Ready for a rematch

Hillman aiming for first district title against Alcona

HILLMAN — Prove them wrong.

This is the motto the Hillman football team has lived by and rallied around since the team started off 0-3 at the beginning of this season.

Some were doubting in their final year of 11-man football that the Tigers were going to make the postseason. All Hillman did was rally to win five of their next six games to get into the playoffs for the 12th year in a row.

Once they got in and faced a first round matchup against an undefeated Au Gres team that averaged 48 points throughout the regular season, some doubted that the Tigers, who came into the game as a big underdog, would have a chance to stay in the game, let alone win.

Yet with the second week of playoff football set to kick off tonight, Hillman has another opportunity to prove its doubters wrong tonight against Alcona.

“There were a lot of people who doubted us at the beginning of the season. We heard a lot of people saying we weren’t going to make it to the playoffs and this is where the playoff streak was going to end,” Hillman running back Caine Hunt said. “We came out each week and worked hard, made it the playoffs, won a playoff game and proved them wrong. To keep proving people wrong and win a district title would be crazy.”

A week after putting together and executing a game plan to perfection against an Au Gres offense that scored no less than 42 points in a single game all season, the Tigers are riding a wave of momentum and have a ton of confidence after holding the Wolverines to just six points in a 15-6 victory.

Hillman (6-4) will again come into tonight’s game as the underdog against an Alcona team who is 8-2 and coming off of a 28-12 win against Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Both teams enter tonight’s game looking for their first district championship in program history. Unlike last week, Hillman will have a much different defensive game plan coming in. A week ago, Hillman had to figure out how to stop the pass, they did. Tonight they have to focus on stopping the run.

Alcona’s ground-and-pound offense has been effective behind a senior-laden offensive line. Alcona’s success starts with an offensive line led by five seniors. Tackles, Christian Kamischke and Jaden Bartz, guards, Cody Schram and Devon Mills along with center Jacob Schott are five seniors that make up a big and physical Alcona offensive line.

Running behind the offensive line is Tim Hutchinson who leads the area in rushing yards and touchdowns with more than 1,400 yards and scored 22 touchdowns. Jack Hutchinson has also run for over 1,000 yards and added 12 touchdowns on the ground.

“The kids are focused and we know what we’re going up against. Our kids have confidence, which they should after last weeks win, but they’re not overlooking our opponents at all. They’re staying humble and the leadership this week has really impressed me,” Hillman coach Bill Koenig said. “Alcona has a big offensive line and have solid backs. They run the Full-T and they run it so well, but hopefully our speed can match their size. We have a game plan put together and we’re going to have to play wide open and shoot some gaps and hit them in the backfield before they get going, because once they get going they’re hard to bring down.”

Hillman’s offensive game plan will likely remain the same as the Tigers want to control the ball and eat up as much clock as they can. The plan worked last week as they held the ball for over 32 minutes and ran 68 plays.

Hillman would like to see much of the same and it starts with their two 1,000 yard backs in Hunt and Billy Kolcan.

Hunt and Kolcan run behind a big and physical offensive line of their own as Wyatt Barrie, Gabe Cordes, Delton Abledinger, Kody Kalanquin, James Payment and Fisher Linseman all spend time paving lanes for the two talented backs to run through.

“We’re going to do what we do offensively. Like Au Gres was, Alcona is the same because they can score so fast. Our offensive and defensive line have been playing really good the last few weeks so that should continue to help us,” Koenig said.

The two teams met back in Week 2 of the regular season in a game played in pouring rain. Alcona came out on top 28-8 as Hillman turned the ball over multiple times and gave Alcona opportunities to capitalize on a short field.

A lot is on the line as both teams hope to bring home their first district championship in program history.

“In 2007 when we won the first round playoff game, it was amazing, but that team was young and I was young and inexperienced and was caught up in the hype of winning that game. Through experience of losing first round games for so many years, you’re more humble,” Koenig said. “The kids know that if we win this district it’s the first time in Hillman history to do this so that sparked them and they want to do it.”

Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at jzawacki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690.