Hanson rushes for 290 yards in Conant's win over Highland Park

By Lou Nunez Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/14/2023 11:04 PM

There's a good chance that you've probably heard of the saying, "One step forward, two steps back."

For Conant's first-year coach Anthony Donatucci that saying has taken a twist of sorts in the opening third of his debut campaign.


It seemed like a huge step backwards when they could only muster 45 yards total offense in a season-opening loss at Lake Park three weeks ago only to retrieve that step a week later in an MSL crossover win at Wheeling where it put 41 points on the scoreboard.

That was only to see that step lost once again last week where it surrendered 42 points in a road setback to Deerfield during round one of the two-week crossover series between member schools of the Mid-Suburban and Central Suburban Leagues.

Now as round two of the CSL-MSL series took place Thursday night at Conant's home opener versus Highland Park it hoped it could gain back that lost step and get back to even.

Decked in special camouflage uniforms for Military Appreciation Night, Conant would get their step back prevailing over the visitors 64-34 at Feutz Field that evened each team's mark at 2-2.

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Conant broke free from a back-and-forth battle in the first half as the lead changed hands four times before the final one: a 32-yard Matt Maize TD pass to Lennon Johnson with no time left on the clock plus a Maize option-style pitch to Cooper Hanson for a two-point conversion that left the hosts ahead to stay 28-21 at the break.

It was at that point that Donatucci and his unit would gather and discuss what it would need to hold onto the lead it had just regained.

"The last 3 weeks one of our big issues has been not finishing games where we slowed in the second half," Cougar senior running back Cooper Hanson said. "Lennon catching that touchdown before the end of the half was huge for our momentum. We just talked about not stepping on the brake pedal."

Led by Hanson's third and fourth TD runs of 3 and 19 yards plus his second two-point conversion run of the contest in addition to Connor Minogue's 90-yard kickoff return put the game out of range giving them a 50-28 edge after three.

Hanson, who had TD jaunts of 10 yards and 1 yard in the opening quarter, finished the night with 290 yards on 24 carries which earned some plauditory analysis from one of his offensive linemen, Harley Stary.

"He's had a (huge) game (tonight)," Stary said with an impressive look on his face as he and his teammates came off the field in the late stages of the contest.

Highland Park quarterback David Finfer (22-35 for 232 yards) had three touchdown tosses (27, 14 and 50 yards) plus he ran for two more scores (7 and 5 yards) to finish with 75 yards (13 carries) on the turf in a losing effort for the Giants.

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