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QB Stekel leads team effort in rout of North Crawford
Undefeated Pepin/Alma is next for Tigers
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WONEWOC — Senior quarterback Matt Stekel played his best game of the season leading an overall team effort as Hillsboro crushed visiting North Crawford 45–8 in the first round of the WIAA Division 7 playoffs Friday night.

Stekel rushed for a team-high 117 yards and a touchdown, and completed 3 of 5 passes for 78 yards and another score. He also passed for a two-point conversion, ran for a two-point conversion and kicked an extra point to account for.

Stekel gave the Tigers (7–3) an early 8–0 lead just 1:21 into the game when he scored on an 8-yard run to cap Hillsboro’s opening drive, then completed the two-conversion pass to junior Joey Helgerson.

Junior Tommy Crandall made it 14–0 just two minutes later when he scored on a 42–yard run.

The Trojans (6–4) scored their only points of the game on an 11-yard pass from Zach Stluka to Dallas Herschberger with 2:25 left in the opening quarter. Branden Baumeister’s conversion run made it 14–8.

Junior Tyler Crandall broke free for a 46-yard TD run in the final minute of the first half. Senior fullback Warren Paulson added the two-point conversion run to give Hillsboro a 22–8 halftime lead.

The Tigers increased their led less than two minutes into the second half when Stekel tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Helgerson. He added the conversion run to make it 30–8.

Hillsboro caught a bit of good fortune on its next drive to take a 38–8 lead.

Stekel completed a 21-yard pass to junior Max Stockwell down to the North Crawford 7-yard line, but he fumbled the ball. However, Paulson was right there to pick up the loose ball and carry it the final few yards for the score. Paulson also added the two-point conversion.

Tyler Crandall finished the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

Tommy Crandall led the Tigers’ defense with 11 tackles. Paulson finished with eight stops. Ethan Thorson had an interception.

Hillsboro advances to face second-seeded Pepin/Alma (10–0) Friday at 7 p.m.

The Eagles, the champions of the Lakeland South Conference, are coming off a 48–0 victory over Weston (5–4).

Pepin/Alma went 11–1 last year and advanced to the third round of the Division 7 playoffs before suffering a 30–8 loss to eventual D7 state runner-up Glenwood City.

This year the Eagles are led by senior quarterback Sam Mueller, who has completed 46 of 72 passes, for 1,058 yards, 11 TDs and six interceptions, and the running back tandem of juniors Trevor Heit (117 carries, 955 yards, 17 TDs) and Lance Johnson (127–857–12).

Mueller’s favorite target is senior Ronnie Engstrand, who has 20 receptions, 578 yards and eight TDs.