It wasn't always pretty, but a win is a win.
Glencoe defeated crosstown rival Hillsboro 14-7 Friday night, Sept. 6, at Hare Field, and while it seemed easy at times, in the end it was far from it.
"We have a long way to go," Glencoe head coach Ian Reynoso said. "It was good to get out here, hit someone else, get a game under our belts and see what worked and what didn't. But we've got a lot of work to do. There were some things that I thought we'd do better, but in the end it's good."
The Crimson Tide led 7-0 at the half and 14-0 after three quarters, but the Spartans fought within a score midway through the fourth and were 25 yards from tying the game with just under a minute to play before a series of passes fell incomplete, ending the comeback bid, but lifting the spirits of the Spartan players, coaches and fans that stayed to the end.
"I feel like we had great effort," Hilhi senior Nate Smith said. "They're our crosstown rival and we wanted to beat them so bad, but we fell a little bit short. I told the guys though, don't hang your heads because we're going to bounce back next week."
It didn't take Glencoe long to find their niche in the game, lining up behind their big and bruising offensive front and forcing the ball down the undersized Hillsboro defensive line's throat. With the tandem of running backs, junior Jackson Kind and sophomore Royce Fasel, the Tide repeatedly gashed the Sparts for four to five yard clips, but when push came to shove the small but determined Hillsboro front stood strong, forcing six Crimson Tide punts in the game.
"I'm very proud of our effort," Smith said. "On the D-line, we feel like we're the hardest workers on this team. I know were a little small, but we work harder than anyone we're going to face."
Neither team could do much early, with the first three drives all ending with punts. Hillsboro moved the ball into Glencoe territory on their second possession before a Fasel interception ended the drive just inside the Tide's 40-yard line.
Glencoe returned the favor five plays later, when after four consecutive Fasel runs moved the ball to Hilhi's 32 yard line, first-year quarterback Carson Wilson was picked off by Smith.
Hillsboro promptly moved the ball back into Glencoe territory thanks to a 21 yard pass from receiver Tristan Keffer to running back Thomas Johnson. But a fumbled snap a play later again ended the Spartans threat before the Tide — on the back of six Fasel runs — went 47 yards for the game's first score to put Glencoe ahead 7-0.
The drive was a sign of things to come, for in the third quarter Glencoe gave the Spartans a large dose of Fasel, turning to the bruising sophomore runner eight times on their first two possessions before Wilson finished the final yard of their second series with the game's second score, putting the Tide ahead 14-0 with 4:14 left in the third quarter.
"I love my line and I think they're one of the best in the state," Fasel said. "We're pretty hyped about the size of our line, and on film it looked like we had an advantage."
Despite the deficit and the disadvantage in the trenches, the Spartans stayed the course and managed to pull within seven when senior quarterback Kane Kiaunis hit Smith on a 34 yard touchdown pass with 9:24 remaining to cut the lead to 14-7. On the play, the Hillsboro quarterback rolled to his right and put the ball up high to the 6-foot-6 Smith in the right corner of the end zone. From there Smith did the rest, going up over the smaller Glencoe defensive back and hauling in the score that got the Sparts back in the game.
"I love those kind of balls," Smith said. "I live for those plays and I knew he was going to come to me, so I just went up and caught it."
Following three straight failed possessions, the Sparts mounted a final charge with 2:08 on the clock, using three successful pass plays to move to the Tide's 25 yard line. But after an incompletion and a second down sack that moved Hillsboro back to the 34 yard line, the drive ended with two straight Kiaunis incompletions, and Glencoe took a knee to finish the game.
Reynoso had been saying his young team needs a close game to help fortify much of what they've been working on, but while not exactly what he had in mind, he was satisfied with how things ultimately played out on this night.
"We've been preaching like crazy about the game that's going to help us grow as a program, is that close game," he said. "I'm looking for one of those games where we need to score with time running down, but this was a step in the right direction and we need to keep going from here."
Fasel — who also plays linebacker for the Tide — admitted they got a little "discombobulated" towards the end, but was equally proud of their performance and is looking forward to what the remainder of the season has in store.
"It feels great," Fasel said. "We worked hard all offseason and I think we deserved this, and I'm looking forward to a fun season."
Glencoe travels to Westview to face the Wildcats next Friday, Sept. 13, while the Spartans will host St. Helens at Hare Field.
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