Benilde-St. Margaret’s and DeLaSalle were playing for the Class 4A, Section 6 football title on Nov. 1. The game was at DeLaSalle’s wonderful, small stadium on Nicollet Island. The Islanders were moving toward “the railroad tracks,” trailing 23-20.
Billy Hart, DeLaSalle’s 5-8 junior quarterback, was smashed by the Red Knights defense on third down. “He was horse-collared to the turf and was in bad shape,” Islanders coach Sean McMenomy said. “There was a timeout. He was in so much pain that there were tears, but he said to me, ‘Don’t take me out.’ I said, ‘OK, Billy.’ ”
McMenomy relayed that scene in his DeLaSalle office this week. And then he said, “There was no chance I was going to take him out.”
The Islanders were facing fourth-and-7 at the Benilde 26 with 54 seconds left. Hart passed to Chris Williams near the first-down marker, and the Islanders’ star running back wove his way to the end zone.
Benilde’s desperate closing drive fell short and DeLaSalle (10-1) advanced to the state tournament with a 27-23 victory.
Last week, the Islanders overwhelmed Detroit Lakes 42-7 and now they face Holy Angels (6-5) in the state semifinals Friday afternoon at the Metrodome.
The outside view was that DeLaSalle’s chances for a big season suffered a blow in mid-August, when two-sport star Reid Travis announced officially that he was giving up football to concentrate on basketball.
The 6-8 Travis had demonstrated a big-time arm in two seasons as DeLaSalle’s main quarterback. The assumption was his decision would leave the Islanders short at quarterback.
It did that, in the sense that Hart is a foot shorter than Travis, but not in the plans that McMenomy and his coaches had made for this fall.
“Reid was occupied all spring and summer with basketball,” McMenomy said. “I sure as heck can’t say anything bad about that. He played so well that it made him even more of a recruit that the top programs wanted.
“At the same time, Billy Hart was having a great summer with our football team.”
McMenomy remained hopeful until the middle of August, a couple of days before the start of fall practice, that Travis would return to the Islanders to play tight end, and perhaps some defensive end.
“Six-foot-8, 240 pounds, with those hands … Reid would’ve been quite a target for Billy,” McMenomy said.
When McMenomy talks about Hart’s great summer of football, this isn’t getting together at the park and throwing around a football.
In the Twin Cities, there are 7-on-7 passing leagues and tournaments for most every high school team in the metro. The skill position players go against the linebackers and secondary. The schedule is constant from June 1 to the end of July.
“We were 36-2 last summer and won the Gophers’ passing tournament,” McMenomy said. “Billy threw the ball great … from the pocket and on the move.”
Hart’s family lives on 26th Street and 15th Av. in south Minneapolis. Those can be mean streets, if you want to give into that sort of stuff.
The Hart family did not. Bill Hart Sr. was a Navy SEAL. Beth Hart was in the National Guard. They sent the first of four daughters to DeLaSalle, decided it was the place for a great secondary education, and that’s where the five kids and grandson Alex (now 7) will be educated.
“The Harts put everything they have into their kids,” McMenomy said. “DeLaSalle runs concession counters at the Metrodome and Target Field, and you can see the Harts working most every game, to get a break on tuition.”
Billy is the first boy in the household, but not the first DeLaSalle football player. His sister Samantha was on the Islanders’ football team in the 2000s.
Placekicker? “Tight end,” Billy said. “She loved football. She passed that on. That’s how I got started, playing football with my sister.”
His first organized league was at Corcoran Park in south Minneapolis. A teammate from youth football, Marquise Bridges, is now his top receiver at DeLaSalle.
Reid Travis’ decision to accept a Stanford basketball scholarship was big news coming out of DeLaSalle last week. On the island itself, the football quest of Hart, Williams, Bridges and their teammates is an equal source of pride.
Patrick Reusse can be heart 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org