For the first time in eight years the Festus Tigers came away with the victory in the classic rivalry game against the Hillsboro Hawks. In a hard-fought effort the Tigers plowed their way to a 41-26 victory, en route to a perfect 5-0 record.
The victory didn’t come without a price though, as Festus lost star runningback Austin Anderson to injury early on. He had just one carry, but it went for 58 yards and was the longest play on the ground for the Tigers the entire game. His teammates picked up the slack in his absence though.
Landen Bradshaw and quarterback Cole Rickermann managed to put up four TDs on the ground (two apiece) in Anderson’s stead, and kept the chains moving throughout the game… But it was no easy affair.
The Hawks were assuredly the toughest test the Tigers have faced all season, and when asked how his players responded to such a stout opponent (on top of an injury to a star player) Head Coach AJ Ofodile had this to say, “Hillsboro was definitely a big step up in competition. They do a great job with their offseason program and it shows with the size and speed of their players. Losing Austin was a huge blow but Bradshaw, Cayden Glaze and Dalten Yates all did a great job of being prepared to play and fill that gap. Rickermann’s ability to run the football also helped us manufacture rushing yards.”
Bradshaw spouted this about the effort, “Austin set the momentum in his first run, although it ended in injury, he showed up big. We have a lot of talent that can be used, our coaches utilized that in our favor. It was not just the running backs, the entire offense showed up big, Rickermann, our receivers. It was a group effort. A touchdown is points on the scoreboard, I’m glad I made it in the end zone a couple of times, but if it wasn’t for our offensive line, that wouldn’t have been possible. We have been preparing for this game, we knew it would be tough. It’s a good feeling to have gotten the win.”
Three TDs in the first quarter (two from Rickermann) had the Tigers rolling to the tune of a 20-6 lead, which held fast as there was no scoring in the second. That lead would hold though as the two teams literally went back and forth with TDs for the rest of the game.
The Hawks scored… Daylen Wagoner answered with a 90-yard bomb from Rickermann. The Hawks scored again… Rickermann runs one in from 9 yards out. The same deal in the fourth with Bradshaw getting in on the fun with a 1-yard punch-in to cap off the scoring.
Rickermann was the star of the show though, passing for 260 yards and two TDs to go with his pair of rushing touchdowns. When asked about his dominant quarterback, Ofodile gushed, “Cole has done an admirable job leading our offense. His competitive demeanor is excellent. He is always accountable and does a great job supporting teammates. His ability to quickly gain an understanding of our offense along with his ability to be a true dual threat have really helped us consistently have good offensive production.”
Rickermann beamed when asked about how his team stepped up. “This was just a remarkable win for us. We all have wanted this so bad and the work we have been putting in everyday really showed Friday. We are just such a deep team with so many skilled guys that can do anything that they are asked to do. To keep our streak going, we just have to stay mentally focused throughout each week of practice and be ready to fight whenever game time comes around.”
The first year Head Coach also praised his defense and offensive line, who tend to not get the same love since their efforts don’t always reflect as transparently on the stat sheet. “Defensively we gave up more points than previous games but our guys on that side continue to be resilient and not let mistakes negatively impact their overall energy. They had a really big goal line stand and Desmond Davis made several tackles for loss that put them behind schedule in terms of down and distance. Those things were instrumental in allowing us to hold on and get the win. And Our Oline has been doing a really good job of being physical and adjusting to the different looks we get on a weekly basis. They played a major role this week again.”
Another convincing win by the Tigers has them sitting first overall atop the conference (3-0) and champing at the bit to take on 4-2 North County this Friday.