The Hillsboro High School Indians will kick off their season Friday August 25 at home against the Western Brown Broncos. This season will mark the first time since 2002 that the Indians will play in a league other than the now defunct South Central Ohio League (SCOL).
The move from the SCOL to the newly formed Frontier Athletic Conference (FAC) brings the opportunity for improved play on the field and subsequently a better overall record than the 4-6 the team posted in 2016.
Clinton-Massie, East Clinton, and Wilmington were the three schools that did not move with the other five members of the conference. Of those former conference rivals the Indians will visit the East Clinton Astros on September 8. The Indians have removed the other two schools from their schedule for the 2017 season.
The FAC portion of the schedule is slated to start on September 29 when the Indians travel to Chillicothe to take on the Cavaliers. Chillicothe finished with an 8-3 overall record a year ago, and will provide a decent measuring stick for the Hillsboro squad as they begin a five week stretch of FAC games.
The Indians will wrap up their regular season on October 27 at McClain High School. This game will feature cross-county and league rivalry action that has been a staple of these two Highland County squads. The Indians took the victory in the last game of the season a year ago, by three points. Expect the Tigers to be anxious to defend home field and avenge the loss from a year ago.
The Indians could find it tough to improve their record from last year as they lost nine seniors from last seasons’ squad including starting quarterback Hunter Chain. Hillsboro head coach Jack O’Rourke spoke with The Times-Gazette about the depth of the team, “We are in the same situation we were in last year. We don’t have that many players experienced players coming back. So, if anyone gets hurt we don’t have anyone to take their place.”
O’Rourke emphasized that one of the main things he tries to teach the kids is, “We talk about family values and that type of thing. We try to get them to play together and work together as a unit.”
Expectations for the team are higher as the 2017 draws near, “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.
Key returning players for the Indians are Deon Burns at FB and Britton Haines, a senior, at WR/DB. The team also returns three of the five starters from last season’s standout unit. O’Rourke said, “Burns is pretty solid he played a lot for us last year. He is pretty hard to bring down. Haines is a wide receiver that started all last year and we expect him to contribute again this season. Our biggest strength probably is our offensive line and defensive lines.”
Junior Mason Swayne will be taking over the offense from the quarterback spot for the Indians at the beginning of the 2017 season. Coach O’Rourke seemed confident in Swayne when he said, “He has done real well.”
Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.