At least five important firsts occurred for Coach Joe Reed and the Hiltopper football team
Friday night, Oct. 1, as they defeated the host Gillespie Miners 56-25 in South Central Conference football play.
Most important was the victory itself as it marked the first varsity win for the program. The offense clicked on all levels, indicating a progression that rewards players and fans who kept the faith through five humbling defeats. Related to that was the season high point total of 56, the two touchdown drives shortened by Gillespie turnovers, and the first kick-off return touchdown (by Blaze Helton). In addition, it was the first game in which the Toppers didn’t have to punt, evidence that the double wing offense has matured.
Part of the improvement came from the bigger role junior Jaben Compton earned during practice sessions. A prominent defensive player all season but particularly against Paris in week 5, Compton turned eight carries into a team-high 89 rushing yards; he scored the first touchdown by sprinting around the right side for 38 yards and the sixth (in the third quarter) by dashing in from the Gillespie 13.
The most carries went to Blaze Helton, whose 17 rushes metted the team 85 yards. He scored from six yards out in the first quarter (and added two extra points on a run), but one of the highlights of the game was his 70 yard touchdown kick-off return with 4.7 seconds left in the first half. The Miners had just scored their second touchdown as scatback Chase Helvey scored from the 4 (the first was on a 43 yard run by quarterback Zach Reiniesch in the first quarter - the third but last rushing play of that quarter). Helton ran through or over six would-be tacklers on his way to paydirt; that touchdown fired up his teammates for the second half.
Topper quarterback Zane Duff also prospered Friday night. He completed each of the six passes he tried for 109 yards (he also had over 100 yards passing in the season opener against Greenville). Duff gained 35 yards rushing, scoring a touchdown in the second quarter.
Senior wide receiver Bryce Connor had a personal first - his first varsity touchdown. The pass he caught accounted for 23 yards; it too came in the second quarter.
The Miners lost a key offensive threat in that decisive second quarter as he caught a Reiniesch pass in the flat as the Miners went for a two-point conversion after Helvey’s score. Sophomore Jesse Berry was in an awkward position as he was stopped short of the goal line. He had started in their backfield. Helton’s runback and extra points carry meant Hillsboro had a 35-12 halftime lead.
Nursing that lead, the Toppers would pass little in the second half, but the offense still scored on their first possession. A nice punt return by Cameron Hacke was nullified by offsetting penalties, so the scoring drive started on the Hillsboro 37. Blaine Stewart gained 9 on first down, then caught a pass for 12 yards and another first down. Helton gained 17; Joe Keiser gained 12, to the Miner 13, and Compton scooted in from there. Duff threw to Helton for the conversion.
Behind by 31, the Miners took to air. Their possession subsequent to the Topper score consisted of eight plays and covered 80 yards, the last 37 of which came from Reiniesch’s accurate arm as he threw to Ronnie Monke for 10 yards and then to Helvey, who made a sliding catch behind the Topper secondary for the touchdown. The conversion pass fell incomplete.
The last pass Duff threw came with 8:13 to play; it was to Stewart for a 35 yard touchdown. Compton booted the PAT that made it 50-18. The Topper cheerleaders, who do a jumping jack for every point Hillsboro scores, seemed reluctant to begin the routine when 50 was the challenge (they had done 303 jumping jacks each to that point), but the celebrating Hillsboro crowd, including parents and grandparents, urged them on; so the required 50 jumps were executed.
The night wasn’t over. The Toppers special teams recovered a fumble on Compton’s kickoff, so Hillsboro had the ball on the Miner 35. Helton gained eight on the first carry; then sophomore Dylan Lessman scampered 27 yards for his first varsity score. The cheerleaders didn’t hesitate this time; they gleefully did their 56 jumping jacks, which meant they totalled 412 jumping jacks for the evening.
Helvey dove to catch Reiniesch’s last pass of the night for a 12 yard touchdown completion with 1:04 to play, and the PAT kick was good.
Then came another season first; sophomore Elliot Lentz kneeled twice in victory formation to run out the clock.
The Staunton Bulldogs will come to Hillsboro for a 7 p.m. match-up this Friday, Oct. 8. Kickoff time is 7 p.m.
October 1 at Gillespie
Hillsboro (1-5) 14 21 8 13 56
Gillespie (1-5) 6 6 6 7 25
1st - 10:23 - (H) - Jaben Compton 38-yard TD run (pass failed)
1st - 6:31 - (H) - Blaze Helton 6-yard TD run (Blaze Helton 2-pt. run)
1st - 4:57 - (G) - Zach Reiniesch 43-yard TD run (kick blocked)
2nd - 10:32 - (H) - Zane Duff 2-yard TD run (Jaben Compton kick)
2nd - 1:50 - (H) - Bryce Connor 23-yard TD reception from Zane Duff (pass failed)
2nd - 0:18 - (G) - Chase Helvey 4-yard TD run (pass failed)
2nd - 0:4 - (H) - Blaze Helton 70-yard TD kickoff return (Blaze Helton run)
3rd - 7:10 - (H) - Jaben Compton 13-yard TD run (Blaze Helton 2-pt. reception from Zane Duff)
3rd - 3:03 - (G) - Chase Helvey 27-yard TD reception from Zach Reiniesch (pass failed)
4th - 8:13 - (H) - Blaine Stewart 35-yard TD reception from Zane Duff (Jaben Compton kick)
4th - 7:02 - (H) - Dylan Lessman 27-yard TD run (pass failed)
4th - 1:04 - (G) Chase Helvey 12-yard TD reception from Zach Reiniesch (kick good).
Passing (5-5-107): Zane Duff 5-5-107, 2 TD.
Rushing (50-331): Blaze Helton 16-103, 2 TD; Jaben Compton 7-88, 2 TD; Zane Duff 6-37; Joe Keiser 7-36; Blaine Stewart 8-33; Dylan Lessman 1-27; Brayden Fowler 1-9.
Receiving (5-107): Blaine Stewart 3-74, 1 TD; Bryce Connor 2-33, 1 TD.
Defense (Solo/Assists): Jaben Compton 4/2; Blaze Helton 3/2; Maddex Scott 3/2; Brayden Fowler 2/2; Cameron Hacke 0/4, Zane Duff 3/0; Dalton Reynolds 3/0; Garet Schaake 2/1; Magnus Wells 1/1; Ian Malloy 1/1; Blaine Stewart 0/1.