By HDN editor J. Pruitt.
Hillsdale overcame a sluggish start and overpowered Leslie 33-6 Friday in front of a large homecoming crowd.
The Hornets (2-1 SMAA, 2-3 overall) defense came up big with two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two sacks to send the Black Hawks (0-3, 0-5) home with another loss.
Hillsdale led in total offense 314-124 with 207 yards coming in the air.
Senior quarterback Mike Curby was 6-of-18 for 162 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He also scored twice on the ground.
Drew Byers caught three passes for 145 yards including a 78-yard touchdown pass and 62-yarder that ended on the Leslie 1.
Dustin Moyer ran 15 times for 103 yards and a score to lead the ground assault.
On defense, the heroes were many.
Brock Estel led with 12 solo tackles, including 2 sacks and five tackles for loss. He recovered a fumble.
Justin Reed had 10 solo tackles.
Brandon Carrizales and Drew Byers each had an interception and Sonny McCoy recovered a fumble on the fly for seven yards.
The downside was the Hornets penchant for penalties. After being flagged 18 times last week, the Hornets were called for 15 penalties Friday night for 107 yards. Hillsdale coach Marc Lemerand said some of the calls were the result of hard play.
“The guys played hard, four flags were from guys playing hard, grabbing facemask, a hit on the head,” he said. “Our guys are going to have to learn when to back off.”
The game was a defensive coordinator’s dream early on as neither team could move the ball much. Leslie had a scoring opportunity in the first quarter with a first-and-goal on the Hillsdale 9 after a Hornet turnover.
But Hillsdale held and Leslie turned the ball over on downs at the Hornet 12.
Leslie came knocking later in the quarter but was stopped at the Hillsdale 7 on a fourth-and-one.
Hillsdale had a hard time securing positive yards in its possessions, but the defense continued to stymie the Black Hawks.
On a first-and-10 Andrew Arras coughed up the ball and McCoy made his open field grab. Later, Byers grabbed a tipped ball at the Hillsdale 19.
“The defensive line, the linebackers all played good,” Lemerand said. “The defense has a lot of energy.”
This time the Hornets did not waste the opportunity. After losing nine yards on a bungled pitch, Hillsdale moved down field quickly. Moyer ran for nine yards, then Curby ran for 18 more, before connecting with Myers on a 62-yard completion to the Leslie 1. Curby punched it in on the next play with1:57 left in the half.
Carrizales intercepted Brendon Smith and returned it more than 40 yards to the Leslie 11.
Curby scored on the next plat with 28.9 seconds remaining.
The second half was a repeat of the first half, with neither moving the ball. After a Leslie punt, the game changed.
One a second-and-7 from their own 22 Curby and Byers hooked up again with the receiver catching the ball in stride and he outran the defenders for a 78-yard score.
Early in the fourth quarter, Moyers ran in from 25 yards out for another Hornet touchdown.
Travis Hodos, playing some mop-up time, hit Aaron Blanchard for a 45-yard scoring pass.
The Black Hawks are a raw, young team that dressed only three seniors for the game. Coach Scott Farley said 10 of his 22 starters were sophomores. A far cry from the team that went to Ford Field last year.
“We are not ready to make plays,” Farley said. “We are working on fundamentals trying to get the little things.”
At the season’s half-way point, Lemerand likes where his team is at. The offense seems to be gelling and the defense has found its identity.
“We still have a ways to go,” he said.