JEROMESVILLE — At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Hillsdale senior Ty Williams looks exactly how a high school linebacker ought to look.
What distinguishes Williams from his peers, however, has more to do with his mental approach to the game than any of his physical attributes.
“Ty is one of the best leaders I’ve seen in our program,” Hillsdale football coach Trevor Cline said. “It doesn’t matter whether if it’s in school or in the weight room or in practice or on Friday night, he’s going to show up and do what’s best for the team.
“It’s his work ethic that has allowed him to accomplish the things he has.”
That list of accomplishments grew even longer after last week’s 25-17 win over Waynedale. With 11 tackles against the Golden Bears, Williams broke a tie with former teammate and 2020 graduate Briar Funk to assume the mantle of Hillsdale’s career tackles king. The four-year starter now has 442 career stops, including 68 through five games during this pandemic-shortened six-game regular season.
“It shows we’ve had a lot of success on defense throughout my years,” Williams said. “It’s always great to have an accomplishment like that, especially when the guy I’m beating out is Briar. We’re buddies and we played together for three years.”
Funk broke Hillsdale’s career tackles record last year, but said at the time he was only keeping the seat warm for Williams.
“We talked a little at the end of last year and during the off-season,” Williams said. “He knew it was going to happen.”
As valuable as he is defensively, Williams is every bit as important to Hillsdale’s multi-dimensional offensive attack. He leads the team in both rushing (46 carries for 286 yards and four touchdowns) and receiving (36 catches for 423 yards and five TDs) and even lined up at quarterback during Hillsdale’s run to the second round of the playoffs last fall after regular signal-caller Caden Mutchler was injured.
“We ask him to play multiple positions,” Cline said, “and wherever we move him, he finds a way to execute.”
Mutchler has thrown for 842 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Cole Sinnett has 16 catches for 60 yards and two TDs, while Justin Zeigler has 26 grabs for 352 yards and five scores.
The Falcons have also gotten good production from both Brandon Reardon (33 carries, 270 yards, two TDs) and Ethan Goodwin (33 carries, 114 yards, two TDs) in the running game.
“We have guys who can play multiple positions,” Cline said. “It does create mismatches in the defense.”
Still, opposing coaches and defensive coordinators know Williams is the catalyst in Hillsdale’s attack.
“You have to focus on Williams, but you can’t over-focus,” Waynedale coach Louie Stanley said. “They have a nice mixed offense.”
Williams broke into the starting lineup as a freshman and helped the Falcons reach the regional championship game before falling to Liberty-Benton. The Falcons advanced to the regional semifinals each of the past two seasons and will be in the playoffs this fall as the Ohio High School Athletic Association opened the tournament to every school wishing to play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Any time you are a four-year starter, especially on a team that has been to the playoffs each year you’ve been in school, that’s a pretty big deal,” Cline said.
Hillsdale (3-2) will have its hands full this week, visiting Northwestern (4-1). The Falcons have a pair of Wayne County Athletic League losses to Norwayne and Dalton.
“We’re still figuring some things out defensively,” Williams said. “We’re getting better.”
Playing in the rugged WCAL will prepare Williams and his teammates for whatever they encounter in the postseason.
“It’s nice playing in the WCAL because you’re going to have battles week-in and week-out,” Cline said. “If you are a team that makes the playoffs, you are ready to compete.”