After working for nearly a decade as an assistant in established football programs such as East St. Louis and Cahokia, Mike Hill admits he didn’t know what to expect when he was hired this summer as head coach at Madison High School.
Madison, after all, had not fielded a football team of its own since at least 1992. Quality equipment and experienced players were scarce and even those who were part of a co-op team the past two years with Metro East Lutheran had never experienced a victory.
But seven weeks into the reincarnation of Madison football, the Trojans are 5-2 and a win away from locking up their first IHSA playoff spot since 1986 and just the second in school history.
“Man, its been a wild ride,” Hill said. “I didn’t know how this would go and so to be 5-2 with a chance to make the playoffs, I didn’t really expect to have this kind of success this early. I think what really helped us when my brother (former East St. Louis head coach) Terry Hill and (former NFL player and East St. Louis assistant) came over as assistant coaches to help us out.
“Those guys know how to win and what it takes to win. The players have bought into what we’re trying to do and have worked hard to get it done. We’re having a great time and playing some very good football right now.”
The Trojans latest display of good football came on Friday with a 27-7 win at Pawnee.
Senior quarterback Rhyheem Samuels went over the 1,000 passing yard mark. In the meantime, the defense has allowed just 87 points all year. The win is the second in a row for Madison and its third in the past four weeks.
Madison needs to win one of its last two remaining regular season games to reach the six wins needed to clinch a spot in the Class 1A playoffs. The Trojans host (Kincaid) South Fork (4-3) on Saturday then close out their regular season on Oct. 20 at winless Dupo (0-7).
Hill said one of the things he and his coaching staff has tried to instill in the Trojans program is discipline.
“It was difficult for the kids who played as part of the co-op program with Metro East Lutheran. I don’t think there was a lot of discipline there,” Hill said. “We’re trying to let the kids know that if they are late for practice that there will be actions taken.
“We’re here to help these kids and to teach them.”