If one were to leave it to Hunter Illing, football might as well be a course offering full credit to high school students.
After all, the game is one of the first things he discusses upon setting foot each morning in Socastee High School, and certainly top on his priority list as the final bell rings.
Still, such preparedness could not have readied the Braves senior quarterback for what this past Friday night had in store.
In last week’s season opener against West Brunswick (N.C.), Illing completed 7 of 10 passes for 147 yards and five touchdowns, leading Socastee to a 39-14 win.
Already the school’s all-time leading passer, the five-touchdown performance is the latest feather added to his cap. However, he will be the first to tell you such could not have been done alone.
“It was just a game where it happened to be me that had the success,” Illing said. “...I’d love to see Dashaun (Myers), Edward (Tucker) or (Devin) Stamp, one of those have a game like that. It’s awesome to have a game like that to myself, but it’s awesome to see a teammate do that because it’s more of a team thing than a single (person).”
Building camaraderie the past several years, Illing said the group has built chemistry off the field that has allowed it to thrive on the gridiron.
“(Chemistry) is a lifesaver,” he said. “We throw to each other everyday in practice, and we get better and better as friends. We sit there in the hallway and talk about the pass game, and how this is our last run, our last ride.
“We’ve built so much for this (since sophomore year). Getting beat up to doing our thing and grinding out there. It’s all paying off (due to) how much we know each other.”
Probably no one had a better vantage point of Illing’s development as a quarterback and person than his uncle and Socastee football coach, Doug Illing.
We throw to each other everyday in practice, and we get better and better as friends. We sit there in the hallway and talk about the pass game, and how this our last run, our last ride.
Socastee quarterback Hunter Illing
According to the Braves head man, the most noticeable difference is how much the game has slowed down for him. In his opinion, that played a big role … but not the only one.
“(Hunter Illing) made good decisions, (our receivers) made good routes and he threw the ball quick,” said the Socastee football coach. “A lot of (Illing’s touchdowns) were little short passes that receivers turned into big plays.
“Again, a total team effort. Hunter didn’t do it all himself. … This isn’t a one-man show.”
And honestly, the Braves senior quarterback wouldn’t want it to be that way — particularly when there is an opportunity to create damage together.
“Considering the athletes we have, we can score at any time,” Hunter Illing said. “We have deep threats in Stamp and Solomon, and we have short threats in Tucker and Bricen Nguyen. They can catch a ball, make a move and then they’re off to the races.
“They have speed enough to where they can do that.”
God-given talent is useless if not offered the opportunity to showcase it. With that in mind, Illing is wearing a chip on his shoulder, one he hopes is evident whenever Socastee players are together.
“(We need to use the momentum gained from last week’s win) when we go to the weight room, use it when we go into film sessions,” the Braves quarterback said. “We can compete with everyone when we play our game, mistake-free football and not turning the ball over and giving opponents extra chances. With the athletes we have, any moment we can score from 90 (yards) or from 10. It doesn’t matter.”