PRINCETON — Simply put, Heritage Hills dominated at the line of scrimmage on Friday night.
Princeton Community had little to no answer for the Patriots’ flexbone look and physicality at the line, allowing five Heritage Hill rushers to score and steamroll their way to a 42-12 victory in the regular season finale for both teams.
Heritage Hills began their first drive with tremendous field position following a dicey fake punt by the Tigers — which the Patriots (4-5) sniffed out — handing the ball to Jacob Schmidt and the Patriot offense.
With Schmidt under center, the Patriots methodically marched down the field, scoring first on a nine-yard rushing score by Luke Rickelman.
The Tigers (2-7) quickly answered with an 11-yard pitch-and-catch from Malakye Moody to Dominic Hardiman, but failed to punch in the ensuing conversion attempt.
Following Princeton’s lone score of the first half, the Patriots began to impose their will on both sides of the ball.
Schmidt led his Patriots down the field on a 58-yard drive, capped off with an 18-yard quarterback keeper. And a series later, connected with Rickelman on a 38-yard score off of a play-action fake.
A 37-yard rushing touchdown by Brenden Chew proved just enough to put the Patriots firmly in the driver’s seat of the contest, ahead 28-6 entering the second half and set to receive the second half kickoff.
With a lead in hand, game script favored the Patriots immensely. Trailing three scores against a nearly one-dimensional offense, designed to extend drives and eat clock, is a nearly impossible assignment to rally from.
From then, the rout was on. Evan Bowling and Caleb Fakes punched in a pair of one-yard insurance scores, giving Heritage Hills a 42-6 lead in the third quarter. Princeton tailback Ben Heidenreich punched in a one-yard score for the Tigers as well, but with the game well out of reach.
“We were in the right spots a lot of times, we just didn’t make enough plays, especially early,” Princeton Community Football Coach Jared Maners said. “When you get down against a team like that, a team that can control the game with the run game and things like that... We just didn’t make plays [defensively].
Rest assured, this contest was one-sided, but a handful of momentum swinging errors plagued the Tigers. Namely a high snap on a punt — giving the ball to Heritage Hills at the Tiger 5-yard-line — the aforementioned fake punt, and a brutal interception to stall a Tiger drive.
Offensively, the Patriots dominated the ground game, rushing for 328 yards (7.6 yards per carry), led by Rickelman’s 114 total yards and two touchdowns. Schmidt totaled 115 total yards and a pair of scores as well.
The lone bright spot for the Tigers — without a doubt Hardiman. When Hardiman had the ball in his hands, he looked like the best playmaker on the field. The senior wide out hauled in 10 receptions for 109 yards and a score in his final contest at Tiger Stadium.
“I thought Dominic Hardiman played harder than anyone on the field tonight,” Maners spoke of his dynamic wideout. “He was destined to make plays and caught just about everything thrown at him.”
Princeton’s ground game — which entered the contest averaging just over 160 rushing yards per contest — was held under 100 and to just a measly 3.4 yards per rush.
Heritage Hills begins their IHSAA Class 3A Football postseason quest next Friday as they host Gibson Southern (6-3) at 7 p.m. The Patriots — while shorthanded at the time — fell to the Titans 38-0 in their prior meeting this season.
Princeton Community will travel to Sullivan to make their playoff debut. Shortly after the loss, Maners seemed to feel pretty optimistic about his team’s chances against the Golden Arrows (6-3).
“They kind of look like us,” Maners said. “They’re thick in a lot of areas, they don’t have anybody that stands out as blazing fast that’ll torch you. They’re just a good, solid football team that’s physical and they do a lot of the same stuff we do offensively,”
I like us against spread teams, I really do. I think our athleticism plays into our hands a bit when we play spread teams. We’ve got an opportunity, if we can take advantage of it — we should be happy next Friday.”
HH — 14 14 14 0 — 42
PC — 6 0 6 0 — 12
1Q: Rickelman 11-yard rush (Hill kick) 7-0 HH.
Moody 11-yard pass to Hardiman (conversion failed) 7-6 HH.
Schmidt 14-yard rush (Hill kick) 14-6.
2Q: Schmidt 38-yard pass to Rickelman (Hill kick) 21-6 HH.
Chew 37-yard rush (Hill kick) 28-6 HH.
3Q: Bowling 1-yard rush (Hill kick) 35-6 HH.
Fakes 1-yard rush (Hill kick) 42-6 HH.
Heidenreich 1-yard rush (conversion failed) 42-12 HH.
Next up: Princeton: Friday, Oct. 23 at Sullivan at 7:30 p.m.
Heritage Hills: Friday, Oct. 23 vs. Gibson Southern at 7 p.m.