Becoming Hillmen

Placer players bring back old tradition, shave their heads
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal Sports Editor
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Considering the sweltering heat, there may be more benefits to the players of the Placer High School football team shaving their heads last Friday than just bringing back an old tradition. 

With temperatures reaching triple digits Tuesday afternoon, the Hillmen were out in full pads continuing to warm up for their Friday, Aug. 31 opener at Central Catholic of Modesto. 

Coach Joey Montoya said that one of the additional perks of the team going with buzz cuts, something he’s always quietly wanted to bring back, is that it makes practicing under the sweltering sun a little more tolerable. 

The Hillmen first started sporting shaved heads under coach Bill Miller, Montoya’s grandfather.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Montoya said of the tradition which hasn’t been done since the 1990s. “But I wanted the team to decide to do it. The seniors decided to do it (in April).

“Inside I was jumping up and down.”

Montoya isn’t the only one in the Auburn community who is thrilled by the team’s decision.

Troy Minton-Sander, a 1988 Placer High alumnus who played football for the Hillmen, is glad to see the current Hillmen with haircuts similar to the ones his teammates had.

“What it’s about is losing individuality and becoming one,” said Minton-Sander, whose son, Stone Sander, is a tight end and defensive end for the Hillmen. “You find out who you are. You become Hillmen.”

According to assistant coach Ros Kelley, Placer football players used to go bald in training camp and continue shaving at special moments in the season, such as before the first league game, homecoming and the playoffs. 

Team manager Makayla Mullenix, who has been providing the boys with water every day throughout the summer, is digging the team’s new look.

“I love it,” said Mullenix, who will be on the varsity track and field team for the fourth straight season this year. “We all look the same. The other team is going to be intimidated.”

Before the opposition does get intimidated, though, the Hillmen have more work to put in.

They’ll get a chance to put in some work when the Green and Gold Game takes place Saturday around 10 a.m. at LeFebvre Stadium after team pictures. 

Montoya said the team still has a ways to go before it’s fully prepared for the season opener.

“A day at a time is our motto for the year,” he said. “We need to improve every day. We’re taking strides.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at




8/31 at Central Catholic, TBA

9/7   vs. Foothill of Palo Cedro at Oak Ridge, TBA 

9/14 vs. Casa Roble, 7:30 p.m.

9/21 vs. Yuba City, 7:30 p.m.

9/28 at Woodcreek, 7:30 p.m.

10/5 vs. Foothill of Sacramento, 7:30 p.m.

10/12 vs. Bear River, 7:30 p.m.

10/19 at Lincoln, 7:30 p.m.

10/26 at Colfax,  7:30 p.m.

11/2 vs. Center, 7:30 p.m.