BANGOR — Senior fullback Jack Reader scored twice in the first seven minutes of Friday’s WIAA Division 7 Level 2 contest, and host Bangor never trailed.
The undefeated Cardinals, ranked third in D7, went on to defeat Hillsboro for the second time this year, 28–14, ending the Tigers’ season.
Bangor defeated the Tigers 42–12 just four weeks earlier on Oct. 2.
The Cardinals (11–0) advance to face second-seeded Ithaca (11–0) in a Level 3 playoff game Friday night.
Meanwhile, Hillsboro ends the year at 8–3.
“I thought the kids played much better than the first time around,” said Hillsboro head coach Eric Auel. “They decided that they could compete with a very good football team and did. They certainly showed that they were a playoff caliber team and had the ability to do some special things. Turnovers and mistakes can’t happen in deep level playoff games, and unfortunately they did. We’ll all be thinking about this one for a while.”
Reader scored on an 11-yard run three minutes into the game, then after a Hillsboro fumble at its own 40-yard-line, Reader added a 1-yard run with 4:54 remaining in the opening quarter to make it 14–0.
Senior Andrew Piske rushed for 146 yards on 29 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns to help Bangor put the game away.
Piske set up Reader’s second touchdown with a 31-yard run down to the 1-yard-line.
Hillsboro (8–3) cut the deficit to six with one second left in the first quarter, when senior Tommy Crandall scored from nine yards out and senior quarterback Joe Helgerson added the two-point conversion.
Bangor answered with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard TD run by Piske on fourth-and-two to make 20–8. The Cardinals converted on fourth down twice on the drive.
Helgerson scored on a 5-yard run with 2:27 left in the third quarter, but the conversion run failed and Bangor went to the half with a 20–14 lead.
The Hillsboro defense held Bangor on downs on the first drive of the second half, but the Cardinals returned the favor.
A snap over the head of Tiger punter Cody Hora gave Bangor the ball at the Hillsboro 10-yard line.
The Tigers defense again held on downs at their own 5-yard-line, but a second poor snap on a punt gave the Cardinals another red zone opportunity.
Piske scored from five yards out on the ensuing play and Kellen Kravik completed the 2-point conversion pass to Luke Reader to make it 28–14 with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
“It’s tough for a defense to stand tough three times in a row deep in your own territory,” said Auel. “Obviously, going up two scores made us have a bit more urgency to score. We had to throw a bit more without play action and we just aren’t as adept at that type of thing.”
Hillsboro moved the ball in the fourth quarter, but twice turn the ball over on downs after incomplete fourth down passes.
Helgerson finished the game 5 of 10 for 53 yards.
Bangor only attempted one incomplete pass in the game. The Cardinals rushed for 257 yards on 54 carries.
Hillsboro finished with 165 yards on 47 attempts. Tyler Crandall led the team with 95 yards on 21 carries. Tommy Crandall finished with 42 yards on 10 attempts.
Senior Ethan Thorson led the Tigers defense with nine tackles. The Crandall brothers each made seven tackles.
The loss ends the football careers of seniors Max Stockwell, Tyler Crandall, Tommy Crandall, Helgerson, Thorson, Hora, Jacob Benish, Nolan Hammer, Hunter Stanek and Cale Clausius.
“The seniors did a great job this season and showed they were a talented group of kids,” said Auel. “We’ll sorely miss this bunch and we wish them the best of fortune throughout the remainder of their senior year in all that they do.”