For the second time in three games, the Hillsboro Trojans outplayed its opponent for most of the game only to let victory slip away in the final seconds.
This time the spoiler was Wichita Collegiate, who scored two touchdowns in the final 3:53 of the game to sneak a 35-32 victory from the Trojans.
The loss stole some much deserved thunder from Trojan quarterback Spencer Brown, who rushed for around 200 yards and scored three touchdowns for Hillsboro, including an 80-yard punt return.
Hillsboro scored on the first possession of the game, marching 54 yards in 11 plays with Brown scoring from a yard out and 7:52 left in the opening quarter. Brown’s kick missed the mark to keep the lead at 6-0.
After stopping Collegiate on four plays, the Trojans started their second possession on their own 41 and scored seven plays later — overcoming three penalties in the process. Brown’s 36-yard scamper midway through was a huge play, but Jacob Yoder brought the bacon home with a two-yard run for a 12-0 lead. Brown’s 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Collegiate made it on the board in the second quarter, cashing in on an interception by Austin Bakri by driving 27 yards for a touchdown in six plays. The score came on a 15-yard pass from quarterback Clint Cornejo to Craig Howell. Howell missed the extra point to make it 12-6 with 7:45 left in the half.
Hillsboro added one more score before halftime on an 80-yard, seven-play drive. A 60-yard run by Brown set up the score, and a pass-interference penalty on Collegiate assisted. It was Brown who broke the goal line from four yards out. Isaac Leihy made a PAT kick to give Hillsboro a 19-6 lead with 18 seconds left in the half.
To start the third quarter, Collegiate drove 72 yards in 13 plays with Chris Brito scoring from two yards out. Howell’s kick made it 19-13 with 6:57 left in the period.
But Hillsboro came right back. A good kickoff return by Yoder gave Hillsboro the ball at its own 49-yard line. When Hillsboro punted the ball away four plays later, Collegiate fumbled the catch. Leihy recovered the ball for Hillsboro at the Spartan 15-yard line. Yoder scored three plays later from two-yards out for a 25-13 lead. A screen pass to Yoder left inches short of a 2-point conversion, but the Trojans still led by 12.
The back-and-forth pattern continued as Collegiate drove 71 yards on its next possession and scored in 11 plays with Brito bursting in from three yards away. Howell kicked the extra point and Hillsboro’s lead was 25-20 with 16 seconds left in the third period.
Brown lightning struck again midway through the final period. The Trojan speedster gathered in a Collegiate punt and water-bugged his way 80 yards for the touchdown. Hillsboro seemed to be in control when Leihy’s kick made it 32-20 with 7:32 to go.
But not on this night. The Spartans took the ensuing kickoff and marched down the field, covering 72 yards in 10 plays — with a 38-yard scoring pass from Cornejo to Howell capping the drive. Howell’s kick made it 32-27 with 3:53 to play.
The Spartans than pooched the kickoff. The ball found the one player who had killed the Spartans all night. Brown gathered in the short kick and took off one more time. This time he fumbled when he was hit. The Spartans’ Darren Carter recovered the ball at the Trojan 42 with 3:45 to play.
As has been the case in both Trojan losses this year, the defense simply could not make the big stop when the game was on the line. When Collegiate drove to the 8-yard line for a first and goal, Hillsboro held for three plays. But on fourth-and-goal at the 2, Cornejo pitched left to Miles Dunne, who slipped into the end zone for the go-ahead score. Collegiate ran the same play for 2 points to make the score 35-32 with 39 seconds to go.
Hillsboro had a couple of trick-play attempts but could not pull off the miracle comeback.
The loss drops Hillsboro’s record to 1-2 for the season. The Trojans’ two losses are by a combined total of four points. Collegiate, meanwhile, improved to 1-2 after losses to Hesston and Smoky Valley.