Return to the Gridiron: Hillman’s 2016 team
News Sports Editor James Andersen is taking a look back at football teams from the last 10 years, offering his view of the best team from each of the nine schools in The News’ coverage area in the span.
Preseason Outlook: Hillman coach Bill Koenig: “I think we are going to see a lot more competition this year than we have been used to seeing in previous years. I’m not sure how we will end up, but I think we are going to be competitive throughout the season and I’m looking for some guys to step up and keep this program on the map.”
Final Record: 5-5
Season in Review: The Tigers, who have made the playoffs every year since 2006, stumbled out of the gate in 2016. They lost their first three games to Onekama, Alcona and Au Gres before getting on a roll. Starting in Week 4, Hillman topped Rogers City, Mio, Atlanta, Oscoda and Inland Lakes on the way to a 5-4 record and another playoff berth.
It wasn’t easy. Hillman had to pull away in the second half to beat Oscoda and needed some fourth quarter heroics to beat Inland Lakes, but Hillman extended its playoff streak to 11 years. Hillman lost in the first playoff round to a St. Ignace squad that made the Division 8 semifinals.
Several Hillman players were honored by the North Star League and two–Caine Hunt and Billy Kolcan– were named to the All-Alpena News team.
James’ take: This is another difficult one because The Streak has been a part of Hillman’s program for so long and the Tigers have won a ton of games.
The 2016 season gets the nod from me for two reasons: Hillman rebounded from an 0-3 start to make the playoffs and the Tigers’ regular season finale remains one of the most exciting games I’ve seen and perfectly illustrates just how hard Hillman had to work to keep its streak going.
On its home field, Hillman trailed Inland Lakes 29-6 early in the fourth quarter. From there, Hillman caught fire, outscoring the Bulldogs 26-0 over the last eight and a half minutes. Slowly but surely, Hillman worked its way back and put the finishing touches on an incredible win when Jared Juergens caught a tipped pass for a touchdown with three seconds left.
Hillman’s win was not only incredible, but was truly a team victory. Kyler Moir threw for 250 yards and three scores; Juergens had a touchdown; Billy Kolcan accounted for three scores; Caine Hunt and Zach Berg both made big plays late and Hunt led Hillman’s defense with 19 tackles.
Hillman’s had a lot of good teams in the last decade, but the 2016 season was definitely one for the books.