ELROY — Royall scored the first touchdown and had all the early momentum, but Hillsboro had the last laugh.
Coach Eric Auel’s Tigers scored 30 unanswered points after falling behind 6–0 in the opening quarter to rally for a 30–6 victory over the Royall Panthers in the Scenic Bluffs Conference opener for both teams.
“It’s always a good way to start the conference season with a win,” said Hillsboro head coach Eric Auel. “We had faced some early adversity and were able to bounce back, take care of business, and get the win. The key to changing the momentum was getting more pressure on the quarterback and being more in the face of the Royall receivers. Offensively, consistency from one play to the next helped us claw our way back into the lead.”
Royall (0–3, 0–1 SBC) took the opening kickoff and drove to the Hillsboro 17-yard line on a pair of long completions by quarterback Josh Murray, but Hillsboro Tyler Crandall intercepted Murray’s fourth pass attempt of the game at the Tigers’ 22-yard line.
The Hillsboro offense struggled to find a rhythm on its first drive, committing three penalties before ultimately punting from deep in its own territory.
Blessed with great field position at the Tigers’ 36-yard-line Murray completed 3 of 4 passes for 40 yards and capped the scoring drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Burkhalter on 4th and goal.
Hillsboro put together a nice drive on the ensuing possession driving 56 yards in nine plays, but a fumble at the Royall 4-yard line end the promising threat.
After forcing a quick three-and-out the Tigers had great field position taking over at the Royall 22 after a short punt.
Seven plays later junior halfback Tommy Crandall scored from a yard out on 4th and 1 to tie the game on the first play of the second quarter. Hillsboro’s two-point conversion run failed.
The Tigers took their first lead with 1:23 left in the half when Tyler Crandall capped a short drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. Senior quarterback Matt Stekel’s two-point conversion made it 14–6.
Stekel added an eight-yard TD run late in the third quarter and Tyler Crandall converted the two-point run to give the Tigers a 16-point lead.
Stekel also had a 45-yard touchdown run called back in the fourth quarter for a holding penalty.
But Hillsboro regrouped and still managed to finish the drive in the end zone when senior fullback Warren Paulson capped his 100-yard night with a 7-yard TD run.
Paulson finished the game with 106 yards on 16 carries. Tommy Crandall also gained 106 yards on 14 attempts. Stekel added 59 yards on 12 carries and Tyler Crandall finished with 57 yards rushing on 11 attempts.
Altogether Hillsboro piled up 326 yards rushing on 54 carries.
Stekel also completed 3 of 8 passes for 39 yards with one interception.
After allowing 93 yards passing and a touchdown on Royall’s first two possessions, the Tigers’ defense stiffened and held Murray to just 6 of 20 passing for 26 yards the rest of the game.
Tyler Crandall led the Hillsboro defense with seven tackles, one sack and an interception. Ethan Thorson finished the game with five tackles.
Hillsboro (3–0, 1–0) will look to remain undefeated Friday when it travels to Necedah (1–2, 0–1). The Cardinals were shutout by Bangor 38–0 last week.