For the third week in a row, Hillsboro survived an emotionless, fumble-filled performance.
The Tigers fumbled six times in the first half alone, losing four, but bounced back to pull out a 19–12 victory over visiting Royall in the Scenic Bluffs Conference opener for both teams.
Brandon Stanek ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter to give the Tigers an early lead before the fumble bug bit. Foreign exchange student Moa Jillefors extra point made it 7–0.
Royall’s Marcus Blaha returned the opening kickoff of the second half 70 yards to pay dirt to pull the Panthers’ within a point, but the conversion attempt failed and Hillsboro held a slim 7–6 lead.
The Tigers’ offense finally got back on track on its next possession and senior fullback Max Sebranek broke loose for a 43-yard score. Hillsboro’s conversion attempt came up short and the score was 13–6.
Midway through the fourth quarter Adam Vieth tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Traye Ness to once again make it a one-point game.
Royall went for two and the lead, but Sebranek batted away Vieth’s conversion to keep the Tigers in front at 13–12.
With just over three minutes left a 3-yard Stanek run gave the Hillsboro a seven-point lead, but once again the Tigers conversion pass failed.
With time winding down Matt Bartels picked off a wobbly hail mary attempt at the Hillsboro 30-yard line to preserve the victory.
“We have been lacking emotion in all three of our games this year,” said Hillsboro head coach Eric Auel. “The kids have still been going through the motions. I don’t know if they just think they can because of who we have played in the first three weeks, or if that’s just the personality of our kids.”
Hillsboro (3–0, 1–0 SBC) will host Necedah (2–1, 0–1) this Friday night. The usually powerful Cardinals are coming off a 28–16 loss to preseason conference favorite Bangor.
“We have been working all week at being more emotional in practice,” added Auel. “Hopefully it carries over to Friday night because we are going to need it against a very good opponent like Necedah.”