LEES CREEK — There were moments Friday night against Hillsboro when it looked as if East Clinton’s historic start to the 2021 football season would end.
But as head coach Steve Olds said, “There are lots of ways to win a football game and our kids found one of those ways.”
The Astros seemingly had the game in hand, then just like that appeared to be headed to a loss, only to have things turn around just as quick.
The end result was a 33-14 win and a 3-0 start for the Astros. It is the first 3-0 start since 2004 for East Clinton.
“I do think there’s an element of maturity that we have, that we didn’t have in year’s past,” Olds said. “There’s some belief in that lockerroom. And the way that things turned out (tonight) only furthers that belief.”
Hillsboro falls to 1-2 with the heartbreaking loss.
“I know they’re down over there but they came back on us,” Olds said. “They have a good football team. They made some adjustments at halftime that we struggled with.”
East Clinton stuck to its gameplan, deciding to run on the Hillsboro defense no matter the outcome. In most cases, it was an easy decision. The first drive was an 8-play, all rushing possession for 61 yards. Conger went the final six as EC drew first blood. Lukas Runk’s extra point was good and EC led 7-0 at the 6:41 mark of the opening period.
The defense was strong as well for East Clinton. Landon Runyon had a fumble recovery. Chris Norman had several big plays, including one on fourth down to turn the Indians over.
East Clinton made Norman’s defense good as Jared Smith broke off a 51-yard run on the first play following the big hit. The drive ended six plays later when Conger powered his way to the end zone from the 3 to make it 13-0 with 5:59 to play in the half.
On Hillsboro’s next drive, the best for Jack O’Rourke’s team in the half, Chris Stout hooked up with Cameron Smart for a couple big pass plays, one for 16 and one for 18 yards. The drive stalled, though. Defensively for EC, Brody Fisher, Jaden Singleton, Norman and Mitchell Bean had standout defensive efforts.
Glenn Peacock made a big statement to start the second half with an 85 yard kickoff return to the Hillsboro 5. Two plays later, Smith scored from the 5 to make it 19-0 just 70 seconds in to the second half. Those special teams plays were needed. TheEC offense would struggle the rest of the night.
Things began to change shortly after another big defensive stand for East Clinton. Halting Hillsboro on fourth down would seem to give the Astros all the energy they needed.
Bbut EC fumbled the ball right back to the Highland County 11. Chris Stout, HHS quarterback, scored from the 14. Dylan Rigsby hit the PAT to make it 19-7 with 6:37 to play in the third.
Olds made a gutsy call on fourth down on the next EC drive when he opted for a fake punt. Smith ran for a first down but ultimately EC was unable to generate much after that trickery.
O’Rourke then turned to some razzle dazzle with a end around pass from Canaan Griffith to Cameron Smart for 65 yards and with Rigsby’s PAT it was suddenly 19-14.
EC was stopped on fourth down in the final period and the Indians marched down field, churning out yard after yard toward what appeared to be the go-ahead score.
But on a seemingly simply pitch play, the ball hit the ground and Glenn Peacock scooped it up at the 30 and raced to the end zone. All of what Hillsboro had going for it was gone in a 70-yard sprint.
“We just worked on the scoop and score on Wednesday at practice,” Olds said.
Four offensive plays later, Mitchell Bean harrassed the Hillsboro quarterback in to an interception and Brody Fisher grabbed the ball out of mid-air and went 43 yards for another defensive touchdown.
In a span of 79 seconds, EC went from clinging to a 19-14 advantage to running away with a 19-point win.
September 3, 2021
@East Clinton High School
East Clinton 33 Hillsboro 14
EC: Isaiah Conger 6 yard run. Lukas Runk PAT, 6:27
EC: Isaiah Conger 3 yard run. PAT failed, 5:59
EC: Jared Smith 5 yard run. Pass failed, 10:50
H: Chris Stout 14 yard run. Dylan Rigsby PAT, 6:37
H: Cameron Smart 65 yard pass from Canaan Griffith. Dylan Rigsby PAT, 1:41
EC: Glenn Peacock 70 yard fumble recovery. Run failed, 2:26
EC: Brody Fisher 43 yard interception return. Jaden Singleton from Jared Smith pass, 1:07
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports