Hillsboro's Ethan Grooms scores a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter Friday in the Indians' win at Clermont Northeastern. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Hillsboro's Ethan Grooms scores a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter Friday in the Indians' win at Clermont Northeastern. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
OWENSVILLE – The Hillsboro Indians played their best game of the 2021 season up to this point of the schedule, and they did so by scoring all of their points in the first half against the host Clermont Northeastern Rockets Friday night in Week 5 play.

The Rockets (2-2) celebrated their homecoming, but Hillsboro did all of the celebrating on the field as the Indians scored all 51 of their points in the first half, leading them to a dominating 51-13 victory and improving to 3-2 overall.

Hillsboro’s first drive of the non-conference game wasn’t anything to write home about, but from that moment on, things changed, and what was to come would have taken head coach Jack O’Rourke many postcards to write home about with all they accomplished.

After a three-and-out and a punt, the Indians’ defense scored the first points of the game on the first offensive play of the game by the Rockets. That play was by Travis Ross with a read of a screen pass, as the junior intercepted the throw and went 52 yards to the end zone with 9:39 on the clock. Dylan Rigsby’s PAT was through the uprights for the 7-0 lead.

The Indians regained possession of the ball with 7:40 left in the first quarter, and it took them just two plays to again reach the end zone. This time it was the offense that saw a 35-yard rush from senior quarterback Chris Stout on second down, racing to pay dirt with the clock reading 6:48 left in the first frame thanks to the blocking of Ryan Mau, Gary Reno, Tony Stone, Ovid Wilson and Ayden Clemons. Rigsby, again, made the PAT for a 14-point Indians advantage.

After the HHS defense forced another punt, HHS had the ball on their own 40-yard line with 5:30 left in the first quarter. This drive lasted only one play, with Stout finding senior Ethan Grooms for a 60-yard score at the 5:18 mark of the first quarter. On the touchdown reception, Grooms outpaced the defense of the Rockets for the six points. The extra-point kick from Rigsby put the Indian ahead 21-0.

Later in the first quarter, the Rockets forced a turnover as they picked up a fumble (though there was an inadvertent whistle on the other side of the field), and the fumble recovery and return to the 2-yard line stood with 3:07 left in the first quarter.

The Rockets scored their first touchdown of the game on a 2-yard rush by Jake Mott for six points. They converted the PAT for a 21-7 score with 3:00 left on the clock.

Once HHS offense had the football again, they equaled the points of the Rockets. Starting the drive on their own 30-yard line, Stout found Canaan Griffith in stride around midfield, and the senior wide receiver raced 70 yards for the touchdown. Rigsby went 4-for-4 in the first quarter on PAT attempts, putting the Indians ahead 28-7 with 2:36 remaining in the first frame.

Hillsboro’s defense continued their strong performance with tackles for loss by Austin Barrett and Ross, then a big third down stop from Clemons to eventually force a turnover on downs.

Six plays later, in the second frame, the Indians were back in the end zone. On first down, it was a 24-yard completion off a Stout pass to Barrett.

Next was a 4-yard run by Cain Stone, and following a 10-yard loss, the Indians gained those yards back and then some with Cam Smart catching a pass from Stout (on fourth-and-16) to gain 26 yards and a first down on the CNE 8-yard line. Two plays later, Ross raced eight yards to the end zone and six points with 7:25 on the clock. The PAT by Rigsby (his fifth of the game) put HHS ahead, 35-7.

Barrett continued to make the Hillsboro defense ignite against the Rockets offense as the linebacker recovered a fumble with 7:17 on the second-quarter clock.

It took the HHS offense one play to add to their advantage with their sixth first half touchdown coming from a 22-yard gain by Barrett as the clock read 7:10. Nick Turner kicked the PAT through the uprights, improving the Indians’ lead to 42-7.

Again, the Indians defense forced another punt, and this time it was Hillsboro’s special team that took the spotlight. On fourth down, Rigsby kicked a 38-yard field goal for a 45-7 lead.

Grooms recovered a fumble on the 27-yard line of CNE for Hillsboro, and later on offense, it was Grooms racing 38 yards for a touchdown with 29.7 seconds left in the first half for a 51-7 lead.

Also before the end of the first half, the Indians had possession of the ball following a CNE turnover when freshman Nic Burns had a 70-plus yard gain for HHS. Time eventually expired, and the Indians led 51-7 at halftime.

Both teams were scoreless in the third quarter as the running clock began, and in the fourth quarter the Rockets scored a touchdown, but failed on the 2-point conversion pass.  

Frontier Athletic Conference play begins in Week 6 and the Indians will be back at Richards Memorial Field, and they will be hosting the Jackson Ironmen at 7 p.m. JHS won on Friday night over Wheelersburg in OT by a 21-20 score.