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Week 10 Football Preview: Playoff implications, seeding on the line in 2023 Rotary Bowl

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
Pictured are McClain quarterback Drake Stapleton, left, and Hillsboro quarterback Mason Dumpert. (HCP Photos/Jim Jones & Stephen Forsha)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

The time has arrived for the annual Rotary Bowl game, featuring the McClain Tigers hosting the Hillsboro Indians at McClain Field this Friday night with a scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff.

This year, things are different as both teams have opportunities to either improve their playoff seeding or are playing for a chance to earn a spot in the state playoffs.

Not to mention, both teams enter the 2023 Rotary Bowl with 5-4 overall records — which hasn’t happened in well over a decade — while the Indians (5-4, 3-1 FAC) have earned a playoff berth in Division III. The Tigers (5-4, 1-3 FAC) could potentially earn a playoff berth with a win (or even a loss) with some help along the way, depending on results of other Division IV games this Friday night.

Entering Week 10, the Indians are ranked No. 11 in Region 12 (Div. III), while the Tigers are No. 17 in Region 16 (Div. IV), with the top 16 teams advancing in each region advancing.

Plus, there are bragging rights on the line as there is every year, with the Hillsboro team winning the past seven Rotary Bowl games, while McClain wants to regain possession of the Rotary Bowl trophy for the first time since their last win over their rival Hillsboro since 2015.

Following a Week 9 win vs. Miami Trace, Hillsboro head coach Nathan Horne spoke highly of McClain, and how the game will be very competitive for the Indians at McClain Field.

“It’s always huge, and they’ve got talent with their running backs and their quarterback, and they mix it up,” Horne said. “We know we’re in for a dog fight, and we’re up for the challenge. It’s going to be a big game, and Monday we’ll get ready.”

McClain head coach Keith Penwell spoke well of Hillsboro, but said his McClain team is focused for the Week 10 game as they prepare for their rivals.

"The guys have been focused this week. We are excited to play in the Rotary Bowl," Penwell said. "Hillsboro has a good football team. Their offense is tough to prepare for. They have a good offensive line.

"Their backs and QB run the ball hard, especially (Austin) Barrett, and they have athletic receivers. Most of the offense plays defense as well, as they are a well rounded team."

The Indians won the meeting last season 42-21 at Richards Memorial Field, but this year both teams are playing competitive, with the two squads using a stout rushing game to scoring points. The two teams have also had solid quarterback play, and their defenses are making differences at time throughout the season.

Hillsboro senior Austin Barrett has been the focal point of the Indians’ offense this season, as the rusher has unofficially 1,737 yards on the ground in the first nine weeks of the season.

The Tigers have a 1,000-plus-yard rusher of their own in senior Andrew Potts.

Both players have had excellent run blocking from their respective offensive lines in ‘23, and the two teams have seen their quarterbacks improve throughout the season.

HHS sophomore quarterback Mason Dumpert is coming off his best game of the season in the Indians’ 14-13 win over the Miami Trace Panthers.

As the season has gone along, Dumpert has added more to his game, and last Friday it was evident the improvement was there, as he totaled 11 rushes for 116 yards (with two rushing scores), and the past two games the Indians have opened the offense up more with their passing game.

Dumpert’s rushing scores against Miami Trace went for 30 yards and a 3-yard run with the sophomore diving into the end zone.

There is also McClain senior quarterback Drake Stapleton, who returned to the field in ’23 after missing the second half of the ’22 season with an injury.

Stapleton's play has shown improvement as the season as progressed, including a Week 6 game against Miami Trace where the senior quarterback was 9-of-18 for 219 yards passing and one touchdown pass, plus he rushed for 33 yards and rushed for a score.

In all, the Tigers and Indians have much on the line in Week 10, as there is a possibility each team could be playing in Week 11.