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Hillsboro rushing attack, defense fends off East Clinton

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Hillsboro senior Austin Barrett rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the Indians' win at East Clinton Friday. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

LEES CREEK — It was one of the most complete games played by the Hillsboro Indians thus far for the 2023 season, as the Indians used some “thunder and lightning” in their rushing game and played game-changing defense as Hillsboro went on the road and defeated the host East Clinton Astros, 32-12 in Week 5.

The second win of the season for the Indians — snapping a two-game skid — saw the Indians use a two-running back tandem that took over the pace of the game. Senior Austin Barrett unofficially rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, and sophomore teammate Jeven Hochstuhl unofficially totaled 11 carries for 133 yards with one rushing score, plus on defense he had a pick-six, returning an interception 95 yards for six points.

Blocking for that yardage was a complete team effort, as not only did the offensive line create holes to rush through, but blocks by the tight ends and receivers downfield made a big difference as well in the final non-conference game of the season.

HHS (2-3) trailed the host Astros 6-0 after the second drive of the game, as East Clinton (2-3) used five plays — including a 77-yard pass by Logan Runk to Dameon Williams — to reach the end zone. The touchdown by the Astros was a 1-yard rush to pay dirt by Glenn Peacock with 3:52 left in the opening quarter on second-and-goal.

It didn’t take the Indians long to answer — as they had a turnover on downs on their first drive — but they responded with an 85-yard drive that reached the end zone, as the drive started with 19 yards worth of rushing by Barrett on the first two plays. Next was a gain of six yards by Hochstuhl, followed by runs of nine, six and one yards, making it second-and-9 on the ECHS 44-yard line.

That ensuing play saw Hochstuhl use his lightning-fast speed, quickness and elusiveness to race 43 yards to the 1-yard line. The next play, Barrett thundered through the defense of the Astros for a 1-yard touchdown run with 48.1 left in the first quarter. HHS made the PAT by Wes Bailey for a 7-6 lead.

Hillsboro’s defense was next in the spotlight as Ayden Clemons recovered a fumble, which turned into points for the Indians four plays later.

Taking over on the East Clinton 31-yard line with 47.0 left in the first quarter, Hochstuhl began the drive with a 13-yard run, followed by a 5-yard run. After a rush for no gain, the Indians added to their lead with a 5-yard run by quarterback Mason Dumpert on third-and-goal with 11:53 left in the second quarter. The PAT was no good, leaving the Indians ahead, 13-6.

Next was a little bit of adversity, answered with a whole lot of redemption. After forcing the Astros to punt, Hochstuhl lost control of the football on the punt return attempt, as the ball was recovered by East Clinton with 8:25 left in the third quarter.

Rather than allowing the miscues to affect him the rest of the game, Hochstuhl instead had the biggest play of the entire game five plays later as the sophomore intercepted a pass and returned it 95 yards to the end zone for a “pick six,” extending the Indians’ lead to 19-6 with 5:27 left in the first half.

The PAT was blocked, but the Indians held the 13-point lead, as the 19-6 score stood when halftime arrived.

Hillsboro’s defense continued the takeaway trend in the third quarter as Michael Burns intercepted a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 3:03 left in the quarter, wiping away a nearly nine-minute drive by the Astros and keeping them off the scoreboard.

The next drive — starting with 2:55 left in the third — saw Hillsboro get back to their bread and butter … their rushing attack on offense by Barrett. The entire 80-yard drive consisted of six rushing plays by Barrett – plus a 15-yard penalty by ECHS — ending with the senior standout running his way for a 48-yard score for a touchdown with 13.1 left in the third. Bailey’s PAT was good, putting HHS ahead by 20 points at 26-6.

Hillsboro’s final touchdown was scored with 3:16 left in regulation, stamping the win for the visitors. The 11-play drive consisting of runs by Hochstuhl, Barrett and Jack Cornele resulted in a 5-yard touchdown run by Hochstuhl on second-and-goal. In that drive, Hochstuhl also had a 29-yard run on third down, setting up the goal line run.

The PAT was no good, putting the Indians ahead, 32-6.

East Clinton had one final score, coming on a 5-yard run by Peacock with 1:48 left on the clock, as the play before set up the score as Runk passed to Ryan Burns for a 50-yard gain.

The win improved HHS to 2-3 overall, and East Clinton now falls to 2-3.

This was the third straight road game for the Indians, and they still have a fourth road game waiting for them next Friday night, on Sept. 22. HHS is scheduled to start the Frontier Athletic Conference portion of their schedule, traveling to Ross County to take on the Chillicothe Cavaliers, who are 1-4 overall this season. CHS earned their first win of the season in Week 5 by defeating Logan, 17-14.