The 2014 season for the Hillsboro Indians saw improvement in the win column, but this season the Tribe is looking for even more improvement from their rebuilt squad as the '15 season is about to begin.

Last year, the Indians finished with a 3-7 record, but it was a two-win improvement from the previous season and a three-win improvement from two seasons ago. This year, the Indians will have a new quarterback and players at some other skill positions as they rework their lineup due to graduation.

This season, the Indians will have 11 seniors on the roster.

"The seniors are doing a good job and putting us in a position to help the young guys and working with them, teaching them what high school football is all about," HHS head coach Matt Hodge said. "I've been real impressed with my seniors."

For Hodge, who is entering his third season at the helm of the Indians, the summer has gone well for his club, but he knows there must be more improvements made to have success this upcoming season.

"Our summer has been good," Hodge said. "The kids have been working hard and doing what we are asking them to do. We didn't play as well as we would have liked to in the first two scrimmages. We worked hard, but there are a lot of mistakes we have to correct.

"We are hoping for a big improvement as we continue to get closer to the start of the season."

Also this offseason, the Indians have talked about winning and what they must do to keep improving each season in the win column.

"We have to have the confidence and believe we can win anytime we we take the field," Hodge said. "Coming off the recent struggles we've had, getting those three wins last year, we know we have to believe in ourselves and continue to build off that."

HHS last season gained wins over Goshen (28-7), Clermont Northeastern (39-0) and McClain (20-8) to reclaim the Rotary Bowl trophy for the first time in two seasons.

But for the Indians in '14, they were shut out six consecutive weeks, with a near win against East Clinton on Oct. 3, where they lost 3-0 in overtime.


There is one player the Indians must replace in two-year starting quarterback Toby Warrington, who graduated last spring. Warrington was an All-District selection for the Indians. In replacing Warrington, the Indians must replace 800 yards of passing and six touchdowns through the air, along with 374 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

"He was our team leader, but Hunter Chain has stepped in and done a nice job for us," Hodge said. "He and Brian Smith have been battling and working hard. I don't know if you ever replace a Toby Warrington for what he brought to the team physically and mentally, but those two guys are doing a nice job."

The Indians' running back situation for '15 will be by committee, Hodge said.

"We have several guys back there, and they are taking advantage of their opportunities," the head coach said. "Hopefully we can get more production out of that spot this year."

Some of those running backs include: Lane Hester, Jed Asmus and Heith Brown, all seniors for the Indians.

Also on the offensive side of the ball will be wide receiver Ryan Hagan, Britton Haines and Brian Smith.

"Ryan runs nice routes, and Britton has done a nice job for us so far as a sophomore. Brian has been taking some reps at receiver. He gives us the speed factor at the edge," Hodge said. "I've been pleased with all their work as well."

The offensive line has had their share of injuries this preseason, but once everyone is healthy, Hodge believes his players will be ready to have success. The linemen battling for the starting positions will be J.J. Goldick, Curran Butler and Connor Lowe, who are seniors, and juniors are Laith Maxwell, Austin Miller and Gary Vincent.

"We have been hit by the injury bug up front, but I have three seniors and three juniors who are battling for five spots, and it is a fight," he said. "They are jockeying for position, and before the start of the season, we'll have some answers there."

The Indians' defense is part of the team Hodge is also excited about this upcoming season.

"The defense has looked good," he said. "Our seniors have done a nice job, and we are blessed to have three three-year returning starters in Brown, Hester and Asmus, so I can't complain about anything there.

"Hagan is leading our secondary, and up front on the defensive line, Christian Opst has been playing well for us. We are excited about our defense."

Others to look for this season with HHS are senior Andrew Palmer and sophomore R.J. Swackhamer, as the Indians will look to gain production from them this season in various aspects of the game.

As always, teams will have expectations for any upcoming season, and the Indians are no different.

"Our expectations are the same every year … we want to play hard and get better every single week," Hodge said. "We feel if we do that each week, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.

"We play in a very tough league, and you can see that anytime you look at the accomplishments with state championship teams like Clinton-Massie, and Coach (Scott) Killen turning things around for Wilmington. Chillicothe and Miami Trace have been playoff teams. If you look across the board, a lot of teams have made the playoffs, and the league is brutal. There are no off weeks, and you have to come and play every Friday."

Besides the SCOL slate, the non-league schedule for the Indians will be a challenge as well, including playoff qualifier Western Brown to open the season on Friday, Aug. 28 at Richards Memorial Field.

"Western Brown spreads the ball out and uses their team speed, Goshen is big and physical, and I saw the other day CNE is going 260-270 across the board up front,” Hodge said. “They have some size up front, so we'll have our hands full all 10 weeks this year."

The Indians last defeated the Broncos of Western Brown in 2010.