Fishing can take patience, but a full year without a nibble? That takes real commitment.
The Hillsboro Board of Education approved the creation of inaugural Hillsboro High School fishing team last year, but COVID-19 proved to be the proverbial old boot that spoiled the Hiltoppers’ first attempt at the sport. Fortunately, calmer waters have prevailed in 2021 and the 20-member team will send eight competitors to the IHSA sectional at Coffeen Lake on Thursday, May 6.
Five of those bound for the sectional, Austin Edwards, Bryce Connor, Ethan Blackburn, Jayden Jacobs and Reese Morford, were among the eight students who addressed the board in September 2019 to start the club, along with Trey Robinson, Quaid Floyd and Dalton Reynolds, all of whom are also on this year’s team.
Once approval was given, the hard work truly started as the team fundraised to make the season a reality. Tammy White of T-Shirts, Ink, was instrumental in the process, providing the team’s jerseys at an affordable price and setting up an online store to allow family and fans to purchase Topper fishing team gear, with the proceeds benefitting the team. The season was also made possible through several donations from the community, many of which came in anonymously.
“We hope our anonymous donors read this and know that we appreciate their support in starting what we hope to be a long-lasting, character-building and conservation-minded high school club,” said Hillsboro guidance counselor Tim Morford, who coaches the team along with Dennis Loskot.
Loskot will captain one of two boats at Coffeen Lake on Thursday, with David Riggs captaining the other. Both Loskot and Riggs volunteered their time and their boats for the season, which Morford hopes won’t end on Thursday.
“Each boat of four team members will need to catch enough weight during Thursday’s IHSA sectional to finish in the top four to advance to the state finals,” Morford said.
In addition to Edwards, Connor, Blackburn, Jacobs and Morford, Elias Gutierrez, Austin Loskot and Deklan Riggs will also be fishing this Thursday, with senior Madison Maloy acting as media specialist. The team was determined by who logged the most weight of keeper fish over a four-week period.
The group will compete against 13 other schools, including Alton Marquette, Breese Central, Breese Mater Dei, Bunker Hill, Edwardsville, Father McGivney, Granite City, Greenville, Litchfield, Mt. Olive, Triad, Vandalia and Highland, the 2019 state champion.
The Coffeen Sectional has produced the state champion three times, with Highland also winning in 2012 and Father McGivney winning in 2015. The Bulldogs have also taken second twice, in 2015 and 2016.
Regardless of how they finish, the Topper fishing team has hauled in a big one based solely on the fact they were able to participate in 2021. With that goal captured, the next goal is to make sure that the team stays around for years to come.
“We will be hosting a fundraising bass tournament at Coffeen Lake on June 13 and a kids fishing derby for the next generation of fishing enthusiasts,” Morford said. “Parents, team members, supporters and coaches will be forming a committee to plan next year’s events, which will hopefully include plans to repeat as IHSA state champs.”
That’s a big goal, but then again, you can’t catch the big one if you’re sitting on the couch, something none of the young anglers can be accused of.
Hillsboro High School Bass Fishing Team
Juniors: Bryce Connor, Jayden Snow, Ethan Blackburn, Austin Edwards, Bryce Brown, Quaid Floyd, Dalton Reynolds, Trey Robinson, Garrett Schaake
Sophomores: Reese Morford
Freshmen: Elias Guitierrez, Austin Loskot, Deklan Riggs, Nathan Brown, Payton Brown, Jake Huber, Treyton Kuhl, Alec Leetham
Media Specialist: Madison Malloy
Boat Captains: Dennis Loskot and David Riggs
Coaches: Dennis Loskot and Tim Morford