Mansfield’s Jeff Hill is catching on at Bentley
Jeff Hill always has his eye on the end zone.
The career leader in touchdown receptions at Mansfield High, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver is off to a prolific start in the first 13 games of his collegiate career at Bentley University.
On Friday night, the lanky sophomore hauled in a 70-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Danny Guadagnoli with 51 seconds left to lift the Falcons (3-0) to their third straight victory, a 21-14 thriller at Northeast-10 Conference rival Assumption.
Hill has 17 receptions this season, six for touchdowns. Including last season, he has nine touchdowns on just 23 receptions in those 13 games.
“An unusual percentage of his catches go for touchdowns, and they are all long yardage catches, so he’s a go-to guy, for sure,” said Bentley coach Thom Boerman. “Jeff is a big, tall kid and he can leap out of the building.”
Hill finished the night with eight catches for 146 yards.
“We wanted to seal the deal and we didn’t want to try a field goal,” Hill said of the game-winning drive against the Greyhounds. “Danny threw a great pass and I did my job to get to the ball. We worked on fades all summer to get our timing down.”
Starting from his own 7, Guadagnoli (22 of 28, 344 yards) connected on four short passes, to Hill and senior Sean Cross (Duxbury High) and two more to senior Bill Kiley (Quincy/Boston College High), advancing the ball to the 30. Then he fired a deep pass down the right sideline to Hill, who ran under the ball at the Assumption 25 and took it into the end zone.
The play was actually designed for Cross as the primary receiver. A former quarterback at Duxbury High who directed the Green Dragons to a Division 2 Super Bowl crown in 2009, he has eight catches for 120 yards this season. “Sean is in our slot receiver position and in that two-minute drill we were actually trying to get the ball into his hands,” said Boerman. “He has the best hands on the team and catches everything thrown to him.”
At Mansfield, Hill did not receive a lot of recruiting attention because of his perceived lack of speed. Upon arriving at Bentley, he worked in the weight room to improve his quickness.
“I honestly didn’t think we’d get Jeff because I figured he’d go on a scholarship somewhere,” said Boerman. “He’s not a blazing fast kid, but he has deceptive speed. If he had 4.4 or 4.5 kind of speed, there’s no way we’d have got him.”
A year ago, in a 31-29 loss to Southern Connecticut, he caught a pair of Hail Mary touchdown passes in a 30-second span.
The latest NCAA Division 2 statistics emphasize his big-play ability. Hill ranks first in the country in receiving yards per game (159.3). He is also tied for fourth in scoring (12.0 points per game) and tied for 56th in receptions per game (5.6).
Hill is at a loss for his high percentage of touchdown receptions and his big-play reputation. “I guess they just throw me the ball and I find a way to score touchdowns,” said Hill, who expects his younger brother, Brendan , a sophomore, to challenge his touchdown record at Mansfield. Their mother, Kathy (Finn), was the Big East women’s basketball player of the year at Providence in 1984 and had her number retired two years ago.
“We ran the wing-T at Mansfield, which was predominantly the run. But whenever we got down to the 30- or 40-yard line,’’ Hill said, coach Mike Redding “would toss me a bone and call a pass play that he knew I’d get my hands on.”
Hill is complemented nicely on the other side of the field by the 6-foot-3 Kiley, who has 10 receptions for 203 yards and three TDs. He led the team with seven touchdowns last year on 41 receptions.
Kiley was the first athlete at BC High to start on three Division 1 state championship teams: football (2008), baseball (2008, 2009), and hockey (2007).
“Billy was jumping up and down higher than anyone when Jeff caught that pass the other night,” said Boerman.
Stoughton’s Chris Cadigan is at the pivot of the Bentley attack. A Division 1 state champion in the shot put at BC High, the 5-10, 285-pound Cadigan is in his second season as the starting center, a crucial position for a team like Bentley that runs a shotgun offense. “He’s built like a safe, and we moved him to center and he’s done a superb job,” said Boerman.
“Up until this year, 100 percent of our snaps have been in the shotgun. This year we go under center a little bit,’’ Boerman said, “but you need a guy who can deliver the ball consistently when you run a shotgun offense and Chris has certainly done that.”Continued...