Pats eliminated in sectional championship

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Sophomore Preston Coop (5) looks to gain yardage following a reception for Heritage Hills in Friday's Sectional 32 championship game at Gibson Southern. Chasing Coop from behind is senior Logan Maurer (5). The Patriots fell to the Titans, 42-7. 

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

FORT BRANCH - Heritage Hills turned things this year around after a 4-6 season in 2020, but the stars could not align in Friday's Sectional 32 title game.

The Patriots (9-3) had to square off against a Gibson Southern team that has steamrolled opponents throughout the season, and the high octane offense of the Class 3A-No. 2 Titans showed once again on Friday. The Pats held the Titans to a three-and-out on their opening drive of the game, but couldn't replicate that afterward, taking a 42-7 loss.

Heritage Hills coach Todd Wilkerson noted nine wins was good for the team, which was still really young this season.

"A lot of young guys stepped up this year, and I think our future's bright," Wilkerson said.

The Pats again looked to stave off Gibson Southern until senior quarterback Brady Allen connected with fellow senior Brayden Malone on a screen pass, and Malone took it 50 yards to the house. Senior kicker Chris Spear nailed the extra point for a 7-0 Titans lead with 7:51 to play, and Gibson Southern never looked back.

It was the first of three times Allen and Malone connected for a score in the opening half. The Titans held a 14-0 lead at their own 13-yard line and still in the first quarter when Allen fired a home run ball down the middle, and nobody on the Pats could lay a finger on Malone, who burst for an 87-yard score, and it was 21-0 with 1:28 to go in the quarter, and it became 28-0 after senior Peyton Rogers returned a fumble recovery for a score.

"I think in the screen pass, we just didn't get enough guys out there," Wilkerson said. "They gave us a bunch formation, kind of a different look and we just didn't get enough guys out there. The deep bomb down the middle - we busted the coverage. We didn't get on the guy, didn't get a jam on him and he runs straight down the middle. They go fast, we're trying to change defenses and sometimes, you make mistakes and that happens."

Allen found Malone one more time for a five-yard score towards the end of the first half. The Titans found themselves at first down and 21 following an offensive penalty, but they overcame this obstacle. Spear kicked his sixth extra point of the night, and the Pats trailed, 42-0, with 4:09 to go, bringing the game to its halftime score.

The running clock went into effect in the second half, and the Pats fumbled on the opening drive. The Titans sat Allen in the second half, with sophomore Tanner Boyd taking over the quarterback position.

Heritage Hills did, however, manage to avoid a shutout. The offense drove to the red zone, and senior Evan Bowling, in his final high school football game, ran in a touchdown, and fellow senior Austin Hill booted a PAT with 7:49 to go in the game, bringing it to its final score.

"I definitely think this was a step in the right direction this year," Wilkerson said. "Again, to win nine games - coming in, we knew we didn't have a huge senior class, we knew Gibson was going to be really good and winning nine games should definitely give us some momentum for next season.

"But, we're going to have to get in the weight room and improve on a lot of things in the offseason," he continued. "Growing a year older just doesn't make you better, you have to work hard in the offseason to make that happen."




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