For Hillsboro’s football team at Greenville on Friday night, Aug. 27, it was a game of momentum lost, then gained, and then lost again. The Comets’ junior quarterback, Ryan Jackson, completed 19 of 26 passes without throwing at all in the fourth quarter when his team was ahead 28-14. The aerial attack accounted for all four touchdowns and 268 yards as he threw primarily to receivers Peyton McCullough, Jaylon Betts, and Landon Moss. Even so, even when Grant Wilderman added 89 yards on 18 carries (the Comets as a team unofficially had 348 total yards), the Toppers had a chance to win until the fourth quarter.
Greenville scored first as Jackson found McCullough in the end zone from 19 yards out in their second possession. A shanked punt opened the door as it fluttered out-of-bounds in Topper territory.
Defensive tackle Ian Malloy gave the Topper offense good field position late in the quarter by recovering a Comet fumble at midfield. Runs by Blaze Helton, Jaben Compton, Joe Keiser, and Zane Duff moved the ball to the Comet 26 as the first quarter ended.
That drive, slowed when a Keiser 12 yard run was wiped off the books by penalties on each team, ended when a 23 yard field goal attempt sailed left of the uprights. Greenville used the momentum change to go ahead 14-0 as a Jackson to McCullough pass for seven yards completed an eight play, 80 yard drive with 5:48 left in the half. Junior Dieken Graber, whose first PAT bounced through off the left upright for a point, was dead center on this kick and the next two.
Hillsboro didn’t fold. Three minutes and seven plays later, Helton scored the first Topper touchdown of the year with Jaben Compton adding the extra point. Major plays in the drive were runs by Duff for 12 and 13 yards, with a penalty for a hit beyond the sidelines, a Duff pass to Blaine Stewart for 24 yards, and Helton’s two carries covering the last 10 yards.
The Comets showed they could and would regain momentum, though, as they grabbed a 21-7 lead before the half ended. Riding the arm of Jackson and the fleet feet of receiver Betts, the Comets arrived on the Hillsboro 19 with 19 seconds left. McCollough then streaked by the Topper secondary; Jackson threw to a spot to which his receiver was sprinting, and the lead was 14 again.
The lead caused a change in strategy by the Comets; Wilderman rather than Jackson became the main resource, perhaps to eat the clock. Beginning on their own 16, the Comets used nine plays to score again. Wilderman carried five consecutive times; a touchdown on his last carry was called back by a holding call, however, so Jackson threw to Betts for the Comets’ last score. 19 minutes remained in the game.
Again the Toppers responded in a positive way. Duff found his tight end, Maddex Scott, open over the middle for a 68 yard gain, the longest gain of the contest. The play began on the Topper 20, and Scott reached the Comet 12 before a Comet caught him. From there Helton reached the 10, Duff scrambled to the 4, and then Helton scored.
The Toppers had one more threat in their arsenal. After a snap over Jackson’s head forced a Moss punt, Hillsboro had the ball on its own 18. Helton leaped a defender while carrying a Duff pass for 20 yards; Duff reached midfield as the third quarter ended. Three plays later Duff swept his left end for 23 yards. Four plays later, a Duff pass to a well-defended Bryce Connor went incomplete close to the Comet 5, so the ball went to the Comets on downs at their 20 with 8:26 to play. With the ball went realistic chances for a Topper comeback.
Though Stewart cut back for an 11 yard gain on Hillsboro’s last possession, Duff had to punt after a holding call nullified a Keiser run.
Defensive stops by Austin Sorenson and Sam Wagner had the Toppers facing a fourth and 36 dilemma.
Wilderman carried twice for a first down at the Topper 43; in turn that led to victory formation for the Comets as they ran out the clock by having Jackson kneel with the last three snaps.
Problems for the Hiltoppers were evident - too many offensive penalties were one, and a need for better pass coverage was another. However, Greenville’s quality may have been a factor; from just an eyeball test, they seem to be of play-off quality.
Based on last spring’s performance, Pana, who downed Vandalia 46-26 Friday night, has the same offensive strengths as the Comets; so the next Topper game, at home against the Panthers at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 4, will be another stern test.
August 27 at Greenville
Hillsboro (0-1) 0 7 7 0 14
Greenville (1-0) 7 14 7 0 28
1st - 8:11 - (G) - Peyton McCullough 19-yard TD reception from Ryan Jackson (Dreken Graber kick)
2nd - 5:49 - (G) - Peyton McCullough 7-yard TD reception from Ryan Jackson (Dreken Graber kick)
2nd - 2:41 - (H) - Blaze Helton 2-yard TD run (Jaben Compton kick)
2nd - 0:19 - (G) - Peyton McCullough 19-yard TD reception from Ryan Jackson (Dreken Graber kick)
3rd - 7:15 - (G) - Jaylon Betts 16-yard TD reception from Ryan Jackson (Dreken Graber kick)
3rd - Blaze Helton 4-yard TD run (Jaben Compton kick)
Passing (5-7-113): Zane Duff 5-7-113.
Rushing (44-165): Zane Duff 14-79; Blaze Helton 17-58, 2 TD; Blaine Stewart 6-22; Jaben Compton 3-6; Brayden Fowler 1-4; Joe Keiser 3-(-4).
Receiving (5-113): Maddex Scott 1-68; Blaze Helton 1-20; Blaine Stewart 2-20; Brayden Fowler 1-5.
Defense (Solo/Assists): Blaze Helton 4/8, 1 sack; Zane Duff 5/4; Brayden Fowler 5/4; Magnus Wells 2/6; Reese Morford 1/7; Jaben Compton 2/4; Carsen Maddaleno 0/6; Ian Malloy 0/4; Joe Keiser 2/1; Dalton Reynolds 2/1; Cameron Hacke 2/1; Maddex Scott 1/2; Kayden Liebscher 0/1; Drake Mullen 0/1.