It wasn’t a good day in terms of the game’s result, but the trip to Breese in Clinton County could have been worse in several ways for Hillsboro’s football team and fans.
The Mater Dei Knights won 34-0 on Saturday afternoon, April 10, but the southwest wind blew the rain away half an hour before kickoff and it didn’t return till the final whistle was in the past.
There were several points of interest to see at the event, not the least of which was the Astro-turf style field on their high school grounds. For most of the Toppers, it was the first time to play on a field after a heavy rain without a slippery ball or uncomfortably wet uniforms after first contact with the ground. (Carlinville now has a turf field, but Carlinville played here this spring; no one else in the South Central Conference has made that investment).
Another reason to go, at least for serious football fans, was to observe Knight quarterback Reed Braundmeier a 6’3”, 204 pound senior who reportedly has drawn NCAA Division I interest. His statistics for the game (95 yards passing, including two TD passes, and 89 yards rushing on only four carries, the last for a 35 yard touchdown) were impressive but hard to judge; the line and skilled position players around him helped him gain the statistics, and his efforts were so smooth and natural onlookers might be tempted to take him for granted.
Mater Dei fans had another reason to be out in force; it was their last home game of the season, so it was Senior Day for the cross country teams, the 16 seniors on the football team, and the band members.
Numbers-wise, the Toppers were outnumbered; the Knights listed 44 players on their varsity roster; Hillsboro had 25 on the sidelines, and three of them were injured, not in pads. Though the odds were against the Toppers considering experience, team size (physically as well as depth-wise), and records.
Those odds grew higher before the first quarter ended, with Mater Dei leading 20-0. To the Toppers’ credit, they soldiered on, with no apparent finger-pointing at each other. Even when the Knights added 14 points in the third quarter while stifling the Topper offense, the effort on Hillsboro’s part was at a high level for every play.
With the wind at his back, Magnus Wells booted the opening kickoff through the Knights’ end zone for a touchback; that’s about all that went according to game plan in the early going. Four minutes and eight plays later, Carson Loepker took a lateral from Braundmeier around the end for a 16 yard TD run; Grant Cox added the point after (PAT).
Cox’s kick off into the wind was fielded by Joe Keiser at his 34; the kick could have been short for strategic reasons, or it could have been shortened by the wind. Four plays later, including a false start call against Hillsboro, Mater Dei had the ball at mid-field. Four more plays and a first down later, Braundmeier found Cameron Kreke streaking for the south end zone with his second completion of the game–for 36 yards and the score. Cox was good again for the extra point.
Hillsboro’s second possession was much like the first; when reading his options to keep or hand off, Duff would be tackled no matter which he chose. When he dropped back to pass, he was sacked. Then, a westerly gust of wind blew his punt into a crowd of spectators north of the MD grandstand. Two carries by Jayce Napovanice and a questionable face mask penalty put the ball on the Topper 17. Braundmeier found Kreke in the middle again, but he was tackled on the 1, from whence he scored on the next play. This time, the kick into the wind failed.
Blaze Helton barged for 12 yards and the Toppers’ initial first down before the quarter ended. The next Knights’ drive ended when a fourth and 10 pass fell incomplete on the Topper 18. With the ball on the 14, linebacker Drew Willman tackled Napovanice for a four yard loss before Wells pressured Braudmeier into hurrying two passes.
The next Knight possession ended when Jackson Hamby recovered a fumble at the Topper 8; that meant no one scored in the second quarter; that was a moral victory for Hillsboro.
Tanner Clayton’s fumble recovery bailed Hillsboro out of a tough spot early in the second half. Punting into the wind and a bad backward bounce meant Mater Dei started their first possession on Hillsboro’s 34, but Clayton was quick to the ball when a Knight fumbled the first handoff. Their next possession started on their 45.
Those 55 yards were covered twice. The first TD was nullified by a block in the back call after Braundmeier scampered 48 yards down his left sideline; not bothered, the Knight QB threw to Loepker from 16 yards out. The kick, with the wind, sailed through.
Hurt by yet another block in the back call, the Toppers began in poor field position on their own 11. Three plays and a punt later, the Knights had the ball in the Topper 35, but not for long as Duff, playing safety, intercepted a Braundmeier pass and returned it for 17 yards. Again the offense couldn’t move, and Braundmeier didn’t risk another throw as he ran a quarterback draw up the middle from 35 yards out. Cox’s kick ended the scoring for the contest.
Joe Keiser assumed running duties for Hillsboro in the fourth quarter, garnering 40 yards in six carries to lead Hillsboro in rushing yards. A possible Topper touchdown was nullified by an offensive pass interference call after Jace Tuetken carried a Duff pass 24 yards to the end zone with 3:37 to play.
To conclude the series, Keiser gained three on a third and 20 carry before Duff scrambled for 16 yards to the Knight 26.
The Knights pulled their starting back field four plays into the last quarter; their deepest penetration was to the Toppers 35, where they turned it over on downs. Their only punt finished their last series of the games. According to Toppers assistant coach Roger Fath, their 34 points were the fewest they’ve scored this season.
Still looking for an elusive first win, the Toppers host Pana next Friday, April 16; it will be Senior Night. The season concludes in Piasa Friday, April 23, at Southwestern High School. Those wanting to see more spring football can check out the Toppers/Litchfield junior varsity game this evening, Monday, April 12, at Sawyer Field.
April 10 at Breese
Hillsboro (0-4) 0 0 0 0 0
Mater Dei(4-0) 20 0 14 0 34
1st - 7:43 - Mater Dei - Carson Loepker 16-yard run (Grant Cox kick)
1st - 4:26 - Mater Dei - Cameron Kreke 36-yard pass from Brad Braundmeier (Grant Cox kick)
1st - 1:38 - Mater Dei - Cameron Kreke 1-yard run (kick failed)
3rd - 7:06 - Mater Dei - Carson Loepker 16-yard pass from Brad Braundmeier (Grant Cox kick)
3rd - 3:13 - Mater Dei - Brad Braundmeier 35-yard run (Grant Cox kick)
Passing (7-16-29): Zane Duff 7-16-29.
Rushing (38-52): Joe Keiser 6-40; Blaze Helton 13-26; Jace Tuetken 1-(-4); Zane Duff 18-(-10).
Receiving (7-29): Jude Bertolino 2-25, Jace Tuetken 3-8, Blaze Helton 1-0, Drew Willman 1-(-4).
Defense (solo/assists): Magnus Wells 9/4; Blaze Helton 6/3; Drew Willman 6/2; Jackson Hamby 4/3, 1 fumble recovery; Maddex Scott 4/1; Jace Tuetken 5/0; Zane Duff 4/0, 1 INT; Tanner Clayton 2/1; Jaben Compton 1/0; Joe Keiser 1/0; Ian Malloy 1/0; Carsen Maddaleno 1/0; Jude Bertolino 0/1; Brady Huber 0/1.