Inexperience and costly mistakes came back to bite a young Hillsboro football team Friday night, as the Trojans lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 31-30, at Nickerson.
The Trojans appeared to dominate the hometown Panthers early in the contest, taking the opening kickoff and driving 67 yards for a score. Jacob Yoder ran in for the first touchdown of the season from four yards out with 8:51 left in the period.
Isaac Leihy’s extra-point kick just missed the mark, but Hillsboro had a 6-0 lead.
The Trojan defense dominated a mistake-prone Panther squad early, but couldn’t captalize with more points.
Nickerson’s Brandon Engelland put his team on the board with 1:01 left in the first period when he nailed a 27-yard field goal.
Hillsboro pushed its lead to 12-3 when Spencer Brown capped a 61-yard drive in the second quarter with a six-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Jost. Hillsboro tried a 2-point conversion, but it failed.
Nickerson then began to find its stride on offense and cut through the Hillsboro defense for 71 yards on eight running plays. Casey McConnell capped the drive with a 12-yard run, and Engelland’s extra point made it 12-10 with 3:57 left in the half.
A final Trojan drive before halftime failed when a Brown pass was intercepted at the Nickerson 5-yard line by McConnell.
After McConnell fumbled away the football on the first play of the second half, Hillsboro took over from the Panther 23-yard line and scored three runs later on a 10-yard scamper by Yoder. Once again the 2-point conversion failed, but Hillsboro led 18-10.
Nickerson came right back with another impressive run-fueled drive, this one covering 67 yards in eight plays, with Wayne Cottrell scoring from 15 yards out. The Panthers tried to tie the score with a 2-point conversion attempt, but failed.
On the next possession Hillsboro scored in five plays, with Yoder adding his fourth touchdown of the night on an eight-yard run. The 2-point conversion was stopped once again, giving Hillsboro a 24-16 lead.
The score remained unchanged until Nickerson capped a 56-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run by McConnell with 23.1 seconds left in the game. The 2-point run by Cottrell tied the game at 24-24.
Hillsboro appeared to pull off a miracle finish when Jost scored on a hook-and-ladder pass from Brown with 9.5 seconds to go. But the score was called back because of an illegal receiver downfield.
That sent the game into overtime. Hillsboro won the toss and elected to play defense first. But McConnell scored from four yards out on third down, and Engelland added the kick for a 31-24 lead — the Panthers’ first lead of the entire game.
Hillsboro responded with a score when Yoder scored for the fourth time, this one from two yards out on a second-down play. But the senior running back was stopped inches short of the goal line on what would have been a game-winning 2-point run, preserving the victory for Nickerson.