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Hillman looking to slow Marion in regional playoff game

The Hillman football team hasn’t necessarily been very flashy this season.

But the Tigers certainly have found a way to get the job done when it counts.

Buoyed by a ball-control offense, the Tigers are hoping to use their grind-it-out style to keep their season alive tonight when they take on Marion in a Division 2 8-Player regional semifinal in Marion.

Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Tigers’ (3-4) ball control style paved the way for a 54-22 win over Atlanta last week in their playoff opener and coach Cody Allen knows his team will have to stick with what’s worked thus far to win tonight.

“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing all year. We control the clock and we’ve been very grind-y,” Allen said. “We’re not as explosive as we’ve been in the past, but we’ve been very grind-y and it’s worked.”

The Tigers have averaged nearly 30 points a game this season, but they’ll face their biggest test on both sides of the ball against the Eagles (6-1).

Marion–who lost to Hillman 28-6 in a pre-regional game last season–has been dominant this season. The Eagles rolled past Bellaire 53-0 in their playoff opener last week and have scored at least 38 points in all but one game.

Last week, Marion was able to seemingly score at will, building a 14-0 lead after one quarter and a 40-0 lead by halftime.

Defensively, the Eagles have been just a strong, allowing just 13.8 points per game. After allowing 43 points in a season-opening loss to Mesick, the Eagles have rolled and have held opponents to 14 points or less in all but contest since then.

Last week, Marion allowed just 73 yards of offense and five first downs to Bellaire.

Add in a lot of team speed and Hillman will have a tall task trying to stop the Eagles.

“Marion is very fast. They’ve got good speed at every position,” Allen said. “Our biggest task is to limit their big plays.”

Hillman will be looking to put the brakes on a Marion rushing attack that racked up nearly 400 yards on the ground last week. James Alberts led the Eagles with 142 yards and four scores on 11 carries and Gavin Prielipp had two scores and 111 yards on just six carries. Those two players averaged more than 14 yards a carry, which is why Allen is wary of Marion’s big-play ability.

For the Tigers, this season has been one of constant tinkering to put the right players in the right spots, particularly on offense. Allen believes he’s found the right mix with sophomore AJ Jones at quarterback and juniors Sean Henigan and Jeff Klein among taking handoffs.

Klein led Hillman’s offense last week with 301 yards and three touchdowns; Henigan had 111 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries; Jones had a pair of one-yard rushing touchdowns; Owen Moulten added 46 yards and a touchdown on seven carries; and Dawson Ableidinger had a touchdown and 34 yards on five carries.

The Tigers are counting on their offensive versatility to keep pace with the Eagles tonight and keep their season going.

“We’ve had a lot of guys step up this year. We’re a team and we’re together. There’s not (just) one guy we rely on,” Allen said. “We’ve moved guys around all over the place to find the right mix, and I think we’ve found that. Our offensive line growth has been one area (that’s really improved) and they’re seeing the field really well.”

Tonight’s winner will play the winner of Saturday’s Brethren/Hale contest.

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