Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 25 September 2012 14:13
Big plays in response to adversity fueled Hillsboro’s 33-23 win over rival Hesston Friday night, and spoiled the Swathers’ homecoming in the process.
The Trojans’ 4-0 start is the best since 2001, when Hillsboro won its first nine games.
The win didn’t come easily. Hesston came out like gangbusters, slicing through a sluggish Trojan defense for 70 yards in five plays on its first possession. When Ryan Schadler cut through the middle from eight yards out, the Swathers led 7-0 only 1:15 into the contest.
After the Trojans’ first drive ran out of gas at the Hesston 23-yard line, Hillsboro caught a break when Hesston fumbled a handoff on its first play from scrimmage. Tyrell Thiessen recovered the football for Hillsboro at the Swather 26.
A 19-yard run by Evan Ollenburger, a three-yard run by Thiessen and a four-yard run by Tyler Proffitt put Hillsboro in the end zone with 7:49 left in the quarter. Jesse Brown’s kick made it 7-7.
Hesston took its last lead early in the second quarter with a 27-yard field for a 10-7 advantage with 9:42 left in the half. The Trojans were fortunate that a 35-yard touchdown run by Schadler earlier in the drive was nullified by a holding penalty.
Hillsboro quickly climbed out of the hole, marching 89 yards in 18 plays for a score. With the ball at Hesston’s 17, Proffitt hit Shaq Thiessen with a pass across the middle at about the 10. The senior spun out of a defender’s grasp and scored. Brown’s kick made it 14-10 at the 2:52 mark.
The Trojans struck again before intermission when Shaq Thiessen’s 38-yard punt return gave Hillsboro the ball at the Hesston 37 with 1:00 left.
Consecutive completions from Proffitt to Josh Wiebe (17 yards), Ollenburger (4 yards), Shaq Thiessen (6 yards) and Tyrell Thiessen (10 yards) put the Trojans in the end zone again with 27 seconds left. Brown missed the PAT, but the Trojans took a 20-10 lead into halftime.
“To get that drive right before half, that was big for us,” coach Lance Sawyer said. “I thought it gave us a lot of momentum going in.
“The big play, I thought, was Shaq Thiessen’s punt return. They got close and then we broke it open again. That was huge.”
Midway through the third quarter, Hesston engineered a 56-yard, seven-play drive that ended when McKinney ran through several Trojan arm tackles to score from four yards out. The extra point made it 20-17 with 6:03 left in the quarter.
Once again Hillsboro countered—this time even more dramatically. Shaq Thiessen took the kickoff, then wove his way through a field of Swathers for an 80-yard touchdown. A 2-point conversion pass by Brown failed, but the Trojans led 26-17 with 5:51 left in the period.
Hillsboro’s final scoring drive started with 4:50 left in the third quarter. It ended with 11:13 left in the game when Tyrell Thiessen bulled his away across the goal line on fourth-and-one. Brown kicked a line drive through the uprights for a 33-17 lead.
Hesston managed a touchdown in the final seconds by capping a 70-yard, eight-play drive with a 10-yard pass from McKinney to Tyler McCartney with 14.3 seconds to play.
Sawyer was pleased with his team’s no-quit determination.
“We didn’t play real well at the beginning of the game, but the guys kept on playing, and showed a lot of heart and a lot of character.”
Sawyer said Hesston is a good team despite its 1-3 start.
“Their defensive line is fast,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of big lines lately, with Sterling and Nickerson. But this line was quick. It gave us a lot of trouble at the beginning.”
Despite 289 passing yards by McKinney, the Trojan coach thought his defense did well.
“I was impressed by our pass defense,” Sawyer said. “They’re a good passing team, but we made some changes and got it done.”
Coming—Hillsboro will face another tough opponent Friday when Smoky Valley visits Joel H. Wiens Stadium. The Vikings (3-1) lost their first game of the season last week against Haven, 21-13.
“They’re a good team and we’ve got a lot to do to get ready for them,” coach Lance Sawyer said.