Two relatively quick touchdowns in the third quarter by state-ranked Hesston tipped the scale against Hillsboro Friday night, as the Swathers left Reimer Field with a 35-22 victory in the second round of district play.
Hesston seemed poised for a dominating win after establishing a 14-0 lead after one quarter. But Hillsboro did not fold, scoring a touchdown of its own on a 7-yard scamper by Ishmael Morris with 28 seconds left in the half to carry some momentum into the locker room with a 14-7 deficit.
The touchdown was set up by a spectacular interception by Daniel Jost with 1:53 left in the half. Two plays later quarterback Spencer Brown connected with Jost on a deep pass along the Hesston sideline for a 59-yard gain to the Swather 9-yard line. Morris scored three plays later.
But Hesston was not shaken by the late turn of events. Instead, the Swathers flexed their considerable muscle and drove 63 yards in 12 plays in 6:00 with Brett Leichty scoring from five yards out at the 5:51 mark.
Hillsboro seemed ready to retaliate when Brown hooked up with a 20-yard pass to Jost across the middle that gave the Trojans a first down at their own 40. But Brown lost 19 yards on the following play trying to salvage a fumble. That led to a Trojan punt that John Reimer returned all the way back to the Trojan 22 for Hesston.
Three plays later quarterback Michael Janzen scored on a 1-yard sneak. The PAT gave Hesston a 28-7 lead with only 1:07 left in the quarter.
To their credit, the Trojans battled back again. Following a touchback on the kickoff, Hillsboro marched 80 yards in 12 plays with Morris scoring again, this time from six yards out. Brown’s kick made it 28-14 with 6:32 left in the game.
Hesston came back with a score on a 7-yard run by Janzen to cap a 10-play, 53-yard drive with 2:47 to go.
Down 35-14, Hillsboro persevered yet again, driving 70 yards in five plays — including a 23-yard scramble by Brown followed immediately by a 41-yard pass from Brown to Jacob Yoder that gave the Trojans a first-and-goal at the Swather 1. Yoder scored on the next play with 9 seconds remaining in the game.
Brown’s pass to Jost added two more points for the 35-22 final margin.
The win improved Hesston’s record to 8-0 overall and 2-0 in district play while Hillsboro dropped to 4-4 and 1-1. Hesston has guaranteed a berth in bi-district play while Hillsboro will need a win over Remington next Thursday to do the same.