Hillsboro's Carson Scott and McClain's Jobe Lugo battle in their county and conference rivalry game Tuesday at HHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Hillsboro's Carson Scott and McClain's Jobe Lugo battle in their county and conference rivalry game Tuesday at HHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
HILLSBORO — The intense Frontier Athletic Conference game between the Hillsboro Indians and McClain Tigers in Hillsboro on Tuesday night saw both teams have opportunities to score goals, but in the end, it was the defenses of both rival teams that stood out the most. 

The FAC contest for the Tigers and Indians ended in a scoreless tie after 80 minutes of action in 90-degree weather, but the hot weather on Tuesday early evening didn’t hamper the drive by both teams. 

“This was a classic Hillsboro-McClain game,” HHS head coach Ben Howland said. “It doesn’t matter what the records are. It was a good, physical game, and the defense was great.

“I told the boys we still haven’t played our best game. Some days the defense is great, some days the offense is great, but give McClain’s defense credit, their defense was just as great as ours.”

McClain head coach Nick McNeal spoke about the tie and how the goal for the Tigers each game is to win. 

“It was not a win, and the goal of every game is to win, and the kids have got to get that into their heads, that the goal of every game is to win. That is one of our biggest struggles right now,” McNeal said. “We get satisfied with just competing, rather than staying hungry and going after that win.

“Tonight we’ve been battling with everyone having their heads in the game, but we did have a few people step up. The majority of our team was in it and played very well. We had opportunities, we didn’t finish, and the defense did very well. Spending 80 minutes on a soccer field and not letting another 11 kids score is a big feat, so congratulations to both teams on the shutout. That is an impressive thing to do.”

In the first half, each squad had their chances to take a lead, but the keepers for both teams, those being Hillsboro’s Will Hart — who was playing with nine stitches in his mouth — and McClain’s Ethan Hill each played a high level of soccer at their respective goals. 

“Will Hart is a senior and is one of our warriors,” Howland said. “He’s still in there with nine stitches in his mouth from the Chillicothe game last week. We love him to death, and he’s one of the kids I can count on back there.”

McNeal also spoke highly of his goalie. 

“Ethan has come a long way this season,” McNeal said of the MHS keeper. “One thing I can say about him is there have been multiple times I’ve been walking through study hall, and I see him watching video. He’s on it and he wants to learn, and that’s always good.”

With neither team able to get past the opposing defenses, the halftime score was 0-0. In the final 40 minutes of play, the Indians had a chance to take a lead on a penalty kick attempt with 35:38 left in the game, but the kick bounced off the right bar of the goal, leaving the Indians without a goal. 

The Tigers added offensive pressure of their own around the 35-minute mark, but that too was uneventful in terms of a goal being scored. 

The defense of HHS had a big play by Austin Bledsoe with 25:38 on the second-half clock to keep the Tigers from scoring the first goal of the game, and another attempt at a goal for MHS sailed wide past the goal with around 25 minutes left in regulation. 

Other members of the HHS defense who stood out on Tuesday included Keahi Mhanna, Evan Fender, Wes Bailey and Carson Scott. 

The two teams continued to battle for possession of the ball, as Hillsboro’s Fender made a stop near the goal with McClain having heaving pressure on the defense of the Indians. 

The Indians had a corner kick with 9:40 left on the clock, but the Tigers’ defense kept the home team from scoring a goal as well. HHS had a direct kick with 3:10 left in regulation, but that attempt landed out of play. 

McClain’s defense stood strong in the final minute with Emerson Yates making a stop, keeping the game scoreless as time expired, as others on defense for the Tigers who stood out in the shutout included Brice Graham and Jackson Crago. 

“One of the biggest things we are battling now is we have a lot of juniors, but we are still young,” McNeal said. “My seniors have all played a lot. Emerson, Haydon (Hice) and Deagon (Scott) all have varsity experience since they were freshmen.”

The tie moves the Tigers to 3-4-2 overall, while the Indians are 4-2-2 overall this season.