Two years ago, Rochester Lourdes quarterback Noah Hillman fumbled late in the Class 3A semifinal on a potential game-sealing drive.
Almost immediately after the play, five senior teammates rushed over and encouraged the sophomore to shake off the blunder. He did and the Eagles went on to win the 2014 state championship.
Hillman has carried that lesson of perseverance with him since, and it was evident in his three-touchdown, 163-yard rushing performance in the Eagles' 43-21 victory against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the Class 3A semifinal.
"[That year] I learned how to pick guys up when they are down and how to bounce back," Hillman said. "I try to help the young guys if they make a mistake because I know it made a world of difference when it happened to me."
The bulk of Hillman's production came in the first half, when Rochester Lourdes' speed option offense ran at will against the Rebels' front seven. All three of Hillman's touchdowns came before halftime, with Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton defenders repeatedly unable to make tackles.
Early in the third quarter, the Rebels' Ben Beyer, who finished with 118 yards rushing on six carries, scored on a 26-yard run as Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-2) pulled within two scores at 26-14.
But on the ensuing drive, the Eagles (12-0) made a 31-yard field goal. They added two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put the game out of reach.
"They put you in situations where you have to make one-on-one tackles," Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton coach Anthony Soderberg said. "[Our players] were in some tough spots because the coaches put them there."
Ellis L. Williams