One great escape!

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Cracking but never crumbling, the Hillsboro Trojans overcame some self-inflicted adversity in the second half to beat No. 1 ranked Wichita Collegiate, 28-22, in overtime Friday night at Reimer Field.


Alan Yoder’s five-yard scamper on the Trojans’ second play in overtime was the game-winning score, but it was the Trojan defense that plugged the dike on Collegiate’s first possession after regulation.


Moments earlier, the Spartans had tied the game on a successful 2-point conversion run by Christian Hourani. Hourani had run the ball in for the touchdown from six yards out with 50 seconds left in the game.


With momentum and a boisterous cheering section in their favor, the Spartans, with the goal line 10 yards away, had first crack at a score in the overtime.


Facing second down at the seven, quarterback Joe Gehrer ran the option left but was rocked in the backfield by Trojan linebacker Andrew Hein. The ball popped loose and Phillip Terrell recovered it to end the possession.


“I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Hein, a 6-2, 206-pound senior. “I just got through, he was there, and I gave it everything I had to get him.”


With that play, the momentum clearly turned Hillsboro’s way. Yoder, after a five-yard offside penalty against Collegiate, scored untouched off right tackle on a first-and-five call.


Hillsboro’s late-game heroics redeemed a series of second-half mistakes that almost laid waste to a magnificent first half.


The Trojans had dominated the Spartans in almost every phase of the game en route to a 22-0 lead at intermission.


After trading possessions twice to start the contest, Hillsboro scored first on a nine-play, 67-yard drive capped by a 38-yard touchdown pass from Dustin Jost to Adam Woods down the left sideline.


Jost connected with Steven Chisholm for the 2-point conversion to give the Trojans an 8-0 lead with 2:52 left in the opening quarter.


Hillsboro had a chance to cash in again when Carson Greenhaw recovered a fumbled Spartan handoff at the Collegiate 25. But a holding call against the Trojans foiled the drive and Hillsboro was forced to punt.


After the defense stopped Collegiate on four plays, the Trojans launched another scoring drive, this time from their own 35. Fifteen plays later from the Collegiate 4-yard line, Jost found wide receiver Layne Frick in the front right corner of the end zone for the score.


Woods then made a circus catch at the back of the end zone on the 2-point-conversion pass from Jost, but an official ruled Woods did not stay in bounds.


It appeared Hillsboro might not take its 14-0 lead into intermission as Collegiate drove from its own 18 to the Trojan 47 on its next possession. But on third-and-five, Hein hammered running back Patrick Ritchie for a four-yard loss, forcing a Collegiate punt that rolled to the Hillsboro 2-yard line with 2:47 to play.


Not content simply to run off some time, the Trojans launched one of the great drives in school history. It began with a 23-yard pass from Jost to Woods along the right sideline and ended 14 plays later when Jost connected with a wide-open Ross Duerksen in the end zone with only 16 seconds left in the half.


“That drive before halftime was probably the most phenomenal drive I’ve ever seen or been involved with,” said head coach Dustin McEwen. “It was just amazing.”


Chisholm capped off the drive with a bobble-and-catch off a Jost pass for the 2-point conversion and the 22-0 lead.


In the second half, the Hillsboro punt team kept the door open for Collegiate with five muffed punt attempts.


The first came on the Trojans’ possession to open the third quarter. On fourth-and-six from the Hillsboro 24, Collegiate’s Cooper Phillips slipped through the Trojan line and blocked Woods’ punt around the 10-yard line, then recovered the ball in the end zone for the touchdown.


Jeff Morgan kicked the extra-point and a visibly-stunned Hillsboro squad saw its lead shrink to 22-7 only 90 seconds into the second half.


Defense ruled for the next several minutes, but Collegiate scored again with 3:41 left in the game when Woods fielded a low snap from long-snapper James Bina on one knee, and was ruled down.


The Spartans took over on the Hillsboro 41 and scored three plays later on a 32-yard pass from Gehrer to Dan Dakhil.


Amazingly, Hillsboro gave Collegiate another opportunity on the Trojans’ next possession. Facing a fourth-and-13 on the Trojan 24, Woods fumbled Bina’s snap and Collegiate recovered the ball on the 16.


Hourani scored three plays later.


“In a lot of respects (the win) shouldn’t have been in overtime,” McEwen said afterward. “We came out and competed in all phases of the game except the punt team.


“But I am so personally happy the kids didn’t give up,” he added. “They pursued well in the overtime, they believed it was going to happen. To stop (Collegiate) from the 10-yard line was tremendous.”


The mistakes by the punt team almost overshadowed Hillsboro’s impressive first-half offensive performance. The Trojans rushed for 108 of their game-total 142 yards and Jost completed 11-of-16 passes for 137 yards.


Jost finished with 195 passing yards, completing 16 of 28 passes. Woods led the receivers with 100 yards on six receptions. Frick added 40 yards on five catches.


“You’d have to name so many people to name who played well tonight,” McEwen said. “Dustin Jost made some tremendous decisions and our receivers made tremendous route changes. They were doing things out there that were just phenomenal.”


The Trojan defense was spartan all night, giving up only 83 rushing yards and 88 passing yards to Collegiate.


“We’ve got a tough defense,” McEwen said. “They don’t miss a lot of tackles. (Collegiate’s) big plays came not right at us, but with misdirection and counters and screen passes.”


McEwen thought a key play in the game was the coin toss before overtime. Hillsboro won, but elected to play defense first.


“It was nice the way the toss worked out,” he said. “You like that situation where you can see what you’re up against on the other side.”


McEwen said he reminded his players before the overtime began that Trojan teams had been there before-and had been successful.


“We told our guys (the Spartans) were whooping and hollering because they got emotional, and it’s time for us just to shut up and play football,” he said. “So we did.”


With the win, Hillsboro (5-0) won the MCAA Mid Division with a perfect 4-0 mark and ended Collegiate’s 17-game winning streak, which included last year’s Class 3A state championship game.


But in the end, it was beating an arch rival that mattered most.


“That’s everything in the world to me,” Hein said.


Coming-Hillsboro will take its 5-0 record and No. 3 ranking in Class 3A to Lyons this Friday to take on the 2-3 Lions of the MCAA Central Division.

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