SAN ANTONIO – A proverbial coach on the field, Smithson Valley High School senior Josh Adkins has been the Rangers’ starting quarterback since his sophomore season.
“He’s just so well rounded,” Smithson Valley coach Larry Hill said this week. “He’s a great leader. The players respond to him. He’s a student of the game. He knows what everybody on the field is doing. He understands why a play is being run. He doesn’t just run a play.”
By now, Adkins has seen just about every defensive front or pass coverage a quarterback could face on the high school level. Still, Adkins continues to prepare for games as thoroughly as he did when he was a wide-eyed 15-year-old sophomore making the jump from the freshman team to varsity competition in the UIL’s largest classification.
“The senior guys when I was a sophomore really just took me under their wing and I can honestly give them thanks for how I’ve progressed as a player,” Adkins said. “The coaches were also great in helping me get stronger physically and understand the game. Being around it for three years now, you kind of pick up things about the offense.”
One of the top quarterbacks in the San Antonio area since he became the Rangers’ starter in 2014, Adkins has completed 78 of 131 passes for 1,328 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. He has had four attempts intercepted. Adkins also has rushed for 274 yards and three TDs.
“Josh has got great skill,” Hill said. “He’s very accurate. He’s got a big, accurate arm, and he throws a soft, easy ball to catch. Sometimes guys with big arms, they’re hard to catch. He can throw the deep ball, the short ball, and he’s probably a very underrated runner. He’s the total package. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
Smithson Valley, 5-2 overall and 4-1 in District 27-6A, hosts Judson (7-1, 4-1) in a league game Friday night. It will be the teams’ first meeting since the Rockets beat the Rangers 38-24 in the 6A Division I state quarterfinals last year.
Smithson Valley is 7-4 against Judson since they started playing each other in 2004, but the Rockets have won the last three games in the series.
“They fly around,” Adkins said, when asked what impresses him about the Judson defense. “They’re fast and they’re athletic. They’ve got a lot of talent on the defensive side and the offensive side. They’re a great team and they’re well coached, and we have the utmost respect for them. We know that in order to beat the Judson Rockets, we’re going to have to check all the boxes Coach Hill always talks about to put us in the best position to win the game.”
Adkins works closely with Hill, who also serves as Smithson Valley’s offensive coordinator. Not surprisingly, Adkins reflects Hill’s meticulous attention to detail and his commitment to “check off all the boxes” as he prepares for an opponent each week.
“I can’t put into words how much I appreciate Coach Hill and everything that he’s done for me, quarterback-wise and as a young man,” Adkins said. “He’s the ideal leader for me and our team. Of course, my dad is always going to be my dad, but Coach Hill has been through everything as a football coach. Coach is not always hounding me, which I love about him. He’s not always on my back. That’s not his style. He puts in his input when he needs to.”
Smithson Valley has been a consistent winner under Hill, who in his 24th season as the Rangers’ head coach. Smithson Valley has gone 234-66 and made the playoffs 21 times during Hill’s tenure, which includes appearances in three state finals. Hill, 56, was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor this summer.
Adkins said that he and his teammates marvel at Hill’s dedication and commitment as a coach.
“In the summers, we’d come up to school to throw and catch at all times during the day, and his truck would always be here,” Adkins said. “We know how much he puts into his job. That just gives us that much more confidence in him as a coach. We know he’s always going to get us ready.”
Adkins, 6-foot-2½ and 215 pounds, already has committed to play football at New Mexico State next year. Adkins also had offers from Ivy League schools Brown and Cornell, as well as from UTSA and Incarnate Word.
“I feel like my arm’s gotten stronger,” he said. “I can make better reads through Coach Hill’s help, and I understand the offense a whole lot better. I understand other guys’ roles better, which makes the team better. I just try to be that leader on the field. Eleven guys go out there, but the coach isn't one of them. You need somebody to kind of run the offense.”
Smithson Valley offenses have been synonymous with crisp execution during Hill’s watch. While the Rangers may not have the best athletes on the field in many games, they impose their will on defenses with their discipline and ability to sustain drives.
“Those things you have to do, week in and week out,” Adkins said. “When we’re in practice, Coach Hill always tell us to pay attention to details. Execution is probably our biggest asset on offense, not being flashy, not trying to throw the ball 50 times a game, but really keeping a balanced offense.
“Every single play, not necessarily 40 yards, but execution that gets you four of five yards. If we can do that, we’ll ultimately get into the end zone. We take a lot of pride in that.”
Adkins is one of four blue-chip quarterbacks in District 27-6A. The other three are Frank Harris of Clemens and Xavier Martin of Steele, both seniors, and Judson junior Julon Williams. Harris and Martin have committed to UTSA and Texas Tech, respectively.
“You’d like to think that those guys are making you better,” Adkins said. “Playing less than your best is not going to get it done with these guys. We’re all pretty close. We’re friends. We respect each other’s games. It’s fun to watch those guys and fun to be around that competitive atmosphere. We’re blessed to play in this district, especially when you see how the playoffs usually unfold.”
All four 27-6A playoff teams reached the state quarterfinals last year.