JEROMESVILLE — If the first three weeks of the high school football season have taught second-year Hillsdale coach Trevor Cline anything, it’s that tradition never graduates.
The high-flying Falcons are off to a 3-0 start despite losing arguably the most successful senior class in program history to graduation last June.
“Last year’s group was a special group, not only athletically but off the field, too,” said Cline, a 2012 Hillsdale graduate. “The leadership they brought was special. There is a reason why, when they were here, we had a lot of success.
“But one thing that has been nice for the last three to five years — and even more than that — is that when we had some really good players graduate, the kids coming in will step into those roles and perform to the best of their abilities.”
Hillsdale’s recently-graduated senior class was 31-15 with three playoff appearances in four years — the Falcons were regional runners-up in 2017 and reached the regional semifinals last year. That group included All-Ohio first-team defensive lineman Michael Garn, who is a redshirt freshman at Marshall University, as well as leading rusher Garrett Smith (1,210 yards, 12 TDs), leading receiver Tyler McFadden (21 catches, 412 yards, 8 TDs) and do-it-all quarterback Alex Becker (762 yards rushing, 584 yards passing, 28 total TDs).
Caden Mutchler, who filled in for an injured Becker last fall, has completed 22 of 45 passes for 363 yards and five touchdowns. Colt Bishop has six catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns, while Brandon Reardon leads the ground attack with 284 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries.
Hillsdale’s defense has allowed just 21 points through the first three weeks and pitched a shutout in last week’s weather-delayed 3-0 win over backyard rival Loudonville. Linebackers Ty Williams and Briar Funk lead the way with 40 and 28 tackles, respectively. Cole Sinnett has picked off two passes and Evan Jones has recovered a pair of fumbles.
“That’s three weeks in a row that our defense has stepped up,” Cline said after last week’s win. “They do their job each and every play and play together as a team. Our defense picked us up and got us out of here with a win.”
The Falcons travel to Northwestern (1-2) on Friday to begin Wayne County Athletic League play. Hillsdale is searching for its first WCAL championship since sharing the crown with Chippewa in 2014.
“We feel good about where we’re at,” said Justin Zeigler, who booted the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter against Loudonville. “We’ve just got to keep improving every week and get better.”