By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Catching up with Coach Hill

Thomas Patterson/The Statesman JournalFormer Sprague football coach RObin Hill watches from the sidelines during a game vs. McNary in Oct. 2011. Hill was hired this week by McMinnville to coach football.
Thomas Patterson/The Statesman Journal
Former Sprague football coach RObin Hill watches from the sidelines during a game vs. McNary in Oct. 2011. Hill was hired this week by McMinnville to coach football.

Hill hasn’t had much time in the fall or winter to take a vacation, so after he took a year off from football after the 2011 season, Hill decided to make up for lost time. Just before the start of the 2012 football season, Hill and his wife, Karen, took their RV on a nine-week trip around the United States and parts of Canada. They saw all the national parks. They went down the Eastern Seaboard and caught a Red Sox-Yankees game. They visited Washington D.C., but all the while, football was still on Hill’s brain.

“It was neat to have time away in the fall just because I’ve never had it,” said Hill, who was hired this week by McMinnville to coach football, “but it became apparent that I was going to need to coach again just because I missed it so much.”

Hill, speaking while on vacation in Hawaii, said he kept up with the Sprague coaching staff, and they sent him film every week after the Olympians played. The Hills got back to Salem in time to catch the final few games of the regular season.

“I was watching the games through the eyes of a coach,” he said. “It became apparent I needed to coach. My wife knew too.”

After retiring from his coaching and teach job at Sprague, Hill said he knew he was going to do something, but he made a commitment to his wife to take a year off to ponder all the options. He had a number of things to consider, and the McMinnville opening kept coming up. After speaking with athletic director Mark Hinthorn and Principal Kris Olsen, Hill said he liked the idea of moving to McMinnville.

“It’s a cute little town,” Hill said. “It’s a one-high school town. I just love the idea of being a part of a community like that. It piqued my interest.”

The Hills have already sold their house in Salem, and when they get back at the end of next week they will start looking at homes in McMinnville

While sitting on a beach in Hawaii, Hill said he already has the plot points of a plan. He brings with him 25 years of success running the wing-T offense in some fashion, though he said any good coach makes his offense adaptable to the talent. He said the most immediate concern will be filling out his coaching staff, and he said he plans on talking to the remaining coaches who coached for Mac last season. Defensive coordinator Luke Buchheit already has left the program, taking the head baseball coaching position at Sprague.

Hill also has a broader, more idealistic plan for the future of McMinnville football.

“The school has 2,000 kids,” he said. “There’s no reason McMinnville couldn’t be turned into a powerhouse.

“It felt neat to me to take my experience that I have and go improve a program. McMinnville hasn’t been a bottom dweller, but it’s a program that is on the verge of being better than it has been. It was enticing.”

Hill coached the Olympians to 20 playoff appearances, and twice led them to the state championship game. Sprague lost in 1999 in the 4A title game, but it won in 2004, defeating Lake Oswego. He takes over a McMinnville program that has gone 5-5 the past two seasons. The Grizzlies finished fourth in the Pacific Conference the past two seasons and qualified for the state playoffs only to be knocked out in the first round.

The Grizzlies lost 49-42 at home in 2012 vs. Sunset. It was Mac’s first home playoff game in seven years. The year before Mac lost to Jesuit in the first round.

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