The 34th renewal of the annual Rotary Bowl at Richards Memorial Field in Hillsboro on Friday was a wet and one-sided affair that saw the Hillsboro Indians defeat the McClain Tigers by a score of 68-7 and secured a share of the FAC championship in the process.
Hillsboro was able to hold the Tigers to a three and out to begin the game but Josh Keets muffed the punt and McClain regained possession at their own 30-yard line.
The Tigers were unable to capitalize on the Indians’ mistake as they fumbled two plays later and Hillsboro’s Michael Rose recovered it to give Hillsboro the first of many short fields on the night at the McClain 25.
Following a 16 yard scamper by Keets, Hillsboro’s Deon Burns rumbled nine yards for the first score of the night by the Indians.
Then Keets made it 8-0 on a wild two point conversion attempt that started with a fumble and ended with Josh running back across the field for the conversion with 8:06 to play in the first quarter.
A fumble on McClain ensuing drive was recovered by Luke Middleton and then returned inside the Tigers’ 20-yard line to put Hillsboro in the red zone for the second time.
Again it was two plays, one by Keets and one by Burns, that allowed Hillsboro to score again with 4:41 to go in the first and Reece Bloomfield converted the extra point to put the Indians up 15-0.
After having a touchdown by Keets called back following several penalties on the punt return by the Indians Mark Gallimore streaked down the sideline for 43 yards.
Two plays later Gallimore scored from 16 yards out with 2:10 remaining and Bloomfield’s kick was good for a 22-0 Hillsboro lead.
Hillsboro was able to add another score in the first quarter after Richard Adkins recovered a third fumble by the Tigers and Deon Burns needed only one play to score from 16 yards out. The extra point was good and Hillboro held a 29-0 lead with one quarter finished.
Burns got into the end zone for the third time in the game with 8:43 to go in the second quarter of play after the Indians’ starting quarterback Mason Swayne ran for 56 yards to flip the field position.
Gallimore recorded his second score of the game at the 6:54 mark in the second but Bloomfield was unable to connect with Keets in the end zone on the two-point conversion to hold the score at 42-0.
After halftime the Indians kept the pressure on for their first drive of the second half and Keets rumbled 53 yards for his third score to give Hillsboro a 48-0 lead.
Junior Logan Hester got in on the action with 4:28 to go in the third when he took the handoff from Justin Spears and raced 42 yards for the score but, Hillsboro missed the extra point to make it 54-0.
McClain was finally able to find the endzone in the fourth quarter when Matt Bliss scored with 7:24 to play.
The triumph was short lived for the Tigers’ however as Keets took the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for the score and Bloomfield converted the point after to put Hillsboro up 61-7.
Clifford Coday capped off the scoring for Hillsboro with a 15 yard score and the Indians converted the point after to provide the 68-7 margin of victory.
Hillsboro Head Coach Jack O’Rourke understands that his team was fortunate as well as good this season and said, “We were very fortunate to do what we were able to do this year. We stayed pretty healthy and that’s what we had to do and that’s what we did.”
“Definitely excited about [making the playoffs],” said O’Rourke. “I’m probably more excited about winning the conference championship though because it’s been even longer since that happened.”
McClain Head Coach Jake Orr-Zody talked about the positive momentum his team gained by persevering and scoring against the Indians late.
“I think that’s some positive momentum especially with the young guys we had in there in the back field Braden Wright and Jaydon Burns, two freshman, and Matt Bliss scored the touchdown. That’s a positive thing moving forward,” said Orr-Zody.
Orr-Zody was gracious in defeat and said, “Hillsboro is as good as advertised. They are grown men, they are physical and there’s a reason they are FAC champions.”
“I wish them the best of luck moving forward,” said Orr-Zody. “A Highland County school in the playoffs that wins the league I thinks it’s good for the county and good for us too at McClain. They are our rival and that’s the place we want to get to. If they can do it why not us?”
Ryan Applegate is the sports editor for The Times-Gazette. Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.