By Todd Hefferman, The Southern
GREENVILLE - Lucas Hileman heard the footsteps, all right, prior to his fourth-quarter touchdown reception Saturday.The ones leading all the way to the Class 3A semifinals.
Hileman, Anna-Jonesboro's converted wide receiver, corralled a 52-yard pass from quarterback Brad Cerney to answer Greenville's only score of the day and help the Wildcats advance to the final four with a 30-8 victory. The former quarterback caught Cerney's pass just in front of the Comets' Jason Etcheson near the Greenville 20-yard line and raced the rest of the way to give his team a 14-point edge. Jon Pengress' kick made it 23-8 with 7 minutes, 5 seconds to play at Greenville High School."We needed another play to finally put them away, because they had a little run there for a little bit," said Hileman, who caught two passes for 83 yards. "The nature of it is, you try not to think about where the other players are. You gotta run for the ball, and you gotta make a play after it sometimes, so you can't really worry having to get hit when you go across the middle."
Not getting hit was a common theme for the third-ranked Wildcats (12-0), who will play at sixth-ranked St. Joseph Ogden (12-0) next weekend for a spot in the 3A championship game. The Spartans - quarterfinalists a year ago - topped Decatur St. Teresa 27-21 in Decatur Saturday. Undefeateds Plano and Manlius Bureau Valley, the defending 3A champs, will battle in the other semifinal.
David Sanders scored Anna-Jonesboro's first touchdown of the day on a screen pass in the left flat. Sanders took Cerney's pass near the Greenville 45, saw three blockers ahead of him, and made the right cuts to coast into the end zone without a Comet hand on him."I saw my center, Gary Potter, absolutely crush this guy to the outside, so I chose to go right into the middle of the field, and when I went into the middle of the field, I saw Lucas Hileman behind me," Sanders said. "So I knew nobody was going to catch me."We needed that score real bad, and we got it."
Greenville (10-2) capped its best drive of the day with a Josh Hulvey 1-yard plunge prior to Hileman's score. Ethan Willman cut the Wildcats' lead in half when he was able to take a screen pass from quarterback Josh Tebbe near the 2 and barrel in for the two-point conversion with 4:45 to play."It was huge, to be able to answer like that, because they'd cut it to one score at 16-8," Wildcats coach Brett Detering said. "Now they just had to get another score and a conversion, so they had a little bit of momentum. I think we got the ball out at midfield and were able to convert."
Hulvey and the Comets became only the fourth team this season to rush for over 100 yards against Anna-Jonesboro, as the 6-foot-1 senior went for 131 yards on 16 carries. The Comets finished with 170 rushing yards on 35 carries. Tebbe, however, wasn't able to bring Greenville back through the air, as he was picked off twice and finished 4-of-12 for 29 yards.Heston Hase added another touchdown for the Wildcats off a screen pass in the fourth to seal the game. Jake Pecord added a 66-yard score in the third to help Anna-Jonesboro equal the school record for wins.
The last time Anna-Jonesboro's football team hit No. 12 in the win column, it captured the 1984 state championship. Hileman was aware of the possibility of another title 22 years later, but said he wasn't looking ahead of St. Joseph Ogden."You try not to look ahead, but sometimes it happens. You just have to keep your mind focused on your next opponent," he said. "Each week it gets harder and harder."firstname.lastname@example.org