The Clinton Dark Horse football program has always been rich with tradition. From the state championships, deep playoff runs and the savvy on the sidelines from head coach Bob Lewis, tradition has been a staple of Dark Horse football.
Although on the field, the Horses have a tradition that is matched by few high school football programs, it is also the traditions off the field that help mold the program into what it is.
One of those traditions was started by former Clinton assistant coach, Robert Hill Sr., over 25 years ago. If the Dark Horses are still in the playoffs when Thanksgiving Day, then the Hill family prepares a breakfast for the entire team.
“It was something that dad always wanted to do,” said Hobbton High’s head coach Robert Hill Jr. “He thought it was important, especially that late in the season, to have the guys together on Thanksgiving. He felt that it helped build team chemistry, and it was hard to argue with that logic.”
Hill noted that his father only would do the breakfast if the Horses were in the playoffs at Thanksgiving.
“Although it was something that started pretty small, that has been an incentive for the guys to win long enough to be playing. I ran into a player not long ago in town, and heard them saying that they hoped to still be playing on Thanksgiving so they could come to the Hill’s home and eat breakfast,” continued Hill. “My dad always was keen on doing this, and when he passed away in 2004, the tradition kind of stopped for a little while. With Clinton advancing far enough last season, and then again this season, we have been fortunate enough to do it for these past two years.”
Hill said that his hope is to have a problem where he’s trying to feed two teams on Thanksgiving in the future, meaning that his Hobbton team and the Dark Horses would each still be playing late in the playoffs.
Without Hill Sr., the family has had to really come together to make this event a possibility each of the past two years.
“It’s a family effort,” said Margie Hill, wife of the late Hill Sr. “We really feel like doing this helps bring Robert Sr. back, and we know that if he was alive, no matter what, he would want this to happen. We feel like we owe that to him, and seeing the looks on the boys’ faces, and seeing how much they enjoy the event, it makes all of the work that goes into it worth it,” she finished.
Feeding a football team isn’t easy. All 46 of the Dark Horse players attended the breakfast this year, which called for 33 pounds of sausage, 21 pounds of ham, and 30 dozen eggs. The initial 5 gallons of milk and 5 gallons of orange juice were not enough, as the Hill family had to go out and purchase an extra 4 gallons of beverages.
The Hill family had to begin preparing the breakfast at 6:15 a.m., to feed the team by 8, before their 10 a.m. practice.
Clinton’s head coach Bob Lewis is very grateful for what the Hill family does for the Dark Horse program. “It is a very nice gesture of them to do for the team,” he said. “All of our players made the breakfast this year, so it is something that they enjoy, and something that they are grateful for as well.”
With a huge game on the horizon, and a state championship berth on the line Friday night for the Dark Horses when they travel to Bunn, they will have another chance to add to their rich legacy on the field.
As the Hill family has shown this year, and in many years in the past, it takes more than just a football team to make for a great football program.
Reach Adam Capps at 910-214-9585