Trojans stop Black Bears with second-half effort

Hillsboro survived a first half of 100-degree temperatures and some first-game inconsistency before closing the door on Sterling, 30-12, with a strong second-half performance.

The visiting Trojans found themselves trailing 12-7 midway through the second quarter.

And it could have been worse.

After stopping Hillsboro’s run-only opening drive on Sterling’s 43-yard line, the Black Bears drove the ball deep into Trojan territory on the legs and arm of Chris Schneider, Sterling’s small but lightning quick quarterback.

Fortunately for Hillsboro, Jason Royer dropped two easy passes from Schneider in the end zone, the last one on fourth-and-16.

With new life, Hillsboro took possession and also took to the air. Quarterback Ronn Coates threw four straight passes and connected with three, the first for 23 yards to tight end Adam Woods, the second to wide receiver Dan Funk for 29 yards, and the third to Woods in the left side of the end zone for a 15-yard score.

Sheldon Funk kicked the extra point and, less than two minutes after dodging a bullet at the other end of the field, Hillsboro suddenly led, 7-0.

The two teams traded possessions until Royer redeemed himself by intercepting a Coates pass at the Trojan 35-yard line.

Three plays later, Schneider hit Royer with a 15-yard touchdown pass of his own. Hillsboro still led, 7-6, when the extra point kick sailed wide right.

On their next possession, the Trojans went three-and-out, then Schneider stung the Trojans once more, returning Woods’s punt 65 yards for a score to give Sterling a 12-7 lead with 7:53 left in the first half.

The momentum swung back to Hillsboro about two minutes later when Phillip Terrell intercepted a Schneider pass to give Hillsboro the ball on Sterling’s 39-yard line.

Seven plays later, Coates lobbed a three-yard touch pass to Dan Funk in the corner of the end zone for the score. Sheldon Funk’s PAT made it 14-12, Hillsboro, with 3:11 left in the half.

“We got a little momentum going into halftime,” head coach Dustin McEwen said after the game. “I think part of (the team’s first-half struggle) was just figuring out who we are. Tackling real people for the first time takes some adjustment.”

The Trojan defense made those adjustments in the second half. The first three Black Bear possessions ended three-and-out, and the second one resulted in a safety when the snap sailed over their punter’s head and rolled out of the end zone.

Hillsboro sandwiched that safety with two more touchdowns. The first culminated a nine-play, 74-yard drive with Dan Funk catching an 9-yard pass from Coates with 5:37 left in the third quarter. Sheldon Funk kicked his third PAT for a 21-12 lead.

Hillsboro’s second touchdown came when senior running back Jeremy Loewen stretched the ball over the goal line at the end of a bruising 3-yard run to give Hillsboro a commanding 29-12 lead with 8:28 left in the game.

Sascha Hechler, the Trojans’ German exchange student, kicked the extra point to complete the scoring.

Loewen finished the night with 99 yards on 20 carries. Coates threw for 196 yards, completing 11 of 22 passes. Dan Funk caught six of those passes for 114 yards and two scores.

This Friday, the Trojans travel to Halstead, who was soundly beaten by Hesston, 55-0, last week. Game time is 7 p.m.

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