The Hillsboro Hawks found themselves trailing in Friday’s district football semifinal game before they even had a chance to run an offensive play. That was an omen of things to come, as they saw their season come to a close in Cape Girardeau, losing to Cape Central, 48-8. The Hawks finish the year at 4-7.
When Mark Moore kicked off the ball to begin the contest, within seconds he was chasing the Tigers’ kick returner to no avail. Before the Hawks had a chance to get its defense or offense on the field, they were down 7-0. Head coach Lee Freeman noted that getting the team back in the right frame of mind was a challenge. “When dealing with young guys, when big plays happen like that, you’re not coaching football, you’re coaching psyches,” he noted.
Two more Cape Central scores followed in the form of a one yard run and an 85 yard run. The first 12 minutes ended with Hillsboro behind 21-0. And while the Tigers were dominating, there was a lot of pluck about this Hillsboro squad. They never stopped fighting. In the second quarter, the team got the ball down to the Cape Central seven yard line before turning the ball over on downs. And then, with 2:03 remaining in the first half, the Hawks got on the board. Tristan Jones corralled a 17 yard pass from Austin Perez for a Hillsboro touchdown. Jaxin Patterson ran in the two point conversion, and it was a 13 point game at 21-8. “It’s all just a trust thing,” Jones said about the pass from Perez. “He throws it up, and I go compete for it, and that is exactly what happened. It was a beautiful pass too.”
Just when it seemed as if the Hawks were going to be able to make a game of it and build off the momentum of the score, Cape Central somehow posted 13 points in the final two minutes of the half. A quick score on a 57 yard pass put the Tigers up 28-8, and then, after a quick three and out by the Hawks, Central was able to score again with three seconds remaining in the half on a two yard plunge.
When play resumed in the third quarter, a 30 yard TD pass play, and a pick six late in the quarter gave the Tigers their final margin of victory. A running clock ensued as the game came to a close. Two interceptions and a fumble stymied the Hillsboro offense, along with a Tigers defense that stuffed the run until the fourth quarter. Junior Zach McNees said that while Cape Central was athletic, the Hawks had seen teams like this before. “We’ve seen their kind of speed and athleticism through the year,” he noted. “Tonight, we just were not in the right position to make plays, and they took advantage of that.” Patterson said the team just didn’t push it up a notch. “We weren’t physical enough or fast enough coming out of the game,” he said. “They came out just as we thought they would, but we didn’t play Hawk football.” Senior Daniel McCallister reiterated his teammates’ comments. “They did everything we saw on film, but we beat ourselves by not throwing the first punch and letting them get up on us early. However, nobody gave up, and there were a lot of things that we improved on through the entire season.”
Coach Freeman put things bluntly. “We did not play well tonight. We knew there were certain players we needed to stop, and we didn’t do that very well. We didn’t play to our potential, and our kids know that. But we got our young guys some experience for next year.”
Like freshman Austin Romaine. “We learned a lot this season,” he said. “Like adjusting to the speed of the game among other things. I am very excited to get back to work and start working towards next season. We have some other freshmen who are ready to contribute. I have played a lot of football with them in my life, and I know that we are capable of big things if we stick together.”
As always, saying goodbye to seniors after the final game is always tough. Coach Freeman called one senior, his quarterback Perez, one of the “most unselfish, coachable, polite athletes I’ve ever coached.” Perez, who has played a plethora of positions throughout his career, sees great things ahead for the program. “We started off with such raw, young talent this year, and having them go through these experiences that we’ve overcome, has taught them so much about themselves. These next few years, I feel like this program will be something to watch out for, because I have a lot of faith in these underclassmen.”
Thank you to all the Hawks’ athletes for being so accommodating to Ameritime Sports this fall. Good luck!