It’s not easy standing out when playing in The Woodlands High School football program. In a word, it is massive.
In addition to the varsity, there are two junior varsity teams, two sophomore teams and three freshman teams. The Highlanders also have six teams each at the seventh and eighth grade levels.
Needless to say, it can be easy getting caught up in the dreaded numbers game. But Ben Mills is already standing above the crowd at the Houston-area school.
Mills, a 6-foot, 180-pounder, is playing quarterback for The Woodlands’ top freshman team and he’s off to a fabulous start this season.
“I’m pretty happy with our season so far,” Mills said. “We’ve got a really good offensive line, so that’s really helped.” With Mills sharing time at quarterback, the Highlanders are 3-1 and have outscored their opponents 95-25. The highlight win was a 26-0 decision over Katy, the 2015 varsity national champions.
Mills passed for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns against Katy and also rushed for 74 yards on only 6 carries. On the season, he’s completed 16 of 47 passes for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns and run 14 times for 115 yards and another score.
“Playing at the high school level, it’s tougher than I thought it would be,” Mills said. “The schools we play against are a lot bigger and there’s just better competition. But it’s been great so far, a lot of fun. My goals going into the season were to get playing time, get better and continue to work on improving my timing with the receivers.”
So far, so good. And Mills is also one of only four freshman football players at The Woodlands that travel with the varsity team. He doesn’t dress with the varsity, but the experience has been invaluable.
“It definitely is inspiring,” Mills said. “Being around the varsity, it shows how much better you need to get, how much work you need put in. And it shows you how much faster the game is.”
To prepare for the next step up in Texas’ fifth-largest high school by enrollment, Mills has been training with NFA the last two years. NFA Coach Aaron Cupp’s guidance has been particularly valuable.
“Working with NFA, they’ve helped me throw the football with more power and they’ve helped me learn the aspects of what you need to be as a quarterback,” Mills said.
In the summer, Mills received an invite to his first Duel, and he overcame a slow start and finished in the Top 5 among incoming ninth graders at NFA’s showcase event.
“I talked to Coach Cupp before the Duel and I looked at it as a big challenge because I had never gone before,” Mills said. “It was pretty much what I expected, a really good competition. The first day, I struggled with some accuracy stuff and then I was able to go back to the hotel and look at film and see what I was doing wrong. I was able to fix it and that showed that I can look at what I did wrong on film and make the adjustments.”
Faring so well at the Duel has helped Mills’ performance as a freshman QB. “It definitely helped my confidence a lot,” he said. “It showed I can definitely fit in playing quarterback at my school.”