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ATLANTA - There could be no bigger letdown for Hillman than having to share the North Star League title.
So the Tigers are doing their best to make sure they win the league crown outright.
Hillman continued to march through the conference on Friday, improving to 4-0 in league play after beating Montmorency County rival Atlanta 34-18 on the Huskies' Homecoming night.
"It's something we've wanted (to go undefeated in the league). It's been our main goal all year," said Hillman running back Lance Safford. "We've been tied, or finished second to Mio. We don't want to tie. We want it solo."
Hillman finds itself only one win from achieving that goal, with a game against Hale in two weeks as the last hurdle.
"We want the momentum and we've got the momentum going in," said Hillman coach Bill Koenig. "I'm comfortable where we're sitting."
Hillman's offense was running pretty well against its bitter rival. Safford scored three touchdowns and rushed for 109 yards on 12 carries and backfield mate Devon Schumaker added 111 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Andy Smith provided an additional 82 yards through the air on 5 of 12 passes.
The scary thing is Koenig sees room for improvement.
"We can get better," he said. "We had a couple of passes that looked like they were going into orbit. There was a little pressure on us tonight. When we play every down and the offensive line surges we're tough to stop. We just have to get the kids to do that."
Hillman (5-2) grabbed an early 14-0 lead against the Huskies (1-6), held a 22-6 advantage at the half and scored a pair of third-period touchdowns to squash a brief second-half threat by Atlanta.
Safford came into the night with four rushing touchdowns on the year, but he nearly doubled that in one outing with scoring jaunts of 6 yards in the first quarter, 5 yards in the second quarter and 64 yards off a fake reverse in the third quarter. Smith connected with Joe Mercer on a 10-yard strike in the second quarter, while Schumaker returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown late in the third.
"We all communicate well," said Safford. "We know our jobs and what we need to do. I've got to give it to the offensive line. We might get the touchdowns and gain all the yards, but it starts with the offensive line."
Atlanta's only score of the first half came with two minutes remaining after the Huskies recovered a Hillman fumble at the Hillman 18 yard line. On the very next play quarterback Garrett Badgero found Max Foor in the end zone for a score to trim Hillman's lead to 14-6.
The Huskies were still hanging around when Nick Gross rumbled 79 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half, making it a 22-12 game, then got the ball back after forcing a three-and-out. But Hillman's defense held Atlanta without a first down in the next three series, scoring twice in that time to put the game away. The Huskies tacked on a late score when Tyler Mink scored on a 31-yard run.
Gross had 129 yards on the ground for Atlanta, while Justin Klein added 125 yards.
"A great job by our offense," said Atlanta coach Dave Scheider. "I'm proud that the kids never quit. We just need to get guys in the weight room and we need our freshmen and sophomores to become juniors and seniors. We're really young. I know I've used that as an excuse, and it's tough to hear, but we are."