the program's first playoff appearance. Wildwood, two-year-old Cedar Creek, and Cherry Hill West are the only South Jersey teams that have not made the playoffs since the creation of the tournament in 1974.

"That's a big goal of ours," Hills said of making the playoffs.

On Sept. 28 against Maple Shade, Hills ran for 452 yards and eight touchdowns in a 61-34 victory. His rushing total set a South Jersey record - although Clement eclipsed it by running for 478 later that night against Gloucester - and his eight touchdowns tied the South Jersey record set by Florence's Roger Morton in 1950 against now-defunct Egg Harbor City High School.

Asked about holding the South Jersey single-game rushing record for less than an hour, Hills said, "I was happy for him [Clement]. All props to him. I just told myself I have to do it again."

Hills ran for 266 yards and three touchdowns last Friday in a 32-20 loss to Schalick.

"He's the real deal," Schalick coach Seth Brown said. "He's a phenomenal football player."

Hills is a bit of a late bloomer. He was a standout player for the Wildwood Junior Warriors in youth football but didn't project as a future South Jersey rushing leader, according to Wildwood coach Rich Hans.

"He was one of those tall, lanky kids, and he had to grow into his body," Hans said.

Hills ran for 1,270 yards last season, as Wildwood went 2-8. But he worked hard on his speed, strength, and conditioning during the summer.

"I knew I had to get stronger and faster," Hills said. "I put in the time, and it's made the difference."

Hills made an unofficial recruiting visit to Rutgers on Saturday, but doesn't have a scholarship offer from the Scarlet Knights. He has drawn interest from programs such as Old Dominion, James Madison, Bowling Green, and Wagner. He has a scholarship offer from Towson.

"It was amazing to me to go up to Rutgers and meet the coaches," Hills said. "I never thought they would look at somebody from a little school like Wildwood."

Wildwood is the second-smallest public school in the state that plays football, according to the NJSIAA. The school has 186 students in grades 10-12.

Wildwood has struggled to be competitive in football for years. The Warriors were 1-32 from 2007-10, and at times in the recent past has been forced to compete at the junior-varsity level because of a lack of numbers.

But Hills and his teammates have a chance to make history this season. Wildwood has a pivotal game Friday at Gloucester (4-1), another South Jersey Group 1 playoff contender.

"We were tired of the excuses, tired of losing," Hills said. "We wanted to show that 22 kids can win games."

Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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