A game that turned into a shootout between two young squads ended when when the Hillsboro Trojans stuffed Sacred Heart’s live-or-die bullet in the final seconds to escape with a dramatic 35-34 win Friday (Sept. 5) in Salina.
The Knights appeared to the Trojans dead in their sights when they cashed in on 10-play, 54-yard touchdown drive in the final 4 minutes of the game to pull within a point at 35-34 with 41 seconds left in the contest. But on the 2-point conversion attempt, the Trojans front line stepped up and stopped running back Colby Wetter a yard from the goal line to preserve the victory.
In the early going, it appeared the Knights would have their way with the Trojans, using a no-huddle offense to march up and down the field for two scores and a 12-0 lead in the first 9 minutes of the contest.
But one play later, Hillsboro’s Jacob Fish, starting at quarterback in place of an injured Ben Gottsch, fired a pass to all-state receiver Daniel Jost, who made a leaping catch downfield and then dashed into the end zone after the defender went down for a 65-yard score. Isaac Leihy’s kick made it 12-7 with 2:38 left in the opening period.
After Sacred Heart stalled on its next possession, the Trojans struck again, capping a four-play, 34-yard drive with Ishmael Morris scoring from a yard out. Leihy missed the extra point, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave Hillsboro a second chance. This time, the Trojans went for two points, and Fish hit Jost with a quick slant pass to give HHS its first lead at 15-12 with 9:50 left in the half.
After Sacred Heart stalled out again, the Trojans drove 65 yards in 12 plays, mostly through the air, with Jost scoring again on a lob pass from Fish from 19 yards out with 2:08 left in the half. Leihy’s PAT attempt was blocked, but Hillsboro led 21-12.
Sacred Heart regained its early-game form on the next drive, marching 69 yards in seven plays with quarterback Conner Martin hitting Mark Riordan with a 14-yard scoring strike on a fourth-and-10 call with 35 seconds left in the half. The 2-point conversion run by Martin made it 21-20 at the break.
In the third quarter, the Trojans stopped the Knights on their opening possession, then marched 73 yards in six plays, including a 39-yard run by Leihy midway through the drive, to score again — this time with Leihy crossing the goal line from five yards out. He added the kick to give HHS a 28-20 lead with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
After trading several possessions, Sacred Heart started at its own 40 with 34 seconds left in the third quarter and engineered a 16-play drive that ended when Wetter crossed the goal line from four yards out with 5:29 left in the fourth and final period. Wetter added the 2-point conversion run on an option pitch to tie the game at 28-28.
But Hillsboro wasn’t through. On second-and-three at the Sacred Heart 46, halfback Ishmael Morris bulled his way up the middle, broke a tackle upfield with a spin move and then raced the rest of the way to end zone to put the Trojans back in front with 4:10 to play. Leihy’s kick made it 35-28.
That set up Sacred Heart’s final drive that seemed destined to be a game-winner for the Knights. Twice Sacred Heart made pivotal first downs on fourth-down plays — once after gaining 30 yards on a third-and-33 pass play, then later scoring on a critical fourth-and-five at the 5-yard line on a pass from Martin to Riordan with 41 seconds left.
The Trojans’ next test will be against a perennially tough Smoky Valley squad next Friday at Reimer Field.