By J. Pruitt / Hillsdale Daily News Editor
Two key interceptions by the Hillsdale defense propelled the Hornet past Manchester, the No. 2 ranked team in Division 6, and into the playoffs.
The win puts Hillsdale at 6-3, good enough to qualify for their ninth straight postseason. The loss drops the Flying Dutchmen to 8-1 and quite possibly puts them out of home-field advantage through the regionals.
“We never stopped believing we could go on and the kids believed it too,” an excited Marc Lemerand said. “You have to go out and execute. I am very proud of the team and my coaches Jerry (Curby), Kirk (Putnam) and Ken (Keasal).
“There was never a point that we felt panic. When they scored to tie it, we said ‘lets get it done.”
The game was knotted at 18 when Hillsdale fumbled the ball in Manchester territory with 5:39 remaining.
On Manchester’s second play from scrimmage, Justin Reed snagged a Logan Zigila pass and returned it to the Manchester 38-yard line.
The Hornets took four plays to score the go-ahead touchdown when sophomore quarterback Travis Hodosh hit Matt Mosby in the right side of the end zone with 3:30 left in the game.
“Travis was a great leader tonight,” Lemerand said.
As for Mosby, Lemerand said it was the first time he had been thrown the ball all season.
Manchester came back moving from their 35-yard-line to the Hillsdale 38 before Dan Vear, subbing for a winded Reed at nickle back, leaped high to snag Zagila’s pass intended for Josh Blades at the Hillsdale 21.
“Dan played a great game,” Lemerand said.
Hillsdale was able secure a first down to run out the clock.
The game was a defensive struggle from the outset as each side limited the other’s offense to a series of 3-and-outs. Neither team was able to get a first down until the last minute of the first quarter when Manchester did the deed.
Hillsdale got on the board first on a safety when DJ Hone was tackled in the end zone.
Manchester scored in the second quarter on a 13-play, 78-yard drive that ended when Hone scored from three yards out with 9:18 left in the half.
“That’s a great football team,” Lemerand said about Manchester. “ Blades, Zigila and and Hone are solid players.”
Each side traded the ball back on punts, there were 11 in the game, before Hillsdale managed an 8-play, 73-yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard scoring pass from Hodos to Dan Vear with 2:03 left in the half.
“Tonight showed what kind of receiver we think Dan can be,” Lemerand said.
Manchester was able to get into scoring position on its next possession after Zigila connected with Blades on a 55-yard pass. That drive stalled at the Hillsdale 15 before Rob Carver kicked a 32-yard field goal with 33 seconds left.
The third quarter belonged to Hillsdale, who outscored Manchester 9-0 to take an 18-10 lead going into the fourth quarter. The deficit was the Flying Dutchmen’s second in the final period since week 1.
Hodos hit Vear in the end zone for a 15-yard score and Vear later kicked a 37-yard field goal.
The defense recovered two fumbles on consecutive possessions to keep Manchester bottled up.
In the final period, Manchester tied the game with 6:46 left on an 8-yard pass from Zigila to Carver. The Dutchmen got the two-point conversion to knot the game.
Manchester coach Wes Gall said the Hornets impacted his schemes.
“They had a good defense, they took some plays away from us and made us change our game,” he said “I would like to see us play again on a dry field and I think it would be different.”