Smoky Valley outlasts Trojans in key test

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
When two good teams face off on a football field, the team that blinks in the face of opportunity is the one that usually comes up short in the end.



That was the case Friday, when Smoky Valley handed Hillsboro High School its first loss of the season, 14-8.



The Vikings, now 3-0 and the preseason favorite in the MCAA Central Division, punched in two first-half scores and made it stick even though Hillsboro made a late charge at the end of the game.



“Tonight we had a team we were able to perform with; the caliber of athletes was similar,” Dustin McEwen, HHS head coach, said after the game.



“I think it brings us back to reality of what it takes to play in a football game that was hard hitting,” he added. “We had people who came out because their head got rung. Those things didn’t happen the first two weeks.”



Smoky Valley scored first when quarterback Brad Bengston, who was a thorn in the Trojan flesh all night, found Jason Johnson in the end zone with a 17-yard pass with 3:51 left in the first quarter. A missed extra point made it 6-0, Vikings.



After a couple of possession exchanges, the Trojans began an extended drive on their own 23-yard line with less than a minute left in the quarter.



Some 18 plays later, facing fourth down on the Smoky Valley 2-yard line, quarterback Ronn Coates could not connect with his receiver and the Vikings took over with 4:11 left in the half.



The two teams traded possessions one more time before Smoky Valley found itself on its own 41-yard line with only 51 seconds left before intermission.



The Vikings took advantage of the momentum swing, with Bengston scoring from 21 yards out with 21 seconds left in the half. Johnson scored the 2-point conversion and the Vikings led 14-0 at intermission.



The second half turned into a defense battle as each team squandered key opportunities to score.



Smoky missed a fourth-and-goal opportunity on its first possession when a Bengston pass missed its target in the end zone.



Hillsboro dodged another bullet with eight seconds left in the third quarter when Wade Sorensen recovered a Viking fumble at the Trojan 5-yard line.



A turning point for Hillsboro came five plays later when an apparent 27-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Loewen was called back on a procedure call.



Still with the ball, though, the Trojans drove to the Viking 17. But Adam Woods dropped a Coates pass on fourth-and-five to end another Trojan threat.



Hillsboro finally broke through with a touchdown when Dan Funk returned a Viking punt 87 yards for a score with just 2:21 left in the game. Ross Duerksen added the 2-point conversion on a pass from Coates, and the Viking lead was cut to 14-8.



The Trojans, after attempting an onside kick, stopped Smoky Valley one more time and got the ball back on their own 29-yard line with 48 seconds left in the game.



But any chance for a miracle finish ended with one play when Coates’s pass was picked off by Johnson at the Viking 40.



Afterward, McEwen had high praise for Bengston.



“Their quarterback made some big plays,” McEwen said. “But we made some mistakes that were costly to us.



“I think it’s certainly a wake up for the varsity and for the JVs about what we’re going to have to do in practices to be ready to play,” he added.



“Now we have a choice of either saying, ‘OK, I want to do that, or it’s a chance to fold and see what the next four weeks bring.



“Hopefully, they’re going to be up to the challenge to get some things done.”



The Trojans will face another stiff test Friday when they host Mid Division foe Ellinwood for homecoming. The Eagles’ only loss this season was to Wichita Collegiate, 23-12.



Game time will be 7 p.m.

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