Without injured standout running back Chris Thomas, the Hilltoppers put the ball in the hands of quarterback Connor Batchelder and his talented group of receivers. Combined with a spirited defensive performance, the Hilltoppers walked out of Tipton Stadium with a 42-8 win Friday night.
Improving to 2-0 in Region 1-6A, Science Hill remained in a first-place tie with Dobyns-Bennett. Jeff County (3-2 overall) fell to 1-1 in the region.
The Hilltoppers (2-3) got 298 yards passing and three touchdowns from Batchelder, who completed 24 of 33 passes. He hit six different receivers and was in a rhythm all night.
“He was on point,” said Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter. “I think he needed some confidence. We’ve seen some stuff he does really well. He throws the ball across the middle and throws those quick outs well. And he was able to dump it off to the backs, and it really helped us.”
Marquis Griffin was especially effective, catching six balls for 91 yards and two scores.
“We had to come out strong because it was a conference game,” said Griffin. “The guys just trusted me, and we did what we had to do. Tonight (the Patriots) just kept blitzing, so we had to get what was open. Connor had a great game. I’m glad he trusted us. We trusted him, too.”
Carter said Griffin is a great kid.
“He works hard every day,” he said. “It’s good to see him have that success. We knew he was going to have a breakout game. I was really happy with Marquis’ play.”
Also for the Hilltoppers, Cole Torbett reeled in eight balls for 83 yards while Malik Bowman had four grabs for 73 yards.
Science Hill had arguably its best defensive performance of the season. The Hilltoppers shut Jefferson County out for three quarters, and allowed only 120 yards of offense heading into the fourth quarter.
Included in the impressive defensive mix was lineman Jaiden Miles.
“We were getting pressure on the ball, and our secondary was limiting passes,” said Miles. “The secondary had a good night tonight. We just have to keep working, and hopefully it ends up like this game.”
ON THE GROUND
Bowman carried the ball 12 times for 44 yards, but the ground game wasn’t effective. The Hilltoppers totaled 32 yards on 24 carries as a team. On 35 pass attempts, they gained 363 yards.
“Jefferson County dictated it,” said Carter. “They were blitzing everybody with man coverage. They’ve got a physical front, and we didn’t have much of a choice. They pretty much told us the game they wanted to play. Good thing that we do throw good across the middle and we were able to make some plays.”
Science Hill got off to a rugged start, losing 21 yards on three negative plays in its first series. Jefferson County drove the ball into Science Hill territory, but the Hilltoppers responded with a fourth-down stop at the 25.
Bowman capped off the next drive with a 31-yard touchdown run and the Hilltoppers dominated to the finish.
Griffin caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Batchelder in the first quarter, and a nicely thrown 21-yard strike in the second quarter. The Hilltoppers were able to take a 21-0 lead into the locker room, thanks in part to stopping another deep Jefferson County drive with a fumble recovery.
In the third quarter, Braden Anderson had a 1-yard touchdown run and caught a 2-yard scoring pass to make it 35-0 and start the mercy-rule clock.
Jefferson County got a diving catch in the corner of the end zone by Austin Leitch, and a 2-point conversion completion made it 35-8.
A.J. Martin closed out the Hilltoppers’ scoring with a 3-yard run.