Knights of the Hill Country

Knights of the Hill Country

3.8 20
by Tim Tharp

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Welcome to Kennisaw—where Friday night high school football ranks right up there with God and country. This year, the Kennisaw Knights are going for their fifth straight undefeated season, and if they succeed, they'll be legends.

 But the Knights' legacy is a heavyweight to carry for Hampton, linebacker and star of the team. On the field, he's so in

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Welcome to Kennisaw—where Friday night high school football ranks right up there with God and country. This year, the Kennisaw Knights are going for their fifth straight undefeated season, and if they succeed, they'll be legends.

 But the Knights' legacy is a heavyweight to carry for Hampton, linebacker and star of the team. On the field, he's so in control you'd think he was able to stop time. But his life off the field is a different story. His mom has a new boyfriend every week. He's drawn to a smart, quirky girl at school who seems totally wrong for a star athlete, and his best friend and teammate is growing uncomfortably competitive.
This thought-provoking novel is the story of a boy whose choices will decide the kind of man he becomes.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“JEALOUSY, RAGE, AND tenderness are wrapped around the story’s core theme of self-discovery. . . . This intriguing work demands an audience.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“The teen’s voice comes in loud and clear, revealing a sensitive, likeable character. . . . Readers will root as much for his team as for Hampton to be true to himself. The dynamic football scenes will draw readers who enjoyed H. G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights.”—School Library Journal

Children's Literature - John D. Orsborn
Hampton Green can stop time. At least that's how he describes his amazing abilities as a linebacker for the Kenisaw Knights football team. A local hero and star, Hampton is only comfortable on the football field. Dependent on his best friend and Knight's star running back Blaine Keller, Hampton never thought about his future. That is, until he meets Sara Reynolds, better known at school as "Bush Girl." For Hampton, she is a breath of fresh air. Yet he is reluctant to show who he really is, especially as Blaine's promising football career is slowly disintegrating due to a knee injury from the previous season. A fifth straight undefeated season in Oklahoma high school football is at stake for the Knights. For Blaine and Hampton it is the chance to leave Kenisaw. Author Tim Tharp creates a believable, lovable character in Hampton Green. Like so many football tales, this is a story about the promise of release due to football success, and the emptiness of life without football. However, unlike many of the movies, Mr. Tharp has created realistic characters. Hampton is not particularly smart but can get by. He is not a complex character, but there is depth, which comes through in the interesting detail and dialogue. The character Sara, unlike many female characters in such stories, is not out to be a savior of the dumb jock, but rather sees value in Hampton. This is an excellent story with an amazing climax, and a good addition to any middle or high school library.
A football story from Oklahoma, set in a small town that lives for its high school team. The narrator is Hampton Green, the star linebacker, who is so humble it hurts. He and his mother have been barely functioning since Hamp's father abandoned them; they live in a rental house on the poor side of town, and Hamp is totally dependent on the attention of Blaine's family, who has nurtured his interest in football. Blaine is the quarterback, but an injury is keeping him from a college scholarship and his rage is hurting the team. So the story is as much about a friendship that is confining as it is about football. Hamp's life is improving. His mother is dating an interesting, good man. But the town gossip is that this man once betrayed them when he quit the football team abruptly a generation ago. Finally Hamp gets the true story about that so-called betrayal, which gives him a new way to look at the traditions of his town. Hamp makes a new friend, Sara, which is evolving into a romance, even though Blaine ridicules her. Hamp is of course troubled when his loyalty to Sara conflicts with his closeness to his best friend. There is plenty of football action; but essentially the story is about an outgrown friendship and Hamp's gradual belief in his own skills and intelligence. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Random House, Knopf, 233p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Teachers don't recognize his smarts, he struggles with his mother's unsuccessful romantic relationships, and he is unsure of himself around girls, but when senior football star Hampton Green is on the field, everything clicks. His Oklahoma team, the Kennisaw Knights, has a five-year winning streak they are trying to take to the record books by securing the state championship one more time. Hampton's best friend, Blaine, has a shallow relationship with the prettiest girl in school and tries to drag Hampton into a similar stereotypical dating scene. Hampton, however, finds himself attracted to self-assured, intelligent Sara, whom Blaine says is not good for his image. As the championship unfolds, things get tense, and Blaine drags Hampton into a confrontation with an enemy from the opposing team, during which Blaine pulls a gun and Hampton must finally assert himself. The teen's voice comes in loud and clear, revealing a sensitive, likable character. Hampton's budding romance with Sara is touching and adds an interesting dimension. The conquering of insecurities and gradual self-realization Hampton experiences are reminiscent of Bert Bowden in Terry Davis's If Rock and Roll Were a Machine (Delacorte, 1992), and readers will root as much for his team as for Hampton to be true to himself. The dynamic football scenes will draw readers who enjoyed H. G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights (Da Capo, 2000). The cover's hazy silhouette of a football player reflects the strong character inside who will eventually bring his own hazy life into focus.-Diane P. Tuccillo, City of Mesa Library, AZ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Kennishaw Knights personify Oklahoma hill country, where guys play football, drink beer, talk about sex (but not love), and players seek local immortality by achieving a fifth straight undefeated season. Tharp unveils the anger, frustration and uncertainty covered up by the Knights' swagger. Star linebacker Hampton Green is a force on the field but finds himself kowtowing to Blaine, the team's cocky running back. Narrating the story, Hampton feels like Blaine's henchman, someone there to carry out the boss's erratic orders. Loyalty prevents him from distancing himself from his lifelong friend. Blaine, desperately pursuing glory and playing George to Hampton's Lenny, charges into reckless decisions assuming Hampton will always have his back. Jealousy, rage and tenderness are wrapped around the story's core theme of self-discovery. An excess of down-home similes ("squirming like a bunch of copperheads on hot asphalt") is a minor drawback. However, this intriguing work demands an audience. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.59(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


I done it. I stopped time.

Every single player on that football field locked up stiff as them wax figures they got over in the Pawtuska Wild West Wax Museum. Made quite a picture, the stadium lights blazing overhead like fractured stars and the football froze slick and hard as a rocket against the night sky, our outside linebacker's fingers stretching just an inch too short to do a thing but let it fly over. I had to admit it was a thing of pure beauty, that pass, even if it was the enemy quarterback that thrown it. Tight spiral. Perfect arc. That boy had talent. But, sorry to say, it wasn't going to be enough. Not with me freezing time like I could.

Course, time didn't really stop. I didn't wave no magic wand or poof out a cloud of fairy dust or crank up some science-fiction machine with spinning gears and flashing lights on it. Thing was, I'd focus so hard that I'd squinch everything down so it seemed like time froze just long enough for me to look and see what I'd have to do next. That was my talent, the one and only thing I knew how to do better than anyone else around.

I had me this math teacher one time back in junior high, Mr. Moon, told me it was too bad they'd passed them child labor laws 'cause I'd do a lot more good hauling coal up out of a mine twelve hours a day than I done wasting desk space in his classroom. Big, redheaded dumb jock, that's all he seen, and he wasn't the only one probably neither. But none of them folks knew what went on in my head. Not one had the least idea who the real me was.

The scene whirled back up to full speed, and over by the sideline, the ball snapped right into the Wynette receiver's hands. Our little old Vietnamese cornerback, Tommy Nguyen, grabbed at the receiver's jersey, but he couldn't get ahold of it firm and spilled off to the side. Poor Tommy. That was bound to earn him a good chunk of grief at practice on Monday. After that, number eighty-eight tucked the ball under his arm, juked, and zigzagged into the open. Had him twenty-five yards of open pasture clean to the end zone, and I knew he was thinking surefire touchdown. He was thinking, I'm the hero now, buddy boy. Nothing left but to figure out which way I'm gonna spike the ball and dance around the goalpost.

One problem. Old eighty-eight had no way of guessing I'd done predicted every one of them moves before he even seen he was going to make them his own bad self. I aimed at just the right angle to cut him off and charted my route so perfect, all your math geniuses with every protractor and compass in the world couldn't have mapped it out better. His reputation as an all-state sprinter didn't make an ounce of difference and neither did the fact that he'd scored him something like a sixty-yard touchdown in the game before this one. I had me the perfect angle and just enough speed so that at the exact right moment, I launched through the air, a high-powered torpedo straight on target, and—bam!—I slammed into him broadside, both of us crashing hard into the ground, dirt flying up in my face and chalk dust stinging my nostrils.

Getting up to my feet, I had just about every teammate of mine on the sideline slapping my back, telling me, "Good tackle. Attaboy, Hamp, you killed that sucker—attaboy, attaboy, Hamp." The stands flat-out boomed with cheers. But eighty-eight, he was still laying on his back, this kind of stunned look glazing over his eyes behind his face mask. He looked about like a lost little first grader down there. I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. He come so close to being the hero. It was like he'd tried on a new outfit and seen how good it looked and everything, and then someone come along and told him he had to put it back on the rack. Poor guy. I reached my hand down and he took it, and after helping him pull hisself up, I slapped him on the butt and sent him back off across the field.

Big mistake.

"Hampton!" It was my buddy Blaine Keller barking at me. He strictly plays offense, so he had his helmet off and his black hair was pasted to his forehead, the black slashes of war paint under his eyes starting to run some from the sweat. "Don't give your hand to the enemy like that. This is a battle, son. Don't ever give your hand to the enemy during a battle."

He meant business too. You could tell by the way the sparks flared up in his brown eyes. He wasn't faking. He was mad. I jogged back to the defensive huddle, feeling like I'd had the air half let out of me. Tell you what, Coach Huff and his assistants was some of the best coaches in Oklahoma—and I figured you might as well throw Texas in there too. Everything about them was polished and sharp as a new pair of scissors—their clothes, their hair, and their orders most of all. But they was always distant, up on another level looking down. Blaine was my best friend, my brother almost, and his words cut deeper than anyone else's.

He was right, I thought. That always was my shortcoming right there. Too much sympathy. It was like Blaine used to tell me, "Feeling sorry for folks never won no football games."
This wasn't any time to go weak neither. This was a time a guy needed insides about as tough and gnarled and hard as one of them old blackjack oaks on the hills outside of town. Me and the rest of the Kennisaw Knights had us eighteen yards and twenty-seven inches of battleground to defend. Three minutes and thirty-four seconds left in the game. First and ten. Kennisaw 20 and the Wynette Titans 17.

Every game this season, the pressure weighed down more and more. It was like carrying around a sack full of rocks, only every time you got to thinking you could lay it down, someone would throw another sack full of bigger rocks up on top of you. If we could keep it going, this would be Kennisaw's fifth undefeated season in a row. For thirty-some years, no Knights team had strung together that many wins, and them old-time players from back then was still heroes around the hill country of eastern Oklahoma. More than just heroes, they was flat-out legends.

Now, people love their legends in the hill country. I don't just mean the ones that run up and down the green fields there in Biggins Stadium with its crown of golden lights neither. I'm talking about the old-timey Wild West legends like the Doolins and the Daltons and Belle Starr, the queen of the outlaws. All them famous characters in the wax museum. And then you got your bull riders and bronc busters, your Five Civilized Tribes and your wildcat oil strikers. Pretty Boy Floyd and Woody Guthrie, Will Rogers, Mickey Mantle, and the original great football player Jim Thorpe hisself. Kennisaw's a dusty little old town, but even the smallest scrawny kid can feel big if he's got hisself a legend to hold on to.

And believe you me, not a player on our team didn't think about what kind of legends we could end up being our own selves if we finished off this fifth straight season undefeated. Boy howdy. The Kennisaw Knights was the best damn football team in all the hill country, where Friday-night high school football ranked next to God and country, and, truth be known, sometimes come in first. It'd be one hell of a big sack of rocks to carry around if you let the Knights down.

Every mouth on the Kennisaw side of the stadium let loose a roar of "Defense! Defense! Defense!" Taking my position there at middle linebacker, I could feel it rumbling through my chest and stomach, all the way out into my arms and legs. It was almost like that crowd was creating me out of thin air right on the spot. Outside the stands, the rest of the town would be as bare as a soup bone 'cause everyone was right here at the game, chanting up their spell. Bankers and mechanics, dental hygienists, the glass-plant gang, farmers, store clerks, and doctors. Even Miss Nikomos, the dance- school teacher. Everyone.


I knew my folks wasn't up there chanting. Not a chance. No telling where my dad was these days. No telling who my mom was with tonight. And Sara Reynolds—girls like her didn't give a day-old donut about football.

For a second, my concentration flickered out on me. Gone, just like that.

A quick snap jarred me back into the game. The quarterback was already wheeling to his left, shoving the ball into the tailback's belly, the tailback plunging towards the gap off tackle. Only he didn't really have the ball. The handoff was a fake, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker, charging the gap, leaving the middle of the field wide open for their split end. Too late to stop time now. My instincts took over instead. I rolled off the block and cut back left, keeping my eye on nothing but the quarterback's throwing hand. No doubt the end had made it to the opening I'd left for him by now, but I still had one chance.

As soon as that quarterback's arm sprung forward, I took flight—up and sideways, stretching out my arm so far I thought it might pop right out of its socket. Then I felt it—the hard leather against my fingertips. A second later, I skidded across the ground, my face mask plowing up grass, the ball bouncing end over end a few yards away. Incomplete pass.

Man alive, did them stands explode in cheers then. But they wasn't yelling "Defense, defense, defense" anymore. Now it was "Hampton! Hampton! Hampton!"

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Knights of the Hill Country 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
LadyLep1334 More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of books, but Knights of the Hill Country was more than just a book. It was one of the best books I have ever read. I found a part of myself that I thought I lost a long time ago. Seeing Hampton struggle with the hard choices of supporting his best friend or dating the girl everyone makes fun of. Whether to leave his best friend behind for college or struggle to make sure Blaine proves himself enough to get into OU. If you have ever struggled through high school and the struggles of friendship this is the book for you.
RalRomines More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great plot, good story line, sports, girls, fighting, and a boy becoming a man. Hampton Green is from a rural town named Kennisaw, where Friday night high school football ranks next to God & Country... Some times even comes in first. Hampton is dealing with multiple problems at once, trying to keep the football team's four year undefeated streak to stretch another year. But this is just the beginning of the problems. Hampton isn't the richest, popular or the most attractive guy in the school. So when he meets a girl that his teammates don't approve of because she isn't "hot" enough, Hampton dates a girl and ends up stealing a trophy from an elementary school for his "hot" date. He then decides that has worth more then that. Hampton goes home and sees her mom with her newest date of the week. Since Hampton's dad left the family, Hamptons mom has been with a new guy more then once a week. And the problems keep coming. Hampton's star teammate, Blaine, is loosing his star status with a blown knee. So with the anger that Blaine is getting from the star status slipping away, he's taking it out on Hampton for being interested in the type of girl that stars aren't supposed to get involved with. I'd go on, but you need to read this book! This is the unforgettable story of a boy who must summon the strength to choose what kind of man he wants to become.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
thought the book was really good about a star football player.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This football story takes place in Kennisaw, Oklahoma where football is the most important thing on earth. Hampton plays football on a virtually unbeatable high school team because his best friend Blaine and Blaine's father have taught him to play hard and well. Over the years, Hampton has relied heavily on those relationships, with his own father gone and his mother largely unavailable. Hampton Green, the star of the team, is trying to lead the team to the fifth straight undefeated season. This has only been done once before and those men are still revered in the area. Hampton's best friend, Blaine, wants the undefeated season worse than anyone. Blaine used to be a very powerful player as well, but sustained a knee injury during the previous season. He tries to pretend he is still the same player, but anyone can see that he is not performing where he used to. As the team inches closer to the end of the season Hampton starts to notice for the first time that not everyone always agrees with what Blaine says. Ever since Hampton moved to Kennisaw in junior high and Blaine accepted him as his friend, he has listened to everything Blaine said and accepted it as fact. Since Hampton's father left him and his mom and she fell apart, Hampton looked to Blaine and his dad for male advice. Now it seems that Blaine is getting defensive with his words and aggressive with his fists and it's always Hampton who has to bail him out of tough situations. Hampton also meets a girl, Sara, who is not interested in football, but in what Hampton has to say. He really enjoys talking to her until Blaine insists she isn't good enough and forces him to stay away from her. Hampton must come to decide if he should stand by Blaine because they have been best friends for so long, or if he should start thinking for himself and decide what he wants to do with his life besides football. Sports fans will enjoy this book and athletes will be able to relate to the difficult issues that come with having young athletes put so much stress on themselves. All of this growth is shown in the context of Hampton and Blaine's activities at school, on dates, and especially during football games. The sports scenes are especially well written, given greater meaning by Hampton's take on the game. (I like how Hampton ruefully contrasts his ability to make exactly the right moves in football with his inability to say the right things in social settings.) The book's pivotal moment shows Hampton, moved by his deep loyalty to his friend, doing something that infuriates Blaine even as it saves him from himself. In a very satisfying evolution, seemingly passive Hampton becomes the action-taker-and we realize that his integrity has given his "still waters" choices increasing power, in contrast to Blaine's frenetically petty mistakes. I highly recommend the book Knights of the Hill Country.
chadlyman More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a school project and it was a great read. I like sports stories and this was to my full satisfaction. I would fully recommend this book to any one who likes a good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp was a good read. The novel portrays a sense of high school life that shows similarities to books such as Friday Night Lights, with vivid scenes of football action as well as off the field drama. The story is told through the voice of Hampton Green, the star linebacker of a high school football team who¿s looking to make it five undefeated seasons in a row. We are given insights by Hamp into his daily life and struggles and his shear domination on the football field; however, his inconsistency in telling the story and drifting off into side stories about ¿could¿ve been¿s¿ and ¿might be¿s¿ became annoying when he would not focus on the matter at hand and the story¿s progression. The reason I chose to read this book was because I wanted to read about something that I could relate to, and when I saw that this book was about high school I was immediately buzzing with intrigue. Now I do have to warn that being in high school myself I was noticed some elements of the book that were a bit awkward, and by that I mean there were things in the story that just don¿t happen in real life and it was kind of comical to me cause I would think `wow, nobody really does that.¿ But all negatives aside there is some good and relatable content. Overall, the story lacks a consistent storyline, however, if you are a person who likes reading stories set in high school, this is a good pick. Tim Tharp is a promising writer who seems to write high school stories well. I enjoyed reading this book mainly because I was so excited to get started once I found it and I was able to look past the negatives and see the positives that made me want to read it in the first place. I give it an 8 out of 10.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a school book report and i would recommend this for anyone who loves sports, high school drama, and hot guys!
Collier County More than 1 year ago