Undefeated 1961 Toppers Headed To The Hall


On Sept. 15, 1961, the Hillsboro High School football team began its season on the road in Mt. Olive. 

Little did they know that was the first step toward history.

The 1961-62 Hiltoppers went on to beat Mt. Olive 53-0, the first of nine wins that season as they became the first and thus far only Hillsboro football team to go truly undefeated in a full season.

On Friday, Sept. 24, the ‘61 Toppers will take their rightful place in the Hillsboro High School Athletic Hall of Fame, when they are inducted  during halftime of the current Toppers’ game against Paris at Sawyer Field.

With no playoffs in 1961, the Toppers’ nine games of perfection started with the win over the Wildcats on Sept. 15, and culminated with a 19-6 victory over Vandalia on Nov. 10.

In between, Hillsboro beat Gillespie 19-6, Greenville 31-14, Shelbyville 40-13, Taylorville 20-13, Litchfield 20-6, Pana 25-0 and Effingham 13-0.

The game against the Flaming Hearts was one of the landmarks of the season as bus loads of fans and students made the trip to Effingham to watch the two undefeated Mid-State Conference teams do battle.

One member of the team is already enshrined in the Topper hall of fame as Tony Parola was inducted in posthumously in 2009.

More inductions are planned for the Hillsboro High School Hall of Fame later in the year.

The 2021 hall of fame class will be enshrined alongside previous  inductees Stan Wallace, Mary Beth Zimmerman, Ed Dahler, Harold Osborn, Buzz Ott, Tony Parola, Mark Frailey, Walter Westbrook, Tony Corso, Pat McClurg, Matt Hughes, Maria Pretnar, Brooke (Beeler) Lynch, the state champion 2006 girls basketball team, the state champion 1914 boys basketball team, Shane Cress, Mark Hughes, Irwin Little, Charles Grantham, Cecil Hart, Brian Pesko, Bertie Smith, Adam Beeler, the state runner-up 1982 boys baseball team, the state runner-up 1949 boys basketball team, Dave Ball, Dyke Buerkett, Rich Stewart, Nicolo Casarta, Jeremy Connor, Randy McCoy, Tyler Shelton, Hope (Schulte) Pankau, Dale Wills, the 1985 Hillsboro football team, and the back-to-back state runner-up girls cross country teams in 1990 and 1991.


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This was a truly phenomenal football team.!

Thursday, September 16