Tate Erkenbrecher, Contributor
GREENFIELD — The Rotary Bowl will reside in Hillsboro for at least another calendar year.
The battle of Highland County took place for a 37th time on Friday at McClain High School, where the Indians earned a 31-7 victory to bring the trophy back to their hallways for the sixth consecutive season — and 25th time overall.
“All week, we’ve been preaching that we have to go hard every play,” Hillsboro senior Canaan Griffith said. “We’ve been conditioning real hard so we could play that way the entire game. We just kept our foot on the gas and pushed it down [McClain’s] throat.”
On the opening kickoff, Griffith decided to show McClain that his Tribe was indeed ready to play when he took a 73-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give Hillsboro (4-6, 1-4 FAC) a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into the action.
McClain (4-5, 0-5 FAC) uncharacteristically struggled offensively throughout the majority of the game.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, their defense also went into a slump after the first half.
After keeping the score at 7-0 going into the break, the third quarter started with McClain allowing Hillsboro to move the ball down the field methodically. But the Tigers held the Indians to a 23-yard field goal via Dylan Rigsby, making it a 10-0 score.
“The kickoff return really set the pace for the game,” Griffith, who also had two interceptions, said. “It got our guys pumped up. The two interceptions helped our defense get off the field and gave our offense more [scoring] opportunities.”
The Tigers showed signs of life when Max Eikenberry scored on a 77-yard touchdown reception to bring McClain back within striking distance at 10-7 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
But Hillsboro’s Cam Smart pushed the lead back to double digits with a wide-open 49-yard touchdown reception, making it a 17-7 score after a Rigsby PAT with 8:32 remaining.
Griffith snagged his second interception of the game just 22 seconds later, making way for Travis Ross to tally a two-yard touchdown plunge and provide the dagger with 5:48 left.
The Indians’ Derek Whitt finished out the showcase with a one-yard touchdown run, coming with exactly one minute left on the game clock, to seal the deal.
Unless something changes, Hillsboro and McClain’s seasons are both likely to end after Friday. The two are projected as the No. 17 and 18 teams in Division IV, Region 16. Each of the state’s region’s top 16 teams will be playing in Week 11.
“It went how I thought it was going to,” Griffith said. “Everyone was doubting us, but we came through. It’s a good win to go out on.”