WILDWOOD - Wildwood High School running back Wesley Hills hasn't been feeling well lately.
The senior spent most of this week in bed with a stomach virus and was fighting a terrible cold in the days leading up to the Warriors' West Jersey Football League game against Salem on Friday night.
"I've been feeling terrible," Hills said. "There were a couple of times tonight when I thought I was going to get sick on the sideline."
Just imagine if he had been healthy.
One week after rushing for more than 450 yards and scoring eight touchdowns at Maple Shade, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder turned in another marvelous performance against Salem. He thrilled a large crowd at Maxwell Field by rushing for 203 yards on 23 carries and scored five TDs in the Warriors' 42-16 victory.
The win boosted the Warriors' record to 4-1. The once-downtrodden program already has its most wins since going 6-4 in 1999 and is off to its best start since it went 7-1 in 1963.
The entire town has embraced the Warriors. The home stands were filled Friday night and hundreds more fans stood along the fence to see Hills and company. Once known as a basketball town, Wildwood is fired up for football.
"I just want to say thank you to the fans," Warriors quarterback/linebacker Devon Bradshaw said. "I haven't seen that many people at one of our games in a long time, if ever. It's been the same way at school. Teachers and classmates are coming up to us and congratulating us. It feels great."
Much of the enthusiasm has been generated by Hills, who is delivering the kind of memorable performances last seen by former Wildwood greats Randy Beverly in the 1960s and Bill Osborn in the 1980s.
Friday's performance left Hills with 1,255 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on the season.
He displayed impressive versatility against Salem. Hills opened the game by firing a 39-yard completion to senior wide receiver Marchal Howell that led to Hills' 1-yard TD run on the opening possession. In the second quarter, with Wildwood leading 14-8, Hills broke the game open by scoring on a 60-yard punt return that put the Warriors ahead 22-8 with 31 seconds left in the first half.
"I had made a mistake (on the last offensive series), so when I got to the sideline, I told our coaches I would get one back for them," Hills said. "I saw the hole on the punt return, got some great blocks, hit my second gear, and was gone."
Wildwood also got key contributions from other players.
Junior linebacker Jose Valentin was the Warriors' dominant defensive player, making four tackles for losses. Valentin just joined the team a week ago.
"I used to work the (video) camera for the team last year, so I was really happy to be able to get on the field this year," Valentin said. "It feels great to be able to play in front of so many people."
Bradshaw, who is playing quarterback for the first time in high school this season, completed a pair of two-point conversion passes and scored two more points on a conversion run. He was also among Wildwood's top defensive players with three tackles for losses and two sacks.
Almost all of the 23 players in uniform contributed to a victory that helped Wildwood move closer to qualifying for the South Jersey Group I playoffs for the first time since the playoffs began in 1974.
"Making the playoffs is our main goal," Wildwood coach Rich Hans said. "The players have been working hard since last summer and it's starting to pay off for us."
Contact David Weinberg:
Salem 8 0 0 8-16
Wildwood 14 8 6 0-42
W-Hills 1 run. (Thame pass from Bradshaw)
S-Alston 72 run. (Alston run)
W-Hills 20 run. (Pass failed)
W-Hills 60 punt return (Valentin pass from Bradshaw)
W-Hills 5 run. (Run failed)
W-Hills 8 run. (Bradshaw run)
W-Christian 16 run. (Run failed)
S-Blake 5 run. (Davenport-White run)
First Downs 9 15
Total Rushing Yards 193 223
Total Passing Yards 17 62
Turnovers 1 0
Salem, Alston 17-133, Blake 11-35, Davenport-White 5-23, Hunter 6-17, Shockley 1-5, Lewis 2-2, Jefferies 3-(-22). Wildwood, Hills 28-203, Christian 1-16, Bradshaw 4-7, Valentin 2-(-3).
Salem, Jefferies 2-4-17, Shockley 0-1-0. Wildwood, Bradshaw 3-8-23, Hills 1-2-39.
Salem, Wing 2-17. Wildwood, Howell 2-42, Thame 2-21, Valentin 1-3, Hills 1-2.
RECORDS: Salem 0-4; Wildwood 4-1
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