Tigers take charge

ATLANTA-New year, same result for the Hillman football team.

Another win over its biggest rival and more hardware for the Tigers’ trophy case.

Dylan Steinke and Billy Kolcan rushed for two touchdowns apiece and the Tigers topped Atlanta 38-0 on Saturday at Atlanta High School to clinch their second straight North Star League Little Dipper Division championship.

It was a less than stellar win for the Tigers (5-1, 3-0 NSL Little Dipper), who overcame several fumbles-including two that were recovered by the Huskies-and some early offensive struggles to win their fourth straight game.

But ultimately it moved Hillman closer to its 10th consecutive playoff berth and gave the Tigers their eighth win over their Montmorency County rivals in the last 10 years.

“We got out with the W and we need that. We didn’t play well as you could see,” Hillman coach Bill Koenig said. “I think there was a little bit over overconfidence coming in, but it’s a rivalry game and Atlanta always plays us tough and we always play them though. I’m not real happy, but I’ll take the win.”

Steinke finished with 215 yards on 17 carries and a pair of touchdowns and Kolcan had 94 yards on eight carries and two scores. He added a touchdown through the air as well, finding Sheldon Elkie for a touchdown in the second half.

Leading 16-0 at halftime, the Tigers got down to business in the second half, scoring on its first three drives. Kolcan needed three plays on Hillman’s first drive to break free for a 50-yard run to pay dirt and Steinke ran in the two-point conversion to put Hillman ahead 24-0 with 5:54 left.

On the next drive, Steinke took a handoff and rumbled 81 yards to the end zone and Travis Fessler added a two-point conversion, giving Hillman a 32-0 lead with 2:44 remaining.

Atlanta (0-6, 0-3 NSL Little Dipper) looked poised to score to start the third quarter, marching from its own 35 yard line to the red zone. On a third down play, Atlanta quarterback Austin Corbin found Bruce Lamorand for a 23 yard pass, putting the Huskies at Hillman’s 15 yard line after a pass interference call on Hillman.

That was as close as the Huskies came however. They lost yards on their next three plays and on fourth down, a pass by Corbin fell incomplete, giving Hillman the ball with 6:39 left.

The Huskies marched down the field again on their next drive as well. Starting at their own 36, the Huskies fought for yardage and were helped out by a pair of Hillman penalties. But once again Atlanta’s offense stalled the closer it got to the end zone. With a fresh set of downs at Hillman’s 26, two passes fell incomplete and a run by Mark Durocher brought up fourth-and-3 at the 19. Corbin’s pass on fourth down fell incomplete.

Durocher was a bright spot for Atlanta, finishing with 109 yards on 26 carries. Corbin was 5-of-20 passing for 46 yards and Lamorand had three catches for 35 yards. The Huskies were limited to just 176 offensive yards for the game.

The Huskies saw some promise on their next drive as they moved into Hillman territory, but a pass from Corbin was intercepted by Brent Kenyon and subsequently recovered by Matthew Hunt after a fumble.

Hillman kept its offense rolling along into the fourth quarter as Kolcan found Fessler for a nine yard touchdown to complete the scoring with 8:19 to play and all but ensuring the Tigers would walk away with the division championship as well as the rivalry trophy play the Huskies for.

“That was one of our goals this year, to win the Little Dipper division, and I’m excited about that,” Koenig said. “That traveling trophy looks really good in our trophy case and I’m glad to take it back home with us.”

Any overconfidence the Tigers felt before the game went away quickly as a fumble on their first drive was recovered by Durocher. Atlanta stalled on the opposing drive though and Hillman followed up with a drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown run by Kolcan with 2:21 left in the first quarter. Jordan Mutschler caught the two-point conversion to put Hillman up 8-0.

Hanging on to the ball was a problem early as the two sides combined for nearly a dozen fumbles in the first half.

“We had some mix-ups with assignments and we had some confusion; I don’t know what happened. We were trying to block the wrong guy and letting the wrong guy be the hero for them,” Koenig said. “Our defensive coaches and our offensive line coach got things in order and we went from there.”

Steinke scored on Hillman’s next drive, running eight yards to pay dirt and Elkie caught the two-point conversion to give Hillman a 16-0 lead with 10:22 left in the half.

Despite a fumble recovery by Tanner Sayles with 3:57 left in the half, Atlanta couldn’t take advantage of another turnover and turned the ball over on downs.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.