Tower Hill Beats Friends, 24-14

By BUDDY HURLOCK, The News Journal
Tower Hill upsets Friends to enter state playoffs for the first time in school history. Click here to watch video!
Hillers finally earn spot in playoffs

Tower Hill extends season with rivalry win

by Buddy Hurlock 

Posted with permission of The News Journal

WILMINGTON -- Cross Tower Hill School off the list.

The Hillers have made it.

Tower Hill knocked its storied rival, Wilmington Friends, from the unbeaten ranks and rallied for a 24-14 win Saturday afternoon at the Hillers' DeGroat Field, qualifying for the football postseason for the first time in school history.

Of the teams in existence when the state tournament started in 1971, Tower Hill (9-1, 2-1 Independent Conference) is the last to qualify.

"It's incredible," said Tower Hill senior quarterback James Mraz, who scored two touchdowns. "It's a storybook finish, and we knew that everything was on the line in this game."

Friends (9-1, 2-1) was denied its first state tournament trip since 1984. The Quakers lost two turnovers and were penalized seven times for 72 yards.

"We had opportunities to score," Friends coach Bob Tattersall said, "and we kind of hurt ourselves. [Tower Hill] capitalized on their speed and we just didn't complete some plays that we've been making. ... [Not making the playoffs] doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that it was the Tower Hill-Friends game."

Friends led 14-0 with 11:12 left in the first half following the second of two short touchdown runs by fullback Andrew Lang.

The Hillers had 18 yards of total offense until their final possession of the first half, which ended with Matthew Hollis' 25-yard field goal.

Tower Hill led 309-182 in total yards for the game, holding a 228-41 edge in the second half.

The Hillers started the second half with the ball. Mraz's 2-yard scoring push and Hollis' PAT pulled Tower Hill to 14-10 with 8:40 left in the third quarter.

Hollis then missed a 37-yard field goal attempt, but Hunter Schubert recovered a Friends fumble on the first play after the miss. On first down, Mraz ran for a 15-yard touchdown.

The Hillers got breathing room when Justin Hicks turned in a 91-yard touchdown run with 11:45 left in the game.

"A great block by Andrue Smith," Hicks said. "He blocked the guy outside, I cut it up and all I could see was a touchdown. I was winded, but I ran as fast as I could."

In the fourth quarter, Friends never advanced past the Tower Hill 43-yard line.

Tower Hill leads one of the oldest continuous rivalries in the nation 49-37-2.

The playoff fields will be announced today, but calculations by several media organizations had the winner of this game qualifying as the sixth and final seed for the Division II tournament.