Ethan Goodwin

Hillsdale running back Ethan Goodwin looks for an opening in the Waynedale defense during Thursday's Wayne County Athletic League game at Ashland's Community Stadium.

ASHLAND — The Hillsdale defense surrendered some big plays, but the Falcons answered the bell in the fourth quarter Thursday at Community Stadium.

Hillsdale forced a turnover on downs deep in their own territory in the closing minutes and held on for a 25-17 win over Waynedale on Homecoming night.

“Our kids buckled down and were able to stop them there at the end,” Hillsdale coach Trevor Cline said. “Early on we gave up some big plays.

“We played physical, and you love to see that, but we still had some mental mistakes.”

Hillsdale struck first when quarterback Caden Mutchler hooked up with Ty Williams on an 8 yard scoring strike midway through the first quarter, but the bears answered with 10 unanswered points. Dillon Charbonneau booted a 34 yard field goal with 8:23 to play in the second quarter before quarterback Peyton Lemon connected with Josiah Raber on a 67 yard TD pass with 4:08 to play in the half.

Hillsdale tied it at 10-10 just 19 seconds before the half on Justin Zeigler’s 25 yard field goal.

The Falcons (3-2) carried the momentum into the second half 16-10 lead on Ethan Goodwin’s 4 yard TD run late in the third.

The upstart Golden Bears (1-4) answered when Lemon hooked up with Jaden Zuercher on a 13 yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 17-16 lead.

“Our goal all week was to be in the game down the wire and we were,” Waynedale coach Louie Stanley said. “We’re trying to turn the program around and this is a game that (if you win) turns your program around. It’a heart-breaker to know we are a play from winning it.”

Hillsdale took the lead for good on Brandon Reardon’s nifty 31 yard run with 10:06 remaining. Zeigler added a 30 yard field goal with 5:45 to go for a 25-17 lead.

Hillsdale’s defense took care of the rest. Goodwin picked off a pass near his own goal line with slightly more than a minute remaining and the Falcons ran out the clock from there.

“It was a battle but whenever you play a Wayne County League school you understand it’s going to be a game,” Cline said. “You’re going to have battles week-in and week-out.”

Williams had another big night for the Falcons, accounting for more than 100 yards of total offense. The senior rushed for 33 yards and had 69 receiving yards and also became Hillsdale’s career tackles leader, breaking 2020 graduate Briar Funk’s career mark of 431.

“We’re still figuring some things out defensively but it’s always great to have an accomplishment like that, especially when the guy I’m beating out is Briar,” Williams said. “We’re buddies and we played together for three years.”

Zeigler tied Hillsdale’s single-game record with 11 receptions for 81 yards. Williams had 11 catches in last week’s 31-7 win over Smithville.

Mutchler threw for 150 yards while Reardon rushed for 72.

“You have to focus on Williams a little bit but you can’t over-focus,”Stanley said. “They have a nice mixed offense and you have to be very careful not to over-shift in any direction. I think we did a good job all the way around.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.