JOHANNESBURG-The Hillman football team knew it was the underdog going into a Division presdistrict football game against Johannesburg-Lewiston on Friday.
It didn't take long for the Cardinals to show Hillman just how much of an underdog it was.
Backed by big plays and a strong running game, Johannesburg scored on four of its first five offensive drives and went on to defeat the Tigers 62-14.
News Photo by James Andersen
Hillman’s David Olschanski, left, tries to tackle Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Dillon Kibby during a Division 8 Predistrict football game on Friday at Johannesburg-Lewiston school. Johannesburg won 62-14.
The Cardinals will host Central Lake next Friday after the Trojans defeated Onaway 22-12.
Alex Payne ran for two touchdowns, Mitch Hardy had 163 yards on 12 carries and a pair of touchdowns and Dillon Kibby added a rushing touchdown and a kickoff return touchdown for the Cardinals (8-2).
From the outset, Hillman (5-5) found itself overmatched and had trouble finding consistency on offense. Hillman's first three drives ended in a punt, an interception and a turnover on downs while the Cardinals scored three times to build a 24-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"It was tough. We knew we were outmanned coming into it. I hate to make excuses, but when they have 12 seniors going against two seniors, it's tough," Hillman coach Bill Koenig said.
Kibby found the end zone on the Cardinals' fourth play, running 24 yards to paydirt. Before the end of the opening quarter, Hardy added a 12-yard touchdown run after Kibby intercepted Hillman's Ty Jones and Payne had a five-yard rushing score.
The Tigers adjusted defensively in the second quarter and forced a turnover when Travis Powers intercepted Payne. Hillman failed to convert the opportunity and a few plays later Dylan Helms forced a fumble to give the ball back to Johannesburg and the Cardinals took advantage as Payne scampered for a three-yard touchdown with 9:46 left in the half to give the Cardinals a 32-0 lead.
On it's next drive, Hillman ate up over seven minutes of time and worked its way inside the Cardinals' 10 yard line after a 17-yard catch by Dylan Ross on fourth down kept the drive alive. The drive stalled in the red zone however, as the Cardinals forced two runs for loss and finally intercepted Jones again on fourth down on the 16th play of the drive.
The Tigers came up with a big play a short time later when Ross forced a fumble of Kibby to give Hillman the ball in Cardinals' territory with 1:39 left in the half. The Tigers marched into the red zone again and converted this time when Mason VanPamel caught a nine-yard touchdown pass.
Any momentum the Tigers gained from that touchdown quickly diminished on the ensuing kickoff as Kibby raced 85 yards to the end zone to put Johannesburg ahead 40-8 at the half.
The Cardinals didn't waste any time in the second half, scoring on its first three drives on a seven-yard run from Hardy, a three-yard run from Cameron Nickert and a 30-yard run from Dillon Cushman.
Koenig said Hillman ran a large part of its playbook, but couldn't get anything by Johannesburg and said his players might have been a little intimidated by the Cardinals.
"I think the boys were a little intimidated. We thought we had them a little more worked up coming in, ready to play, but we didn't play our best football," Koenig said. "When we did play, we played physical. so I know we've got some good stuff coming up for the future."
David Olschanski led Hillman on the ground with 80 yards on 20 carries.
Though the Tigers' struggled to get going on offense much of the night, they also dealt with injuries as Ross and running back Kenny Kolcan were among those Hillman players that left the game and did not return.
Hillman found the end zone again in the fourth quarter after the Tigers began a drive at their own 35-yard line and marched into Cardinals' territory where Jones threw a four-yard touchdown strike to VanPamel, making the score 62-14.
After a slow start to the season, Hillman rebound to make the playoffs for a seventh straight year. Koenig was proud of the way his team kept its cool, even when faced with an overwhelming defecit.
"It keeps pride in the community. JoBurg is a good school and we'll probably be playing them again in a year or two. I'm proud of my boys," Koenig said. "We didn't lose our composure out on the field and that to me showed a lot of sportsmanship, so I'm happy with that."