It may not be a permanent change (game adaptations seldom are) but in a classic closer-than-the-score-indicates game against the visiting Vandalia Vandals, Hillsboro’s offense had an effective performance beginning in the second quarter as they fell 33-20 in South Central Conference action.
The rushing game, based on deceptive ball-handling and a precise blocking scheme, accounted for a season-high 350 yards as they continue to learn Coach Joe Reed’s double-wing formation. They did so despite adjustments in the offensive line caused by season-ending injuries to Carson Maddaleno, who couldn’t play last week either because of concussion protocol, and his replacement at guard, Drake Mullen, who broke an ankle in a p.e. flag football injury. Both had played well before the injuries.
As a result, Maddex Scott moved from tight end to tackle, with tackle Magnus Wells moving to guard next to tackle Ian Malloy. Jaben Compton took Scott’s spot while Kyle Butler (center) and Reese Morford (guard) retained their positions. Because of the unit’s blocking, quarterback Zane Duff and running backs Blaine Stewart, Joe Keiser, and Blaze Helton dominated time of possession after the first period with 45 carries and 211 positive yards. Stewart scored two touchdowns and Helton rushed for one td. and a two-point conversion.
By record, Vandalia is one of five dominant teams in the conference (they are 3-1 after Friday’s game; Piasa Southwestern and Pana are 4-0, while Carlinville and Greenville are also 3-1), and the Vandals used two rushing plays, four passes, and an interception return to lead 19-0 less than ten minutes after the game began. Quarterback Matthew Hagy and wide receiver/defensive back Carson Ruot, both speedsters, were instrumental in the outbreak, which most likely caused those fans who had seen the Pana and Carlinville game to think, “Here we go again.” It absolutely showed the Toppers they needed to control the ball.
Hagy scored first, dashing through Topper defenders for a 71 yard touchdown to end a two-play possession after a Topper punt ended their first possession. Seven plays later, Ruot picked off a Topper pass at his 35 and scored untouched for a defensive score. Kanon Wollerman’s PAT made it 13-0 with 5:24 left in the opening quarter. It was 19-0 after Justin Proctor recovered a Topper fumble on Hillsboro’s 27. Hagy hit Ruot on a slant pattern to the 16; four plays later, facing a fourth and 12 from the 18, Hagy connected with Ruot for the score.
The Toppers controlled the ball for the rest of the quarter, but it included a bizarre moment. Joe Keiser returned Ruot’s kickoff for 17 yards; Stewart gained five on first down before Helton burst free up the middle for 27 yards. On first down Helton burst free again after being held up at the line; this time his run was halted by a whistle. The call was a “do-over,” with the ball returned to the 30 with first down status.
That drive ended in downs at the Vandal 20 after a holding call, but the Toppers had shown they could move the ball. 7:06 remained in the half when the defense forced a Vandal punt.
The Toppers’ first touchdown drive began on their own 37 as first Duff and then Helton gained 12 yards each. Six plays later a Duff 11 yard gain gave Hillsboro a first and goal from the 2; Helton kept the drive alive by recovering a botched hand-off there, and Stewart fought his way in to reward the offense with his team’s first score.
Hillsboro’s confidence seemed to soar in the second half even though Vandalia scored first, using a ten play drive after the opening kickoff to add six points as Hagy scored from the 2. The six almost became eight when the center’s snap for the PAT attempt was high and wide, but the Vandal who retrieved it to heave it toward the end zone missed his target.
Trailing 25-6, Hillsboro answered with a drive of their own aided by a Helton 14 yard kickoff return. Keiser (14 yards) and Helton (10 yards) had the largest runs from scrimmage. After ten rushing plays, Helton barged in from the 6, but he was stopped inches short on a PAT run, so Hillsboro still trailed by 13 with 15:42 to play in the contest.
Magnus Wells (who, with fellow senior Ian Malloy played well on both sides of the ball) recovered a Topper offensive fumble as the third quarter neared a close, but he had to punt on the last play of the third quarter. Vandalia began the last quarter with possession on their 48.
A pass interference call moved the ball inside Hillsboro territory; then Hagy turned to receivers other than Ruot to move the ball. Connor Ray caught a sideline pattern for 12, and running back Ryan Keiser made his only catch for 5. Wells made three big stops for the Toppers during this drive, including hauling Keiser down for a yard loss at the Topper 25 - but another pass interference call gave the visitors new life. 7:39 was on the clock when Hagy found Preston Nestrick for a score from 11 yards out; then he made it 33-12 with a conversion pass to Reid Well.
Again the Toppers came back. Five plays after receiving the kickoff, Stewart burst through the line from 51 yards away to score. Helton rushed for the extra points; it was 33-20, and with breaks Hillsboro could be in contention.
Maddex Scott provided a break by recovering a Vandal fumble on Hillsboro’s 37 yard line on the second play from scrimmage after the kickoff. 5:34 remained on the clock. With Duff keeping three times for 26 yards as he ran the offense, Hillsboro was on the Vandal 15 three minutes later.
Then the bizarre factor struck again. Stewart sprinted toward the end zone again; Topper fans still think he crossed into paydirt before a Vandal knocked the ball from his hands, but the nearest official disagreed and called it a touchback. High school football doesn’t have a replay system, so Vandalia took over on their 20.
Still the Toppers didn’t quit. Three plays later the Vandals had to punt; Brayden Fowler fielded the kick on his 47 and returned it to the Vandal 39. Hillsboro’s Keiser carried it to the 15 on second down, and Stewart ran to the 1 before he was tackled as time ran out.
Paris comes to Hillsboro next Friday, Sept. 24; kickoff at Sawyer Field is 7 p.m. Paris became the opponent because Roxana is no longer in the South Central Conference; North Mac will become a conference member for the next school year. The undefeated Topper team of 1961 will be recognized at the game that evening.
Sept. 17 at Hillsboro
Vandalia 19 0 6 8 33
Hillsboro 0 6 6 8 20
1st - 9:28 - (V) - Matthew Hagy 71-yard TD run (kick failed)
1st - 5:24 - (V) - Carson Ruot 60-yard interception return for TD (Kanon Wollerman kick)
1st - 2:28 - (V) - Carson Ruot 18-yard TD reception from Matthew Hagy (kick good)
2nd - 1:50 - (H) - Blaine Stewart 2-yard TD run (kick failed)
3rd - 8:43 - (V) - Matthew Hagy 3-yard TD run (kick failed)
3rd - 3:36 - (H) - Blaze Helton 6-yard TD run (2-pt conversion failed)
4th - 7:39 - (V) - Preston Nestrick 12-yard TD reception from Matthew Hagy (Matthew Hagy pass to Reid Well)
4th - 6:11 - (H) - Blaine Stewart 51-yard TD run (Blaine Helton run)
Passing (0-6-0): Zane Duff 0-5-0, 1 INT; Blaze Helton 0-1-0.
Rushing (61-352): Blaze Helton 22-111, 1 TD; Blaine Stewart 14-101, 2 TD; Zane Duff 15-82; Joseph Keiser 10-58.
Defense (Solo/Assists): Magnus Wells 3/5; Brayden Fowler 4/3; Cameron Hacke 3/4; Blaze Helton 2/5; Ian Malloy 0/6; Joseph Keiser 2/1; Reese Morford 1/2; Jaben Compton 1/1; Blaine Stewart 2/0.
Passing (9-21-119): Matthew Hagy 9-21-119, 2 TD.
Rushing (23-158): Matthew Hagy 15-141; Connor Ray 1-7; Preston Nestrick 1-6; Ryan Kaiser 6-4.
Receiving (9-19): Carson Ruot 5-63, 1 TD; Reid Well 1-27; Preston Nestrick 1-12, 1 TD; Connor Ray 1-12; Ryan Kaiser 1-5.