Ready or not, it’s that time of year. The local high school football season opens Friday night with both Hillsboro and McClain looking to improve on their records from a year ago.
One note of interest is that all local varsity games start at 7 p.m. this year rather the 7:30 p.m. kick off time that was the tradition for many years.
There is one other big change this year. After competing in the South Central Ohio League for most of the last century, Hillsboro and McClain will now be competing in the Frontier Athletic Conference. Others teams in the league include Chillicothe, Jackson, Miami Trace and Washington, and all of them will likely be eager to claim that first FAC football championship.
Hillsboro, which finished with its best record in recent years at 4-6 last season, opens this year at home against Western Brown. Last year the Broncos defeated the Indians 48-22.
McClain, which finished the season at 1-9 a year ago, opens the 2017 season by hosting Frankfort Adena. Last year the Tigers defeated the Warriors 34-21.
If Hillsboro hopes to finish .500 or better this year, coach Jack O’Rourke says they will have to stay healthy. The Indians lost nine seniors from last year’s team and, according to O’Rourke, they do not have a lot depth.
“We should improve, but again our biggest key is staying healthy. We were lucky last year with the low numbers we had that we stayed fairly healthy. That is going to have to happen again this year for us to improve,” O’Rourke said.
On the other hand, the schedule makers gave the Indians a break this year. Two-time state champion Clinton-Massie, along with Wilmington, are longer on the schedule. And the Indians’ five non-league games are all against Southern Buckeye Conference opponents – Western Brown, Goshen, East Clinton, Williamsburg and Clermont Northeastern. All those schools except Western Brown are smaller than Hillsboro.
The Indians will also be riding a bit of momentum after winning their last three games a season ago.
If the ball would have bounced just a little differently a year ago for the Tigers, they would have as good or a better record than Hillsboro. After defeating Adena in the opener, the Tigers lost 42-41 at Unioto the next week. They also lost at East Clinton, 33-27, then in the season-closing Rotary Bowl game at Hillsboro the Tigers appeared to have the game all locked up before finally falling 43-40.
Coach Jeremy Andrews says he likes his team’s depth and the way they are approaching the season. But the key will be gaining confidence and playing quicker.
“The goal of this team is continued growth. We have guys that need to grow up and need to be reliable football players,” said Andrews. “I really like our kids. They have taken that challenge on. We have kids that are emerging as leaders, now we need kids to emerge as playmakers.”
Besides Adena, the Tigers’ other non-league games this year are against Unioto, Zane Trace, East Clinton and Troy Christian.
It all culminates on Oct. 27 when Hillsboro visits Greenfield for the annual Rotary Bowl battle.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.