Future Coug Hilinski: More than stats

UPLAND AND Chino Hills, the Inland Valley’s top two teams back in October, had just finished up. Upland QB Tyler Hilinski had led his team to a 28-16 victory but Upland coach Tim Salter pulled Hilinski aside afterwards. He thought his star player was forcing things and pointed to two first half interceptions. The point was not lost on Hilinski, who will enroll at Washington State in January.

"He definitely had a few words for me,” Hilinski said. “He told me to take the Superman cape off. I didn't have to do it all myself.”

That first half stands as an anomaly for Hilinski this season, who directed Upland to an 8-2 regular season record, a No. 1 ranking in the competitive CIF Southern Section West Valley Division and a decisive 42-7 first-round playoff win over San Juan Hills.

But Salter last month had to remind his star player that he had plenty of talent around him.

“He is just a fierce competitor and he thinks he is going to make every play,” Salter said. “He refuses to believe that occasionally the defense is going to win one.”

HILINSKI’S NUMBERS ARE a bit down from his junior year when he threw for 3,053 yards and 34 touchdowns in 13 games. This season through 11 games (10 regular season, one playoff) he has thrown for 2,411 with 21 touchdowns.

But Salter says that’s the result of several games in which Upland had a big lead and decided to keep the ball on the ground, or were so lopsided there was a running clock in the second half.

And Hilinski's interceptions are down from last year – from eight to four -- with two of those coming in that half against Chino Hills.

His efficiency has improved as well . He completed 68 percent of his throws as a junior -- he's at 70-percent this season.

Hilinski is also coming off a playoff win in which he completed 19 of 22 offerings for 294 yards and two touchdowns plus another score he took in on the run. Hilinski had another completions nullified by penalty or his final line would have been even more impressive.

Salter says it’s a byproduct of another year of maturity. The veteran prep coach points to another pass Hilinski threw which he completed for a 15-yard gain, only to recognize right away he had a more favorable matchup with a different receiver who was also open.

“I didn't have to say anything,” Salter said. “He came back to the sideline and said he missed that read and there was a better option. ”

IT’S A BUSY time for the three-star prospect rated the No. 42 QB in the nation by Scout.com.

Not only does Hilinski have his regular class load and a playoff run to think about, he is also taking a couple of extra classes online that will enable him to graduate early (English, Government) and enroll at WSU in January, participate in offseason workouts and go through spring ball with the Cougs.

The key, he said, is to be as efficient off the field as he is his in passing on the gridiron.

“It's really about time management,” he said. “I have to be more focused and efficient with my time.”

Hilinski realizes that graduating early means he'll miss some of the rites of passages like prom and graduating with his class. But he said those are small sacrifices to make for the chance to get on the college campus early and start boding with his teammates and the coaching staff.

He said he talks with WSU area recruiter, assistant Ken Wilson (pictured above with Hilinski on his official visit), a couple of times every week.

“A lot of people ask me if I'm going to miss those things,” he said. “I can't say it's not a big deal. It's just about what is in my best interest moving forward. Getting there early is going to help in so many ways it's worth it. Every quarterback should do that because there is so much to learn.”

Next up: Hilinski and Upland take on Hart on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the College of the Canyons in the quarterfinal round of the CIF-SS West Valley Division playoffs.

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