Senior Tommy Crandall rushed for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns as fourth-seeded Hillsboro held off fifth-seeded De Soto 22–15 in a WIAA Division 7 first-round playoff game last Friday night.
Freshman Dane Bach intercepted a De Soto pass in the end zone on the final play of the first quarter to help preserve the victory.
Bach also broke up a third-down pass in the end zone on the Pirates’ first drive of the game and De Soto missed the ensuing 28-yard field goal attempt.
With the win the Tigers improved to 8–2 and earned a rematch with Scenic Bluffs Conference champion Bangor (10–0).
The Cardinals, ranked third in Division 7, defeated the Tigers 42–14 on Oct. 2.
“We are all very excited for the rematch with Bangor,”said Hillsboro head coach Eric Auel. “While I wish it were maybe one round later, we have to play them eventually, so it might as well be right now.
“Having seen them once, I feel, gives us an advantage going into the game. We have been able to watch a lot of film and come up with some ideas to take better advantage of some of our personnel. They are a very well coached team and very talented; however, I feel we have the ability to pull off the upset.”
Bangor is coming off a 60–0 blowout of eighth-seeded Weston (3–6).
Hillsboro earned the rematch by dominating Friday’s game with De Soto (7–3), despite the deceivingly close score.
The Tigers outgained the Pirates 375–158, but turned the ball over three times.
“Offensively, we moved the ball throughout the game,” said Auel. “We fumbled the ball three times stopping drives. We were only forced to punt once, following a goal line stand on the one-yard line. We didn’t move the ball out far enough to warrant any risky offensive calls at that point in the game. We had the ball at the end ready to score but sat on it.
Senior Tyler Crandall gave Hillsboro an early 6–0 lead on an 8-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal late in the first quarter.
After Bach’s interception ended De Soto’s ensuing drive, Hillsboro added to its lead when Tommy Crandall ripped off a 69-yard TD run with 4:28 left in the second quarter.
The Pirates pulled within six points at 14–8 with a Jeff Alton 15-yard touchdown pass to Nick Malin in the final minute of the first half.
The Hillsboro defense made a third-goal line stand late in the third quarter, when Phillip Beyer tackled De Soto quarterback for a one-yard loss on 4th-and-goal at the 2 yard line.
Hillsboro senior quarterback Joe Helgerson made it a two-score with a 48-yard touchdown run on an option keeper. Jacob Urban’s two-point conversion run made it 22–8 with 6:56 remaining.
“I think the key series was our last score,” said Auel. “The kids pushed the ball down the field with very few long plays and really grinded out some clock for us.”
De Soto responded with a quick two-play drive that culminated in an 88-yard touchdown pass from Alton to Brandon George just a minute late.
However, the Pirates never got the ball back. Hillsboro gained four first downs to run out the clock and close out the game.
“De Soto did a great job spreading us out and mixing the pass and run to move the ball,” said Auel. “Our defense did a nice job of bending but not breaking. I have a lot of respect for coach Ed Wick and the job he does with his kids. It was not an offense we are accustomed to seeing, so the first time facing a multi-faceted attack like that is always challenging when they are proficient with it.”
Ethan Thorson led the Hillsboro defense with eight tackles. Tyler Crandall had seven.