The Hillsboro Indians will host the McClain Tigers for the 34th renewal of annual Rotary Bowl game this Friday, Oct. 26, at Richards Memorial Fieldin Hillsboro. The meeting will signal the end of the regular season for both teams, with Hillsboro looking to clinch a share of the Frontier Athletic Conference championship with a victory and McClain aiming for a little payback after the Indians spoiled senior night for the Tigers a year ago with a convincing 61-13 triumph.
Hillsboro will enter the game with an 8-1 overall record, while the Indians are 3-1 in the FAC this season and are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005, likely as the fifth ranked team in Region 11 if they win.
The Indians come in averaging nearly 38 points per game and have scored at least 45 points in four of their nine games, including a 71-point outburst three weeks ago at Washington C.H.
Defensively, the Indians are holding teams under 22 points per game and have held opponents under 14 points on four separate occasions this season, including a shutout victory in week three over the East Clinton Astros.
Hillsboro is known for its power running game and will lean on its trio of running backs — Josh Keets, Deon Burns and Mark Gallimore — to carry the majority of the offensive load against the Tigers.
Indian senior quarterback Mason Swayne is also a big play threat on the ground for the Indians and has found his rhythm as a passer over the last several weeks in wins over Jackson and Miami Trace on the road with two touchdown passes versus the Ironmen, including the game winner in overtime, and one TD pass against the Panthers a week ago.
Swayne has also been a factor defensively for the Indians with key interceptions against Jackson and Miami Trace.
Lane Cluff, Draven Stodgel and Sanchez Seals make up the point of attack for the Hillsboro defensive line as all three have had breakout years for Indians.
Middle linebacker Logan Hester has emerged as a consistent force for Hillsboro over the course of the season with his relentless pursuit of the ball carrier and his ability to drop into coverage on passing plays.
McClain comes into the game with a 2-7 overall record and a 1-3 record in the FAC.
The Tigers enter the fray on Friday averaging less than 18 points per game with four games of at least 20 points, including their highest scoring output of the season in week six when they hung 47 points on Miami Trace in the Tigers second win of the season.
On the defensive side of the ball, McClain has struggled mightily while allowing opponents to average 40 points a night, including at least 50 points the past three weeks against Chillicothe, Washinton and Jackson, respectively. The Tigers best defensive performance of the year came in week four when they were able to hold East Clinton to a single field goal in their first win of the season.
McClain has made massive improvements offensively this season and will likely lean heavily on the run game against the Indians, where they have averaged 211 yards per game as Dalton Mischal, Pat Fout and Kyler Trefz have combined for 12 of the Tigers’ 17 rushing touchdowns this season.
Seniors David Jett and Eric Anderson have split time at the quarterback position for the Tigers while completing 19 of 45 passes combined with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Sam Faulconer, Richie Everhart and Taylor Gallion will lead the McClain defense against the Indians and will be relied upon along with leading tackler Anderson to stem the flow of the Hillsboro offense.
The Times-Gazette Editor Jeff Gilliland was on the beat for the first ever Rotary Bowl in 1985 and shared his perspective on the game and what it means to the communities of Hillsboro and Greenfield.
“All you have to do is go to a Hillsboro vs. McClain game to see what it means to both communities. There is an electricity in the air,” Gilliland said. “Most years, the game is played for bragging rights and possession of the Rotary Bowl trophy for a year, and that makes things interesting enough. But this year that electricity will be amplified with Hillsboro playing for a share of a conference title and the highest playoff seed possible. You can be sure that the Tigers, maybe just a time or two, have talked about putting an exclamation mark on their season by upsetting the Indians and stealing that share of a title from their arch rivals.”
One thing is for sure when it comes to Hillsboro and McClain football; expect the unexpected.
Come out and support your teams and your communities on Friday at Richards Memorial Field in Hillsboro as these two longtime rivals put on a show and aim to claim countywide bragging rights and the coveted Rotary Bowl trophy for the next 12 months.
Ryan Applegate is the sports editor for The Times-Gazette. Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.