Student vs. Teacher as Centennial visits Lee County baseball today

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- Jake Hill won't be coming back home just for mama's cooking today.

The former Lee County Trojan from 1993-97 is in his first season as head coach at Centennial High School, a AAAAA school in South Cobb County. Hill and his former high school coach, longtime Lee County head man Rob Williams, will face each other today at 2 p.m. at Trojans Field, where Hill spent many an afternoon roaming right field.

"When I got the job (at Centennial), one of the first things (Williams) said was he wanted me to come down there and play them," Hill said. "I wanted to do it anyway, but he beat me to the punch."

Centennial, which has started the season 1-1, will play Westover (2-3) first today at noon and then Lee County (3-0) afterward.

Williams, who has faced former players turned coaches before, will welcome back the ex-Trojan with open arms.

"It's going to be good to see him because he wore the red and white," said Williams, who has won 465 games as a head coach, compared to Hill's one. "Once the first pitch is made, I know he's going to get after us as hard as they can and we'll get after them as hard as we can."

It's a 400-mile round trip, so Hill said he's in it for more than just a weekend afternoon back home. He'll throw his No. 1 pitcher, junior righty Stuart Mals, while the Trojans will counter with junior Phillip Anderson, who transferred from Thomson High and won Lee County's season opener against Westover.

"I'm not going in there as a scrimmage or nothing," Hill said. "We definitely want to come down there and win. It's exciting coming home and playing. My parents still live there and I think a lot of people that I know are coming."

Hill went on to graduate from Georgia Southwestern after high school before coaching as an assistant at East Paulding and then moving over to Centennial High in 2005. Former Knights coach Billy Nicholson left to take over newly created Johns Creek High School and Hill was asked to step in.

One of his first calls after taking the head job was to Williams, who has coached for more than a quarter century.

"A lot of what I do, is what he does," Hill said. "It's definitely worked down there for him."

With just five seniors, Hill's job at Centennial is a tough one, especially playing in a loaded Region 6-AAAAA against the likes of Lassiter, Walton, Pope and Kell high schools. In the last four years, only one team outside of that region has won the GHSA Class AAAAA state title.

"We're young," Hill said. "A lot of the (underclassmen) played last year, so we're an experienced young, if that makes sense."

Hill actually coached with Williams for three years as a community coach before moving on. The Trojans' head coach remembers Hill fondly.

"Jake, when he came through here, he was a good solid baseball player, a team player," Williams said. "He did a lot of great things for us."

The two have talked a good bit leading up to the season, although Williams likes to joke that he hasn't heard from Hill as their first meeting nears.

"I had been talking to him semi-regular leading up to this week," Williams said. "Maybe he doesn't want me to know what's going on."

There's nothing like beating your former coach, a little sweet revenge for those extra wind sprints at the end of practice years ago.

"It would be nice," Hill said of beating Lee County and Williams, who has faced former players who went into coaching before - Brian Rainwater (Warner Robins, Houston County) and Nate Pennington (Statesboro).

Still, Hill holds Williams in high regard after the success he's had in his 22 years leading Lee County baseball.

"Just playing against coach Williams, one of the best high school coaches in the state, a Hall of Famer," Hill said. "I've done my best to pick his brain, not just about on the field, but off the field responsibilities of a head coach. He's just been a great help, almost a mentor for me."