Both the actual climate and the football climate for Hillsboro seemed ominous Friday evening, Sept. 20, when the varsity made the short trip to Greenville. Football-wise, the Comets were 3-0 and the Toppers 0-3 with illness affecting a key defender. Greenville has a strong-armed quarterback, a bull-like fullback, at least three speedy receivers, beefy experienced lines, and linebackers with size who relish hitting opponents with jarring impact. They are playoff-bound, tied with Vandalia and Pana atop the South Central conference.
The weather? Rain clouds were gathering to the south, and southwestern winds smelled like imminent moisture. The winds were strong enough to cause cancellation of one of the Comets' planned homecoming events–the Med-Evac helicopter scheduled to deliver the game ball to Stout Field wouldn't fly in those conditions.
The only storm that hit was the Comet offense. Their first six possessions resulted in touchdowns, five in the first half and one in the third quarter as they passed when they wanted to and ran to control the clock once they were safely ahead.
The Topper defense was just outmanned. Fullback Jake Woods is listed at 6'1" and 200 pounds. Hillsboro started 5'9" 160-pound Curtis Segrest at nose guard. Segrest is quick, an admirable trait, but so is the much bigger Woods. Drew Willman, 5'10" and 180, drew the starting assignment at defensive end rather than at his usual linebacker spot; he lined up against a blocking back who weighed 220 pounds and linemen averaging 240 pounds. Greenville proved to be a bruising team to play.
Still, Hillsboro once again had highlights. Defensively, linebackers Jackson Hamby (nine solo tackles and three assists) and Jonah Harkins (four tackles, four assists), linemen Magnus Wells and Brett Cunningham, and defensive backs Joey Lipe, Andrew Law, and Dom Bates played well.
Offensively, Harkins had 115 rushing yards with 62 coming on one dash from his own 19 to the Comet 19 in the third quarter. That was followed by contributions by Lipe and Harkins again before quarterback Jace Tuetken found Dylan McCammack with a seven-yard touchdown pass to spoil the Comet shutout. The same pair combined for the extra points; the home team still held a 40-8 lead, and the score was the last of the game.
Greenville's offense was balanced early, but almost exclusively on the ground in the second half. Quarterback Will Harnetiaux was 8-of-12 passing for 177 yards and two touchdowns; even his incompletions were worth seeing. The first touchdown was to Isaac Green; the catch and run covered 59 yards, and it was obvious no one on Hillsboro's squad could match Green's speed. It completed a 75-yard, five-play drive four minutes into the contest.
The second score came after a short punt that sailed out of bounds on the Topper 41. The biggest play of the four the Comets needed to score was a 37-yard completion to Peyton McCullough that reached the Topper 3; Woods barged in from there.
Hillsboro used the last five minutes of the first quarter and 100 seconds of the second to build a sustained drive. Knowing Greenville wouldn't score if the Toppers had the ball, Hillsboro reverted to their Power I formation and ran 16 plays, with Lipe, Harkins and Tuetken sharing the carries. Tuetken also had two pass completions to Law, but a holding penalty slowed progress before an incomplete pass (Comet blitzes were a problem no matter what formation the Toppers chose) stopped the drive at the Greenville 20.
Eighty yards and 12 plays later–including personal foul and encroachment penalties–Logan Doll, a 220-pound running back most often found blocking for Woods, crossed the goal line. A bad snap on the extra point attempt gave the holder, Tommy Baker, a chance to run for two points. He did; 21-0 Comets.
The fourth Comet possession began badly. Because of a sack by Law and a pass break-up by Lipe, the Comets faced third and 24 with 5:40 left in the half. Harnetiaux found Baker in the left flat though, and Law had to run him down on the Topper 20, five yards beyond the first down marker. A pass completion to Jason Zeeb set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Woods, who ran over a would-be tackler on his way to the end zone. McCammack blocked Doll's extra point kick. Five minutes remained.
After a three-play, negative two-yard possession was followed by a punt, Greenville next had the ball at their 39. The Comets chose to feed Woods the ball, hoping to eat up time and limit Topper possessions because of the 28-point lead. Using seven consecutive running plays, one a 33-yard gallop by Woods, Greenville reached the Topper 11. The the quarterback threw the sideline pattern to Baker again; a series of missed tackles allowed the junior back to score, and Doll made the subsequent kick.
The Comets needed one more touchdown to set the clock in constant motion, shortening the game, and that score came on their first second-half possession. Hillsboro tried an onsides kick which Isaiah Childerson covered on the Comet 48. Woods carried six of the seven plays his team needed to score. On one of the carries, he split would-be tacklers to gain 31 yards to the Topper 7. Two carries later, he was in the end zone and the clock would be in quick mode for the last 21 minutes. The win was number 327 (of 600 total gains) for the storied Comet program.
At least it didn't rain.
Next up for the Toppers is a home game this Friday, Sept. 27, when the Gillespie Miners come to Sawyer Field for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Miners defeated Piasa Southwestern last week, 33-20. They've also defeated Litchfield and bring a 2-2 record with them.
September 20 at Greenville
Hillsboro 0 0 8 0 8
Greenville (4-0) 13 21 6 0 40
1st: Greenville - Isaac Green 59-yard pass from Will Harnetiaux (Logan Doll kick)
1st: Greenville - Jake Woods 3-yard run (kick failed)
2nd: Greenville - Logan Doll 2-yard run (Tommy Baker run)
2nd: Greenville - Jake Woods 11-yard run (kick blocked)
2nd: Greenville - Tommy Baker 17-yard pass from Will Harnetiaux (Logan Doll kick)
3rd: Greenville - Jake Woods 3-yard run (kick failed)
3rd: Hillsboro - Dylan McCammack 7-yard pass from Jace Tuetken (Jace Tuetken pass to Dylan McCammack)
Passing: Hillsboro - Jace Tuetken 5-14-51; Greenville - Harnetiaux 8-12-177.
Rushing: Hillsboro - Jonah Harkins 10-116, Joey Lipe 8-14, Andrew Law 1-5, Drew Willman 2-3, Jace Tuetken 10-(-22); Greenville - Woods 17-138, Doll 3-19, Weber 10-15, Gaffner 7-4, Harnetiaux 2-4.
Receiving: Hillsboro - Dom Bates 2-22, Andrew Law 2-22, Dylan McCammack 1-7; Greenville - Isaac Green 2-69, Baker 3-54, McCullough 1-37, Zeeb 2-17.
Defense (Solo/Assists): Jackson Hamby 9/3; Jonah Harkins 4/4; Andrew Law 4/4; Magnus Wells 5/2; Joey Lipe 5/0; Dom Bates 2/1; Dylan McCammack 2/1; Brett Cunningham 3/0; Ian Malloy 2/1; Joe Keiser 2/1; Drew Willman 2/1; Aiden Scroggins 1/1; Curtis Segrest 1/0; Garet Schaake 1/0; Aaron Wille 1/0; Riley Dugan 0/1.