Coach Joe Reed said before the Hillsboro/Staunton football game in Hillsboro Friday evening, Oct. 8, that the Bulldogs’ offense would be very similar to the double wing sets his Toppers have learned this season; and it was. At times, before the ball was snapped, each team may have thought it was a scrimmage because they mirrored each other so much.
Though both teams entered with 1-5 records, the Toppers had faced stronger competition. Hillsboro was coming off their best effort of the season when they defeated Gillespie on Oct. 1; in the first half, even though they led 14-7 at the second quarter buzzer, the Toppers seemed complacent - the complacency that comes from overconfidence, though they trailed 7-6 thirty seconds into the second quarter after Jacob Dillon scored on a 14 yard run and kicker Cole Aberle converted the PAT, but those were the last points the visitors could score.
The first Hillsboro touchdown of the contest belonged to Topper Joe Keiser who carried in from the 13. It was Keiser’s first varsity touchdown and came after Ian Malloy recovered a Dog fumble at the Staunton 40. It took seven plays to score with Hillsboro’s first possession, partially because an illegal shift nullified an over 10 yard Keiser gallop. The Toppers were called for an uncharacteristically high 12 penalties (mostly for holding) that cost them 125 yards in the game.
Running back Blaze Helton, who was credited with a game-high 138 yards for the night, had 12 yards in the drive; wingback Blaine Stewart had an 11 yard burst, and Jaben Compton pulled a defender for nine yards after his shirt tail was grabbed. The Bulldogs had a measure of revenge for that as they stopped Compton short on his two-point conversion attempt. Their defensive line was rather stout, with seven players on the varsity roster weighing in at 230 pounds or more.
The visitors’ second possession took time as they used six running plays to reach the Topper 46, but then a Magnus Wells’ tackle for no gain forced a punt. It was three downs for four yards and then punt for the Toppers, and Staunton had reached the Topper 11, primarily on the legs of quarterback Sam Best, perhaps the fastest Staunton back who liked to race down the sidelines.
Topper safety Brayden Fowler caught him to end one 15 yard dash. When senior wingback Ty Abernathy stepped through arm tackles to reach the Topper 13, the Toppers were back on their heels; the ‘Dogs had run 14 plays for 69 yards in the first 12 minutes, while Hillsboro had used 10 plays to gain 49 yards. Though they held a 6-0 lead, the score came after a turnover; the statistics said Staunton was the better team.
When Dillon scored on the fourth play of the second quarter, it gave credibility to their hopes to beat the Toppers at their own game on Sawyer Field. It also served as a wake-up call. With the ball on his own 21, Compton exploded through the huge Staunton line for 10 yards; then Helton went off tackle for 40 to the Staunton 29. Three rushing plays and an incomplete pass later, Hillsboro surrendered the ball on downs, but the worm had begun to turn.
Staunton had to punt four plays later; Helton gained four to reach his 42 before Zane Duff charged through a hole created by Malloy at tackle and Wells at guard to scoot into the right corner of his endzone 58 yards away. 5:55 was left in the hald when he put his team ahead 12-7; Wells became a 230 lb. battering ram as he scored the extra point.
If the Toppers had entered the game overconfident, that attitude disappeared by the third quarter. Junior Nick Hockett fielded an on-side kick on the Topper 46; six plays later, including an 18 yard carry by Keiser and a 32 yard Duff-to-Helton pass to the ‘Dog 14, Helton was in the endzone; Wells rumbled for the extra points, and it was 22-7.
Three plays later, Fowler intercepted a Best pass at midfield and returned the ball to the 14. Helton gained 3; then Keiser scored. This time Compton carried for the conversion points.
Disaster followed disaster for the visitors. The Topper defense, led by Dalton Reynolds, forced a punt attempt at the Staunton 37; the snap was high, and the punter was tackled on the Bulldog’s 29. This time Hillsboro faced a fourth down and six from the 25, so Compton tried a 42 yard field goal. It fell just short, so Staunton had the ball on their 20. (Had the Toppers punted, the result most likely would have been the same).
Three plays later, on the visitors’ 38, Maddex Scott recovered a fumble; the first two subsequent plays (long gains by Duff and Keiser) were nullified by Topper penalties, but then Stewart gained five before Duff and Compton combined for a 41 yard touchdown pass. Compton booted the extra point; it was 37-7 with 20.6 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Staunton reached the Topper 38 before turning the ball over on downs; facing a fourth down and 20 situation, Best gained nine before Helton and Scoot crunched him. Hillsboro used five minutes of the clock to move the ball to the enemy 21(a 23 yard Helton td. run was wiped off the records by a holding call); Compton set up for a 38 yard field goal attempt. It was good, so the final score (40-7) was set.
Danger looms next Friday, Oct. 15, as the 2-5 Toppers invade 4-3 Piasa. The Birds began the season 4-0 but then hit a difficult stretch of the schedule, so they need a win to stay in playoff contention. Kick-off time is 7 p.m.
October 8 at Hillsboro
Staunton (1-6) 0 7 0 0 7
Hillsboro (2-5) 6 8 23 3 40
1st - 8:02 - (H) - Joe Keiser 13-yard TD run (run failed)
2nd - 11:27 - (S) - Jacob Dillon 14-yard TD run (Cole Aberle kick)
2nd - 5:55 - (H) - Zane Duff 58-yard TD run (Magnus Wells run)
3rd - 8:59 - (H) - Blaze Helton 14-yard TD run (Magnus Wells run)
3rd - 6:44 - (H) - Joe Keiser 14-yard TD run (Jaben Compton run)
3rd - 0:20 - (H) - Jaben Compton 41-yard TD pass from Zane Duff (Jaben Compton kick)
4th - 5:24 - Jaben Compton 38-yard field goal
Passing (2-6-73): Zane Duff 2-6-73, 1 TD.
Rushing (43-311): Blaze Helton 17-146, 2 TD; Zane Duff 4-68, 1 TD; Blaine Stewart 10-47; Jaben Compton 4-32; Joe Keiser 4-30, 2 TD; Jace Stewart 2-4; Brayden Fowler 1-2.
Receiving (2-73): Jaben Compton 1-41; Blaze Helton 1-32.
Defense (solo/assist): Magnus Wells 3/3; Ian Malloy 3/2; Dalton Reynolds 4/1; Blaze Helton 1/4, 1 sack; Zane Duff 3/2, 1 fumble recovery; Cameron Hacke 3/1; Jaben Compton 1/2; Brayden Fowler 1/2, 1 INT; Maddex Scott 1/1, 1 fumble recovery; Garet Schaake 2/0; Jace Stewart 1/0; Reese Morford 1/0.