Kenny Hill can make molehills out of mountains.
Hill, Southlake Carroll's junior quarterback, has the Dragons (2-0) looking like a state championship contender and back in the AP top 10 for the first time since 2009.
But he had to face many challenges in the process, starting a little more than a year ago with a shocking conversation on opening gameday.
Hill was mentally and physically prepared after weeks of summer work, ready for his debut, a Thursday night start for Carroll's JV team.
In the middle of the Thursday morning offensive walk-through, Carroll's offensive coordinator, Clayton George, pulled Hill aside and told him he was moving up to varsity.
Projected starter Daxx Garman had been ruled ineligible; the Dragons needed Hill on the sideline Friday to back up new starter Drew Ahmuty. Hill had nothing but freshman experience and was one play away from taking the field on Friday night as Carroll's QB.
"It was crazy. My head was going crazy," said Hill, who left the walk-through to join a varsity offensive meeting immediately. "I was so focused in on my JV game. I was ready to go. Then I was just blown away by the news."
Hill, who was nervous, called his dad, former Rangers pitcher Ken Hill, as soon as he could.
"It was really hard at first, but talking to my dad made my nervousness turn into excitement," Hill said.
Hill settled down, played in a backup role for four games and made his first start against Keller on Oct. 1. The Dragons won 47-14 and went on to the quarterfinal round of the 5A Division II playoffs with Hill starting.
"We were tempted to play him more earlier, but we didn't want to throw him into the fire too soon," Carroll coach Hal Wasson said.
Now, an experienced junior, Hill is ripping up defenses. Through two games, he has completed 48 of 70 passes for 646 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.
"I think the game has really slowed down for Kenny, from a year ago," Wasson said. "He's maturing. Last year, we were having to tell him, somewhat, what he was seeing out on the field. This year, he comes off and he can tell us what he likes and doesn't like."
And Friday against Hurst L.D. Bell, six of Hill's incompletions were drops. The Carroll receivers dropped three in the season opener against Copperas Cove.
"That's what's scary," Wasson said. "Against L.D. Bell, he was 16 for 27. He could have easily been 23 or 24 for 28. And they have a good football team."
This year, Hill was able to work with the varsity receivers all off-season, unlike last season when he started the year having never practiced with them.
"Kenny is showing great composure and leadership," said Carroll WR Peyton Williams, who has 16 catches for 230 yards and three TDs this season. "When I'm running my routes, it's real comforting to know the ball will be right there at the right time. All of our routes, we work on all summer and in practices. It becomes second nature."
Hill, Williams, and the rest of Carroll's receiving corps -- including Sabian Holmes (16 receptions, 307 yards, four TDs) -- worked on routes for about an hour five times a week.
"It's way easier this year, because we have chemistry," Hill said. "The receivers know exactly what to do, and when the ball should be there. I know when they will get out of their breaks. The work is starting to pay off. I have a much better feel for their speed and their timing. Teams can't cover everyone. Someone is going to be open."
Hill is also leading Carroll in rushing with 152 yards on 35 attempts and two TDs.
"In today's world, having a dual-threat QB is a nice comfort," Wasson said. "Kenny is a big, physical kid. Like anything else, he's got good vision. And he's tough and finishes off runs. I see the will in him to win. He wants to be the guy."
With its confident leader, Southlake has high goals.
"I think we are capable of taking it all the way," Hill said. "We just have to keep our focus on our next game."
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760