HALE – Hillman was widely viewed as the favorites to win the Midwest Central 8-man Football East Division before the start of the season. Hale played on the Tigers’ home field Friday night and nearly took down the favorites, but had to return home with a 54-42 setback.

“It was a really hard-fought game by both teams,” head coach Pete Scott said. “I think Hillman is the best team in the league but we went in there with the mindset that if we wanted to be the best, we had to beat the best. We had them on the ropes at the end.” 

The Eagles were behind three scores early on, but rallied to pull within 46-42 late in the fourth quarter. Hillman faced a key fourth-and-10 near mid-field, though unfortunately for Hale, the Tigers were able to not only convert, but score a game-clinching touchdown. 

“We get a stop there we get the ball back at midfield and we think we’re going to score and win the game,” Scott said. “It just didn’t happen though. We gave up a long touchdown pass and that was all she wrote.” 

Still, there were plenty of positives to take away, especially after Hale fell behind 18-0 in the first six minutes of the game. 

“It’s encouraging, they came out and smacked us in the mouth early but we found a way to overcome that,” Scott said. “We just kept making adjustments, kept coaching and clawed our way back into it. Down 18-0 in the first you would have thought we would get run out of town and but then we were a play or two away from taking them down. If we don’t put ourselves in that early hole it might be a different story.

“We just had too many mental lapses on defense and too many tackling issues,” he added. “Hillman is really fast and athletic and we just seemed to always have seven guys doing what they should be doing on defense and one that wasn’t and they always seemed to find that one. Still, I’m proud of the kids’ effort though.” 

The Eagles had 541 yards of total offense in the game, led by Josh Bonner who ran four times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, David Wanty ran 15 times for 104 yards and one touchdown and he also hauled in three passes for 69 yards. Brenden Bernard 12-of-14 passing for 119 yards and a touchdown and he also ran for 96 yards. Trent Kangas added 32 yards on the ground and a touchdown and Garrett Beebe had five receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. 

On the defensive side, Keaton Ludwig had 11 tackles, Kangas had seven tackles, Beebe took down six and Joseph Kimmerer took down four. 

Hillman’s Gunner Mellingen did most of the damage for the Tigers, finishing with 404 yards of total offense and four touchdowns on offense and tackling 15 on defense. 

“I thought we ran the ball well and we have five different players score so that’s big for us,” Scott said. “We are a very diverse team so team’s can’t just key in on one guy.” 

Hale (1-1 overall, 1-1 Midwest) heads to the Charlton Heston Academy (0-2, 0-2) on Friday. The Patriots fell to Onaway 32-8 last week and the Eagles topped them 46-12 last season.