A rivalry renewed

Hillman scores early and often in win over Atlanta

News Photo by James Andersen Hillman's Gunner Mellingen (22) races toward the end zone while being chased by Atlanta defender Ethan Byrne during the first half of a football game on Friday at Hillman High School. Mellingen scored on the play and finished the game with three touchdown receptions as Hillman topped the Huskies 60-0.

HILLMAN–There are a few less players on the field and some of the names have changed, but Hillman is showing it’s still a team to be reckoned with in eight-player football.

Kory Henigan threw for five touchdowns and ran for another as the Tigers defeated Atlanta 60-0 on Friday at Hillman High School.

After a one-year hiatus between the two rivals, Hillman (2-0) dominated the game from start to finish to beat Atlanta for the fourth straight time. The Tigers improved to 29-31-2 against the Huskies (0-2) and ensured that the Henry & Effie George Memorial Trophy stays with them for another season.

“(It’s a) huge win. We practiced hard all week and it feels good to come out with a win,” Hillman coach Cody Allen said. “That first quarter, first half, we executed really well offensively and our pass plays really game through. Kory threw the ball well tonight.”

Hillman led 42-0 at halftime thanks to five touchdown passes from Henigan. Three of those went to Gunner Mellingen for 36, 51 and 22-yard scores.

“Gunner’s fast. I’ve said it before, but he’s one of the fastest in the area and he’s got strength too,” Allen said. “He shrugged off a few tacklers and really made some big plays.”

Caleb Sanders had a pair of rushing touchdowns for Hillman in the victory and Sean Henigan had a 25-yard rushing touchdown on the last play of the game. Gage Steinke and Issac Morrison each caught a touchdown from Kory Henigan.

In the 62nd edition of the rivalry, the Huskies stumbled out of the gate and never truly found their footing.

Atlanta fumbled its first two snaps of the game and had fumbled six times by halftime. The Huskies finished the game with eight fumbles, lost two of them and were also intercepted once by Steinke.

Atlanta finished with 54 offensive yards, compared to Hillman’s 438. The Huskies had just three plays of 10 yards or more. The Huskies did intercept Henigan once when Trace Juergens came up with a grab early in the second quarter, but Atlanta fumbled the ball three plays later and Hillman recovered.

“Defensively, the goal is always to have a shutout on your home field, especially against your (rivals),” Allen said. “It felt really good, the kids played real well tonight.”

The Tigers didn’t waste any time offensively and scored on all six of their first half drives. Kory Henigan needed just three plays to find Mellingen for a 36-yard score with 8:54 left in the first quarter.

After Fisher Linseman recovered an Atlanta fumble on the next drive, Henigan hooked up with Mellingen again, this time on a 51-yard touchdown. Steinke caught a pass from Henigan for the conversion to give Hillman a 14-0 lead with 8:40 left in the first quarter.

Henigan finished the game with five touchdowns and 227 yards on 11-of-15 passing. Mellingen led Hillman’s receiving corps with four catches for 134 yards and three scores.

Morrison had three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown and Steinke had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.

With the lead firmly in their grasp early, the Tigers continued to build on their lead. Before the end of the half Henigan found Morrison for a 19-yard touchdown, threw a 20-yard touchdown strike to Steinke and found Mellingen again late in the half for a 45-yard touchdown.

Saunders, who led Hillman on the ground with 125 yards on 15 carries, found the end zone on a 38-yard scamper with 4:29 left in the half and Morrison caught a conversion pass to make it 36-0.

Hillman’s offense didn’t slow down any in the third quarter as Henigan scored on a five-yard run on the Tigers’ first drive and after a Hillman punt, Saunders found pay dirt again on a one-yard plunge.

Several of Hillman’s backups saw large amounts of playing time in the second half and even they got in on the scoring as Sean Henigan scored on a 23-yard run late in the fourth quarter. With a running clock, Hillman ran out of time to attempt the extra point, so Henigan’s score ended up being the final play of the game.

Two games into their first season of eight-player football, the Tigers are off to a good start. After rallying against Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart last week, the Tigers have shown steady improvement through two games.

“I think we’re sitting pretty well. We’ve still got a lot to learn, but overall I think we’re starting to pick up on the nuances of the eight-man game and it’s starting to work out,” Allen said.

Hillman plays at Hale next Friday while Atlanta hosts Charlton Heston.

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