Multiple Teams · Stirring comeback lifts Hillsboro to district final

Hillsboro senior running back Joe Garner scores a touchdown in Friday night’s 48-42 win against Farmington in the Class 4 District 1 semifinals.

Ted Howell photo

By Russell Korando

For the second straight season, Hillsboro will host Cape Girardeau Central in the Class 4 District 1 championship. The Tigers, who have won District 1 four years in a row, beat the Hawks 63-24 in last year’s title game. The game is scheduled for Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.

The Hawks, who last won a district title in 2012, beat Farmington (6-5) 48-42 on Friday night in a rollicking comeback victory on a bitterly cold night.

“Farmington is a great opponent and they have some very talented players,” Hillsboro head coach Lee Freeman said. “They had a great game plan and had us on the ropes and had us beat. I’m proud of our kids for playing hard all the way through.”

The Hawks (8-3) fell behind Farmington 21-6 and 28-12 in the first half of the semifinals, but they marched 70 yards in 13 plays to open the second half and senior running back Luke Skaggs gave them their first lead of the game with 6:47 left in the third quarter with a 2-yard run.

Hillsboro senior Joe Garner had cut Farmington’s lead to 28-26 with a 1-yard plunge with :02 left in the first half. The Hawks were desperate to score before halftime and they moved the ball 73 yards in 1:32. Senior quarterback Tyler Isaacson completed a 10-yard pass to senior Riley Thompson on fourth-and-3 to keep the drive alive.

The Knights answered with their own mammoth 16-play drive that spilled over into the fourth quarter and senior wide receiver Tommy Keehl caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nathaniel Link and Kael Krause kicked the extra point to put the Knights back in front 35-32 with 10:40 left in the game.

Skaggs began Hillsboro’s next drive with a 19-yard run and Isaacson was again money on third down with a 9-yard completion to senior Micheal Keller needing nine yards on third down. Skaggs gained 14 yards on the next play and Garner ended the drive with a 11-yard TD run with 7:42 to play and the Hawks led 40-35.

Junior Tycen Gray bulldozed the Hillsboro defense in the first half with a pair of touchdown runs, but the Hawks had contained Gray in the second half, until he caught a slant pass from Link and deftly carved a path through the secondary en route to a 60-yard TD that gave the Knights a 42-40 lead with 5:58 left in the game.

As it turned out, that was way too much time for the Hillsboro offense, which has a confident Isaacson slinging the ball and running for big gains.

Hillsboro started the game-winning drive at its 30. Skaggs gained 43 yards on three carries and Isaacson did the rest with a 7-yard scoring run providing the balance of scoring.

Farmington had one more chance. The Knights took over at their 31 with two timeouts and 1:38 left on the clock, which must have seemed like an eternity to the 11 Hillsboro defenders who stood in their way of suiting up one more week, or turning in their equipment. The Knights picked up one first down, but Link’s last pass on fourth down was broken up by senior Justin Konersmann.

Hillsboro rushed 59 times for 467 yards. Skaggs led the Hawks with 182 yards on 20 carries. Keller had 147 yards on 18 carries. Garner (12-76) and Isaacson (8-61) also helped move the chains with their legs.

Keller has been one of the most explosive football players in the St. Louis area the last two seasons. Coaches and teammates alike admire how Keller always puts the team first. Hillsboro fans are lucky enough to get to watch this special senior backfield play one more week.

“Micheal is a special player,” Skaggs said. “I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s a great blocker, and that’s overlooked. All of the backs blocks really hard for each other, and when we get the ball, we run as hard as we can.”

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