Hillcrest was two yards away from getting within a touchdown and making Friday’s night’s game against Boiling Springs competitive.

The Rams failed.

And it wasn’t.

Boiling Springs won a rout, 42-21, in total control before giving up a couple of touchdowns during the last five minutes when backups and junior-varsity players were out on the field and the starters were smiling on the sideline.

Late in the first half, the Bulldogs’ defense stopped Hillcrest on fourth down from the 2 and then the offense went on a 98-yard touchdown drive. Another quick touchdown following an interception made it 35-7 at the break.

“Sometimes it snowballs,” Boiling Springs head coach Rick Tate said. “We’ve been on the other end. We know. Tonight, it was in our favor.”

Self-assuredness and poise are seemingly on the rise every week for these Bulldogs (5-3), especially after the previous week’s win against Spartanburg. They have now won three straight and are tied for the Region II-5A lead at 4-1.

“Our confidence is high,” Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Thomas said. “Confidence can take you a long way.”

Thomas accounted for five touchdowns in the first half. He had scoring passes to Chance Guest for 11 yards, Kentavious Epps for 47 yards, Guest again for 40 yards and Jamison Hartsoe for 3 yards following a 35-yard interception return by Storm Duck to the 5. Thomas also ran for a 1-yard TD, actually jogging into the end zone untouched.

“We were just clicking tonight,” Thomas said. “Everything was going well. We went in at halftime and the coaches really stressed finishing the job. It looks like we did that. I’m glad we got the win tonight. …We’re just playing as a team right now and focusing on the little things. We’re practicing really hard and it’s paying off.”

Hillcrest (4-4, 1-4) went for fourth-and-5 at midfield on the first possession of the second half and that was disastrous. Caden Sullivan intercepted a tipped pass and took it back 49 yards for a touchdown. The Rams, already wobbly, were down for the count.

“Our defense really played well,” Tate said. “We got a couple of breaks and some takeaways on defense. Things change for you when you look up and you’re down 21. That changes your play-calling. I think it probably did for them a little bit. We were able to pin our ears back on defense and be really aggressive.”

Thomas only attempted 11 passes but completed nine for 181 yards and four of those throws ended up in the end zone. Charles McFadden led the ground game with 85 yards on 15 carries. The biggest for him were back-to-back runs of 15 and 20 yards to get the Bulldogs away from the shadow of their own goal post on that eventual 98-yard drive. He had four straight carries from the 2 and Boiling Springs was in business at the 45.

“That was very important,” McFadden said. “We needed that.”

Thomas then threw a 19-yarder to Guest and then, staying in the pocket against a heavy rush, dumped off to Guest, who turned a short pass into a 40-yard TD.

“This is his first time on Friday nights,” Tate said of the first-year starting junior quarterback. “I’m going to tell you what. He’s really matured up in the last two weeks.”

Boiling Springs is tied with Dorman, Gaffney and Byrnes at the top of Region II-5A. The Bulldogs play host next to Gaffney and then finish the regular season at Byrnes.

“I’m proud of our football team,” Tate said. “We’re getting better and better. Maybe they’ll be talking about us a little bit.”