Pats march to sectional crown


LINCOLN CITY — Heritage Hills roared in the Jungle en route to the Class 3A Sectional 32 title Friday night. That marked its first sectional crown since 2014.

The Patriots (12-0) finally broke through with a 27-7 win to deny Pocket Athletic Conference rival Southridge a third consecutive sectional title. Heritage Hills lost its only game last year to Gibson Southern in the sectional semifinal, then erased a 13-point deficit and blocked a field goal in a rematch against the Titans last week just to get to this point.

The Pats then bested the Raiders (9-3) for the second time this season, having also won, 42-7, Oct. 4.

“It feels great,” Heritage Hills coach Todd Wilkerson said. “This group has worked very hard. They’ve done all the right, and it’s great to see them win a championship.”

“This feels amazing,” said senior running back Phoenix Rodgers, who carried the ball 20 times for 101 yards and four touchdowns in the win. “We’ve been wanting this for a long time, not only us, but also the community and we’re happy that we’re here.”

Rodgers scored his first touchdown at the 8:50 mark of the first quarter, as the Pats capitalized off the Raiders choosing to defer to the second half from the coin toss. He credited the blocking of senior Noah Mundy for making it happen. It was a 7-0 lead after sophomore Ethan Hill kicked the extra point.

The Pats decided to go for it on fourth down with eight yards to go at the Southridge 23-yard line with 11:11 to play in the first half. Senior quarterback Cole Sigler, a star on both offense and defense Friday, kept it himself and ran out of bounds towards the right sideline to give Heritage Hills a fresh set of downs.

“We just wanted to keep the clock moving, keep the ball,” Wilkerson said about the decision to go for it. “The conditions are really not good. So, sometimes punting in bad conditions is scary, but we had confidence in Cole.”

The temperature was less than 30 degrees outside, but Wilkerson credited the Pats for being a mentally tough group that believes in one another and believes in the coaching staff.

The Pats continued to feed the ball until Rodgers dove in from the one-yard line for his second rushing score of the evening at the 9:48 mark of the second quarter. Hill’s extra point was no good, but the Pats had a 13-0 lead.

Sigler intercepted Taylor and ran it back for a 31-yard return for the first of two for interceptions he had on the night.

The Pats had 3:15 to work with to try to build their lead off of that pick. Sigler threw off balance to his left that Mundy hauled in for a catch. The Pats kept gaining yards on the ground until Rodgers ran it in for another one-yard touchdown. That was his third of the night. This time, the extra point was good, and Heritage Hills built up a 20-0 lead going into the half.

Southridge senior Austin Kaeck ran for a first down in an effort to generate something for the Raiders in the latter half. However, Heritage Hills senior Hunter Wetzel recovered a fumble recovered a fumble with 9:52 to play in the third quarter, sniffing out another Southridge drive.

Capitalizing off of momentum proved more difficult when Southridge took over on downs with 4:44 left in the third quarter. Taylor chucked a pass to fellow junior Camden Gasser, who beat senior Kaden Feldpausch of the Pats on a 37-yard reception. Senior running back Brad Springer got the Raiders into the red zone after a first down.

However, Heritage Hills racked up multiple tackles for losses, and forced a turnover on downs when Taylor threw a ball that sailed into the end zone with no Raider receivers within the distance to haul it in.

“Their defense is the best in this area,” Raiders coach Scott Buening said of the Pats. “They are tremendous. They’re so well-coached. They’re so disciplined, and then they’ve got tremendous football players doing it.”

Southridge had to wait until the fourth quarter for something to go its way. Heritage Hills downed a punt at Southridge’s six-yard line. However, on the first play of the drive, Taylor and Gasser beat Feldpausch again.

Gasser caught a pass that went over Feldpausch as the latter tried to jump for an interception. The junior wideout for the Raiders went off to the races for a 94-yard score. Junior Jaylon Leon then kicked the extra point and it was 20-7 with 8:47 to go. Gasser caught all six of Taylor’s completions. He had 192 receiving yards to complement his touchdown receptions.

Rodgers had his fourth score of the night, this time for two yards with 4:25 left to play. That marked his 19th rushing touchdown of the season. Hill’s point after attempt brought the game to its final score.

Buening told his players after the game that he loves them and is proud of them. Southridge said goodbye to 19 seniors after the loss. Buening said it’s been tremendous to coach them. He praised how hard they worked and trained. Buening added that this year’s senior class is a blue collar group that is very passionate.

“They’re a bunch of fighters and that’s what made them so successful this year was their willingness to do that and get the rest of their teammates to do the same,” he said.

The Pats on Nov. 15 will be off to Lawrenceburg in their first regional game in five years. The Tigers bested Greensburg, 35-14, for the Sectional 31 title Friday night.

“Our first goal is always to win the sectional,” Sigler said. “We got that done. I’m proud of everyone. I’m proud of this team and we’re moving on to regional and we ain’t done yet. We got more things to prove, more things to do.”