Hillsboro's varsity football team must feel like the troll in the children's story who hid under the bridge hoping to convert a goat into dinner. As the goats came across the bridge, they were progressively bigger, faster, harder to handle. Piasa Southwestern, the first team on the Topper schedule, proved to be better than Hillsboro, but only by four points. Next came Staunton, and they were 24 points better. Friday night, Sept. 13, the Roxana Shells came to town and won 42-12, a thirty point margin -- and the better teams in the conference have yet to appear.
Friday's game wasn't a traditional Hillsboro performance; the team passed 31 times and rushed 47 times, but gained only 242 yards for the game. Probably because of falling behind so early, they threw often and never once were in the double tight-end power formation that had been a staple of Hillsboro football.
Roxana, on the other hand, ran only 45 plays but gained 524 total yards. Shell quarterback Gavin Huffman (more well-known for his ptowess as a three point marksman on the basketball court) didn't throw a pass over the last 16 minutes of the game and completed only one in the second half; still wide receiver Parris White had four catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.
Roxana's seniors had suffered bad losses as starters as sophomores and juniors; though they were 0-2 coming to Topper country, they have an abundance of speed at the skilled positions evidently just waiting to be unleashed. That talent exploded in the first quarter, but all the points didn't count.
Senior running back Mike Ilch ran a sweep for 42 yards and an apparent touchdown on the Shells' first play from scrimmage, but a holding call erased the score. It was a small delay; on the next play Huffman passed to Braeden Wells for a 29 yard first down. The next play was a 23 yard touchdown run by senior Cole Liley. Logan Wonders added the first of his successful extra points.
Five plays after the ensuing kickoff, Wells intercepted a halfback pass to regain possession for the visitors on the Roxana 34. Ilch covered those 66 yards with one gallop; Wonders added the PAT, and it was 14-0, Roxana, before four full minutes had passed, even though White hadn't touched the ball.
That too changed quickly. Hillsboro turned the ball over on downs at the Shell 45 when a fourth and one attempt was short (neither team punted in the contest). Huffman found White on a fly pattern on first down, and the speedy junior raced to his team's third touchdown. Soon it was 21-0 with six minutes gone in the first period.
The Shells made it 28-0 four minutes into the second quarter on the longest run of the evening, an 85 yarder by Ilch. Following four first downs (one on a scamper by quarterback Jace Tuetken for 10 yards, the second an 11 yard carry by Jonah Harkins, the third a Teutken 10 yard pass to tight end Dylan McCammack (he would catch 7 balls for 64 yards), and the last another 11 yard Harkins run as he stepped over one prone tackler), Hillsboro faced a fourth and nine on the Shell 9. Roxana seemed to anticipate the next Topper play, a middle screen, as a linebacker stopped the Topper back for a two yard loss. The ball belonged to the Shells on their 10.
Liley carried from there first, gaining five. Then Ilch escaped down the east sideline; by the time he reached the 50, the only players close to him were two teammates searching for someone to block.
The shutout was broken with two minutes to play in the first half. The Toppers had a sustained drive of 18 plays, including an encroachment call that gave them a first down at the Shell 26. The touchdown was a Tuetken to McCammack 14 yard pass. The extra point kick failed.
The clock stopped the Shells' last drive of the half. The visitors had used all three time outs before Ilch was tackled on the 1 with six seconds to play; mercifully those seconds passed before the Shells could line up again.
In many ways the second half mirrored the first even though the Shells eased off the offensive accelerator somewhat . Huffman completed a half-opening 58 yard, seven play drive by sweeping around his right end for a 17 yard score.
Aiden Scroggins intercepted a Shell pass on the Topper 30 to stop the next drive; following his long return to the Shell 32, Harkins boosted Hillsboro's hopes with a 16 yard carry. Defensive lineman Connor House doused those hopes with a 19 yard sack of the quarterback, giving the Shells the ball on their 33. In turn they drove to the Topper 36 where Curtis Segrest recovered a Shell fumble.
Roxana's last score came early in the fourth quarter when the Shells used their first three plays (a 10 yard run by back David Pluester, a 19 yard off-tackle burst by Liley, and a 25 yard up-the-middle gallop on which he was virtually untouched) by Pluester to score touchdown number six.
Hillsboro did score again; Harkins battled in from the 3 with five minutes remaining. That seemed fitting as he kept the drive alive with a fumble recovery at the 26; a Scroggins (in his first appearance at quarterback on the varsity level) pass to Jude Bertolino for fifteen yards was also a major factor. Harkins carried the ball 32 times for 108 yards to lead all Topper rushers in the contest.
This Friday's challenge at Greenville is more of the same as the Comets return an experienced, efficient quarterback (Will Harnetiaux) and fleet back/receiver Isaac Green. Green had three of his team's five touchdowns during a win at Carlinville last Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
September 13 at Hillsboro
Roxana (1-2) 21 7 7 7 42
Hillsboro (0-3) 0 6 0 6 12
1st: Roxana - Mike Ilch 23-yard run (Logan Wonders kick)
1st: Roxana - Cole Liley 66-yard run (Logan Wonders kick)
1st: Roxana - Parris White 55-yard pass from Gavin Huffman (Logan Wonders kick)
2nd: Roxana - Mike Ilch 85-yard run (Logan Wonders kick)
2nd: Hillsboro - Dylan McCammack 14-yard pass from Jace Tuetken (kick failed)
3rd: Roxana - Gavin Huffman 17-yard run (Logan Wonders kick)
4th: Roxana - David Pluester 15-yard run (Logan Wonders kick)
4th: Jonah Harkins 3-yard run (pass failed)
Passing: Jace Tuetken 13-23-90; Aiden Scroggins 3-7-27; Drew Willman 0-1-0.
Rushing: Jonah Harkins 32-108, Aiden Scroggins 3-10, Drew Willman 2-9, Andrew Law 1-7, Ben Taylor 1-5, Jude Bertolino 1-(-2), Jace Tuetken 7-(-12).
Receiving: Dylan McCammack 7-64, Jude Bertolino 4-28, Dom Bates 2-21, Ben Taylor 1-4, Jonah Harkins 2-0.
Defense (Solo/Assists): Ben Taylor 6/1; Jonah Harkins 4/3; Jackson Hamby 3/4; Drew Willman 4/1; Zinnen Kenney 2/2; Joey Lipe 4/0; Andrew Law 3/1; Dylan McCammack 3/0; Dom Bates 1/1; Curtis Segrest 0/2; Aiden Scroggins 0/2; Jude Bertolino 0/1; Maddox Scott 1/0; Brett Cunningham 1/0; Magnus Wells 1/0; Tyson Compagni 1/0; Garet Schaake 0/1.