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RedHawks bonded through last season's tragedy
The excitement and early success of the Colusa High football team last season had the community and opposing teams taking notice of the program.
A new coach, new uniforms and a winning attitude had the RedHawks sitting at 2-1 heading into their Sept. 21 game against county rival Pierce High in Arbuckle.
As the teams prepared for the game a well-liked senior basketball player was driving on Lonestar Road on his way to Arbuckle to watch his little brother play for the junior varsity team and his friends play in the varsity game.
Jordan Hillis never made it.
News of an accident began spreading throughout Gregg Lemaster Field. An eerie silence took over as rumors about what happened spread through the stands.
One of the promising young sophomores on the RedHawks junior varsity team, John Barron, was taken aside at halftime. He was Hillis' half-brother.
"I was so focused on the game it took me a while to adjust to the information." Barron said. "It finally hit me when I got to my house."
They were half brothers, but that was just a technicality, Barron said. Hillis was a part of his life from the day he was born and they were raised together.
"We were really close, probably as close as brothers could be — we did almost everything together," Barron said. "I never looked at him as anything other than a full relative."
Hillis' death had a profound effect on Barron and the rest of the students at Colusa. He was a fun-loving guy, the kid with the odd hitch in his step from a childhood injury who could sink 3-pointer after 3-pointer on the basketball court.
"It made me realize how much of an impact he had on the community," Barron said. "It really hit me — I realized everyone cared."
After Hillis' death, the varsity team struggled, losing three straight and falling to 2-4 but eventually turned things around, winning three of their last four games and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Starting quarterback Jose Santana was a backup last season and had to play quarterback in the second half of the Pierce game after the news of Hillis' death was broken to the players.
"I think all the returning players grew together through that incident," Santana said. "We've all become one person."
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org