ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
On a night they needed to raise their level of play, the Hillsboro Trojans simply didn’t. As a result, they were razed and leveled by state-ranked Wichita Collegiate, 37-0, Friday night in Wichita.
Hillsboro faced a tough opponent and a stiff win to start the game. Both elements took their toll.
The Spartan’s Joe Rheem sent the opening kickoff sailing through the end zone, which was no surprise, given his powerful leg and the strong wind at his back. But it did seem to set a tone for the night.
After managing a first down on their first two plays, Hillsboro then was forced to punt from their own 27. Ronn Coates, trying to hit a low liner into the teeth of the wind, shanked the kick out of bounds on the Trojan 42.
It took Collegiate only a minute and a half to score. Star runningback Banks Floodman breezed through the Trojan defense for 19 and 12 yards on his first two carries. Two plays later, Patrick Ritchie scored from five yards out. Rheem’s extra point made it 7-0 with less than four minutes gone in the game.
Rheem kicked the ball through the end zone again and Hillsboro started at its 20 once more. This time, the Trojans lost 15 yards on three plays. Coates’ punt was then blocked in the end zone by James Collins, giving the Spartans a safety and a 9-0 lead with 5:57 left in the opening quarter.
The Trojans stopped Collegiate on the ensuing possession, but got the ball back when a Rheems punt rolled dead at the Hillsboro 8-yard line.
Just when the Trojans picked up some real estate and momentum on a 24-yard pass from Coates to Layne Frick, their confidence took another blow when Grant Nixon picked off a Coates pass and gave Collegiate the ball on the Hillsboro 39.
The Trojan defense held once more, but the offense couldn’t take advantage of the stop. Coates’ punt into the wind traveled only 15 yards and gave the Spartans the ball on Hillsboro 32-yard line.
Four plays later, Rheem hit Dan Dakhil with a 32-yard touchdown pass and Collegiate was on top 16-0 with a second and a half left in the quarter.
Any hope that Hillsboro’s fortune might change with the wind at their back paled quickly.
Offensively, the Trojans lost one of its key weapons when runningback Jeremy Loewen went down with a sore knee early in second period and did not return.
Even when he was in the lineup, the Trojan offensive line struggled to open holes against the stunting defense of Collegiate.
The Trojan defense, meanwhile, had its hands full with the balanced attack of Collegiate. Daniel Funk stopped one second-half scoring opportunity when he recovered a Ritchie fumble on the Trojan 23-yard line.
But the Spartans, fueled by Ritchie’s 52-yard run through the middle of the Trojan defense, capped an eight-play scoring drive on a two-yard run by Floodman. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, and Collegiate had a 22-0 lead, which it maintained until halftime.
The Trojans never mounted a serious scoring threat in the second half and endured their first shut out since Oct. 25, 1996, when Marion blanked them 34-0.
The Spartans, meanwhile, scored two more times. Floodman capped a 10-play drive to open the third quarter with a 10-yard touchdown run and Dakhil ran in a 2-point conversion after he fumbled the hold for Rheem’s extra-point kick.
The Spartans struck again after Peter Isaac intercepted a Coates pass at the Trojan 16-yard line. Four plays later, Banks scored from four yards out and Rheem added the extra point to make it 37-0 in the early moments of the fourth quarter.
For the game, Hillsboro managed only 74 yards rushing on 37 carries. Coates threw for only 42 yards on 3-of-13 with two interceptions.
Dustin Jost added 22 yards through the air on 2-of-6 with one interception.
Collegiate, meanwhile, rolled up 267 rushing yards on 33 carries, led by Floodman with 116 yards and Ritchie with 90.
“All week long I never got the feeling we were short on confidence that we could win this ball game,” said a disappointed Dustin McEwen after the game. “As a coach, if I want to believe in my players and what was in their hearts, I have to believe Collegiate is a very good football team.”
At the same time, he conceded his team didn’t play to its potential.
“I don’t think we came out with everything in the right mind,” he said. “We didn’t come out with the same aggressive ability. We came out hoping not to make mistakes rather than looking to make good plays.”
He said battling the wind early in the game didn’t help his team, but he offered no excuses.
“That’s football,” he said. “You play it outside, and the wind is a factor. I think we could have put up a better showing than what we did.”
The Trojans travel to Lyons Friday to take on the 3-2 Lions of the MCAA Central Division. Game time is 7 p.m.