Hillsboro head coach Eric Auel said last week that his team had an outside shot an making the WIAA playoffs even with a losing conference record.
The Tigers took care of business on their end Friday night, posting a convincing 53–16 victory over last place Wonewoc–Center and the WIAA did indeed reward Hillsboro with a playoff berth.
The Tigers (5–4 overall, 3–4 SBC) were one of seven teams with losing conference records to win a tie-breaker to earn a spot into the playoff field of 224 teams.
“I’m excited for the kids to get another game and a chance to start over,” said Auel. “We are a much better football team than our record would suggest and I feel we could potentially advance deep into the playoffs if we execute properly.”
Hillsboro earned the sixth seed in Group B of the Division 7 playoffs. The Tigers will face third-seeded Loyal (7–2), the third-place finisher in the 10-team Cloverwood Conference, Friday night at 7 p.m.
“Loyal is a big physical team that runs old-fashioned power football and good defense,” said Auel. “I think we match up fairly well with them despite their physical size and style of play. I think we have the speed and athleticism edge on them however.”
Auel’s Tigers earned the opportunity to face Loyal by blasting the outmanned Wonewoc–Center Wolves last week.
Hillsboro racked up 404 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 34 carries by 10 different players. No player had more than five rushing attempts and six different players scored rushing touchdowns.
Brandon Stanek led the way with 132 yards on five carries, including a 52-yard touchdown with 5:10 left in the opening quarter.
Fullback Max Sebranek scored on a 27 yard run early in the first quarter.
Senior quarterback Grant Jefferies threw the first of his two touchdown passes to sophomore Max Stockwell five minutes later to make it 14–0.
Jefferies added a 15-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to make it 27–0.
He then hit Stockwell with a 6-yard scoring pass to make it 33–0.
Matt Stekel scored on a 33-yard run on Hillsboro’s next possession and Warren Paulson’s 14-yard TD run made it 46–0.
Wonewoc–Center (0–9, 0–7) scored its first points of the game on a 10-yard Bailey Miller to Landon Polk touchdown pass late in the half.
Tyler Crandall scored on a 48-yard run in the third quarter to account for Hillsboro’s final points.
Logan Fulton added a 35-yard TD run for the Wolves against Hillsboro’s second-string defense in the fourth quarter to account for the final score.
“The win was a good win to get some momentum back,” added Auel. “We’ve had two straight heartbreaking losses and this win will hopefully help facilitate some confidence getting into the playoffs.”