Mental breakdowns that turned into big plays proved to be the difference in Hutchinson Trinity’s 16-7 victory over Hillsboro in Tuesday’s bi-district playoff game.
Hillsboro actually took the early lead by cashing in a breakdown by the Celtics. Isaac Leihy partially blocked a Trinity punt, giving the Trojans the ball at the Celtic 21-yard line with 2:45 to go in the opening quarter.
Seven plays later, Ben Gottsch connected with Daniel Jost on a four-yard touchdown pass. Jacob Wiebe’s kick made it 7-0 with 21 seconds left in the quarter.
Trinity ran three plays to end the first quarter. Then, with the strong south wind at their back, quarterback Derek Racette took advantage of a coverage breakdown by Hillsboro and connected with an extremely wide open Michael Mesh deep in Trojan territory for an easy score.
When Andy Klassen got a hand on the extra-point kick attempt, Hillsboro still led, 7-6.
That score stood up through halftime. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Celtic running back Tanner Engweiler slipped through the Trojan defense for a 56-yard run. Daniel Jost managed to run him down at the Trojan 15-yard line. Four plays later, Taylor Hagen blocked a field-goal attempt by Mesh, giving Hillsboro the ball at the Trojan 20.
But on Hillsboro’s first play from scrimmage, Ishmael Morris coughed up the football and the Celtics recovered the ball at the Trojan 16. This time, Mesh made the field-goal attempt four plays later, giving the Celtics a 9-7 lead with 7:04 to play in the third quarter.
Lightning struck again early in the fourth quarter when Engweiler returned a Trojan punt 72 yards. Jacob Fish made what turned out to be a touchdown-saving tackle at the Trojan 23. The Hillsboro defense thwarted the threat by forcing Trinity to turn the ball over on downs at the HHS 1-yard line.
Hillsboro then advanced the ball 23 yards with the help of a personal foul on Trinity. But on a third-and-one at the Celtic 24, the Trojans opted to pass for the first down. But Gottsch was dropped for a seven-yard loss on a sack by Chris Bird. Facing fourth and eight, Gottsch attempted to pass again but was pressured by Jason Webb, who got a hand on the throw and forced a change of possession.
Trinity took over on downs at the 17-yard line and found the end zone five plays later on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Racette. The successful kick gave Hutch the final 16-7 margin.
Hillsboro ends its season with a 6-4 record while Trinity improves to 8-2 and likely will face off Saturday against undefeated Garden Plain.