Comets Overcome First Half En Route to Second Round
Hillcrest left the first half of Tuesdays Section quarterfinal game with the scoreboard reading 10-12. A sloppy start to the game saw Hillcrest players hanging their heads as they huddled under the north goal post waiting for their coaches. After a 3 minute pep-talk, the Comets scored 29 points and made a strong statement in laying down the Hancock Owls who closed their season at Hillcrest.
As the sun started its descent Tuesday night Hillcrest started scoring. An 8-yard run by Kyler Newman showed weaknesses in Hancocks middle defense. Running backs hauled two to three defenders every play when they reached the second level. When Hillcrest's offense locked-up the line, there were yards to be had.
Similarly, Hancock broke Hillcrest's secondary, still licking wounds from a MACRAY overtime win where they were consistently exposed. A 25 yard pass from Kaleb Koehl to Noah Kannegiesser with 2:45 in the opening quarter put the Owls into a position to take the lead. After failing the extra point, Hancock went on the defensive and fell victim to Hillcrest's kicker who put a 28 yard kick through the uprights to give Hillcrest a 10-6 lead with 10:33 in the half.
A series of failed drives led the Owl to a poor field position with 30 seconds before the half. A quick strike from Koehl found Kannegiesser behind the Comet second level where he tip-toed past defenders on his way to a 46 yard touch down reception. The failed extra point had the Comets eyes looking at the grass when the buzzer announced the end of the first half. The Comets were down 10-12 and needed to fix some coverage issues in their secondary.
A huddle before the second half kickoff, led by captain Chris Tungseth, rallied the Comets to the second half. A methodical drive built confidence for the Comets. Quarterback Sean McGuire found his receivers darting to the middle of the field. Cutback routes, run with precision, had Reggie Undseth and Sam Isaac moving the chains. Consistent pounding from Chris Tungseth up the middle had Hancock's linebackers on their heels. The pounding opened lanes for Kyler Newman, who darted around defenders, offering a change of pace to Tungseth's consistent nose-down running. The Comets found themselves two yards from the goal line with 7:42 left in the third quarter, allowing a quick dart up the middle by Sean McGuire, giving Hillcrest a 17-12 lead after Foss' PAT.
Five minutes after Hillcrest wore Hancock down, McGuire hit Isaac on a 12 yard slant. Tungseth's two point conversion gave Hillcrest a 25-12 lead. With eight seconds left in the third quarter McGuire opened the game up with a 35 yard touchdown pass to Undseth who darted down the sidelines, giving Hillcrest a 32-12 lead going into the fourth quarter.
With the lead in hand, Hillcrest went back to pounding the ground. Shifts from Tungseth to Newman created running lanes as Hancock worked to retain their balance on the line. A one yard run by Tungseth and Foss extra point gave Hillcrest a 39-12 lead. Hancock mustered a final touchdown when the reserves were brought in, putting the final score at 39-18.
Hillcrest established the run on their way to their first playoff victory of 2015. 254 yards on the ground, led by Newman (123) and McGuire (59), opened strikes from the air where the Comet threw for 117 yards.
Hillcrest plays Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley on Saturday at 2pm.