Hillsboro football rediscovers its winning ways with a 24-12 victory against Liberty

That’s a heavy weight the Spartans can finally lift from their collective shoulders.

After going winless in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Hillsboro football team did not have to wait for a victory in 2013. Traveling across town to take on Liberty last Friday in both squads’ season opener, the Spartans seized control of the game early and held on for a 24-12 HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Liberty wideout Byron Greenlee gets his fingers into the facemask of Hillsboro's Marshall Taunton during last Friday's season opener.

“Liberty is a good football team,” said Hilhi coach Adam Reese, who picked up the win in his head coaching debut.

“That was a good football team and that was a hard-fought game. What did it tell me? It told me that they’re ready to play, that they can accept the fact that they can be winners, to not back away from anything or anyone.”

The result snapped a 21-game losing streak for Hilhi that began with a 28-25 loss to Jesuit in the 2010 Class 6A quarterfinals. Before last Friday, the Spartans’ most recent victory had come on Nov. 19, 2010, in a 63-49 state playoff win at West Salem.

Against the Falcons, Hilhi set the tone by scoring on the game’s opening possession, completing a 13-play, 68-yard drive on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Matt Jones to Dylan Frederick with 7:09 remaining in the first quarter. Garrett Paul linked up with Marshall Taunton for the ensuing two-point conversion, and just like that, the Spartans were up 8-0.

They would never relinquish the lead, stretching the margin to 17-0 on a Paul-to-Taunton 12-yard touchdown pass late in the half and a safety midway through the third quarter.

Liberty’s first points of the season came on an 89-yard touchdown scamper by Matthew Langbehn with 9:42 remaining in the fourth, making the score 17-6. After Hilhi’s T.J. Cavender went on a 61-yard touchdown run of his own just over a minute later, the Falcons completed the scoring on Cameron Colbert’s 8-yard rushing TD with 1:17 remaining.

Reese is still looking to decide who should be the starter at quarterback between Jones and Paul, who gave him plenty to ponder with their performances. Jones was 13-for-24, throwing for 135 yards and a touchdown, while Paul went 8-of-11 for 101 yards and a touchdown.

“They played just about the same amount of snaps, and I think that’s going to happen again,” Reese said. “No one’s still standing out head and shoulders above the other one. They both do so many different things and are successful in their own right.”

Michael Gaskell led the rushing attack with 12 carries for 64 yards, while Cavender had two carries for 62 yards. Frederick was the leading receiver with eight catches for 95 yards and a score.

Hunter Morse and Jones led the defense with five solo and three assisted tackles, while Jackson Bayer recorded two sacks for a total loss of 18 yards. Reese also praised the work of middle linebacker Isaac Nakamoto and the defensive line.

Sophomore Beau Walker got the start at quarterback for Liberty, going 14-of-21 for 137 yards. Langbehn rushed seven times for a game-high 140 yards and a touchdown. Byron Greenlee was the top receiver with five receptions for 38 yards.

Tonight, Liberty will look to pick up its first win against Churchill of Eugene, and the Spartans entertain Hermiston at Hare Field in what Reese described as a “very stern test” for his program. The Bulldogs torched Rex Putnam 48-7 at home in their season opener last week. Kickoff is at 7 o’clock this evening.

Said Reese: “We need to take that same worker’s mentality and go into this next game and expect to win.”

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