Eric Auel returns for a 16th season as Hillsboro’s football coach with a talented returning senior class that should help the Tigers’ head ball coach improve upon his already impressive 109–60 career record.
While familiarity will be a key for the Tigers’ 2015 season, change has swept through the Scenic Bluffs Conference.
Wonewoc–Center has left the SBC for the Ridge and Valley in football only, leaving the SBC with seven conference teams and six conference games. Meanwhile, Wauzeka and Seneca have formed a co-operative for football in the Ridge and Valley.
Hillsboro will open the season at 7 p.m. Friday night at Wonewoc–Center in what now is a non-conference game.
A year ago, Auel’s Tigers defeated the winless Wolves 47–27 in the final game of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth.
Hillsboro went on to defeat North Crawford in the opening round of the WIAA Division 7 playoffs, 45–8, before being knocked out of the postseason by eventual D7 state runner-up Pepin/Alma, 47–20, in the second round.
The Tigers finished 7–4 overall and 4–3 in the Scenic Bluffs.
Hillsboro lost second leading rusher Warren Paulson (846 yards, 13 TDs), quarterback Matt Stekel (35 of 87, 539 yards, 5 TDs, 10 Ints, 308 yards rushing, 3 TDs) and two-way lineman Sebastian Miller, but returns 17 starters.
Chief among them are senior twin brothers Tommy and Tyler Crandall, who both started at halfback in Hillsboro’s wishbone option attack and inside linebacker in the Tigers’ 4–4 defense.
Tommy Crandall led Hillsboro in both rushing (880 yards, 8 TDs) and tackles (63).
Tyler Crandall rushed for 448 yards and seven TDs and finished second on the team with 58 total tackles.
Also back are seniors Hunter Stanek and Nolan Hammer, who both started on the offensive and defensive lines.
Senior Max Stockwell returns as a two-way starter at defensive end and wide receiver. He was the Tigers’ leading receiver a year ago with 16 catches for 276 yards and one TD. He also had 43 tackles.
Joey Helgerson earned first-team All-SBC honors a year ago as a defensive back, saw offensive snaps at quarterback, wide receiver and halfback a year ago.
Seniors Cody Hora (WR/DB), Jacob Benish (C) and Ethan Thorson (DB) also saw time in the starting lineup a year ago as juniors.
Junior Phillip Beyer returns as a starting linebacker after earning honorable mention All-SBC honors as a sophomore.
Hillsboro will host non-conference games against Kickapoo/La Farge on Aug. 28 and Cassville on Sept. 4, before traveling to Brookwood Sept. 11 to open the conference season.