Trojans sprint, then stumble to win at Herington

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro sprinted to a fat first-quarter lead, stumbled a couple of times down the backstretch, but still managed a comfortable 37-9 win over Herington Friday in district play.


The Trojans scored on their first three possessions-including a 68-yard punt return by Alan Yoder-to take a commanding 23-0 lead barely halfway into the first quarter.


Hillsboro’s Ronn Coates set the tone by returning the opening kickoff to the Herington 46-yard line. The Trojans scored five running plays later with Yoder waltzing untouched into the end zone from three yards out.


Quarterback Dustin Jost found Adam Woods in the end zone for the 2-point conversion pass for an 8-0 lead barely two minutes into the contest.


On the Railers’ third play from scrimmage, Mitch Johnson caught a pass in the flat but coughed it up on a hit by Hillsboro’s Carson Greenhaw. Andrew Hein recovered the ball to give Hillsboro a first down on the Trojan 45-yard line.


Eight plays later, including a 22-yard pass to Layne Frick, Jost ran up the middle for a seven-yard touchdown. Ross Duerksen ran the 2-point conversion and the Trojans were up 16-0 with 6:44 left.


The Railers then went three-and-out on the ensuing possession and Yoder returned their punt down the left sideline for Hillsboro’s third touchdown. James Bina’s extra-point kick gave the Trojans their 23-0 margin and the game appeared to be a blowout in the making.


Then the Trojans ran into the only thing that could stop them-their own mistakes.


After Herington again went three-and-out on the next possession, Jost, on first down at the Hillsboro 19-yard line, scrambled in the backfield before launching an ill-fated pass into the hands of Herington’s Matt Otte, who ran the ball back for Herington’s only touchdown.


Coates intercepted Nolan Haire’s 2-point conversion pass, but the home team had finally derailed the Trojan express at 23-6 with 3:39 still remaining in the opening quarter.


Otte’s interception seemed to open the floodgates to a series of mental errors by the Trojans:


n Yoder returned the ensuing kickoff deep into Railer territory, but the run was nullified by a Trojan penalty.


n An errant snap sailed over the head of punter Woods at the end of that series, giving Herington great field position at the Trojan 37.


n A clipping call wiped out a 19-yard Trojan touchdown run by Tyler Peachey midway through the third quarter.


n Before the evening was over, Hillsboro had fumbled an amazing six times and lost three of them.


What kept Herington from crawling back into the game was their own mistakes-the Railers fumbled five times and lost three-but even more so, it was the Trojan defense, whose consistent play all night neutralized every favor the offense handed the Railers.


A dramatic example occurred late in the second quarter as Hillsboro was driving toward a fourth touchdown. With first-and-goal at the Railer 2-yard line, the Trojans coughed up the football on the handoff. Herington recovered it on the 2-yard line with 10 seconds left before intermission and seemed to have dodged a bullet.


But the Trojan defense forced a Herington fumble on the very next play. Shawn Hughbanks recovered the ball to give Hillsboro a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line with five seconds left.


Jost then connected with Yoder in the end zone with no time left on the clock. Bina’s extra point made the halftime score 30-6.


The Trojan defense held Herington to minus-seven yards rushing on 33 carries for the game and did not allow a first down until 31 seconds were left in the third quarter.


Hillsboro scored its final touchdown in the early minutes of the fourth quarter when Jost kept the ball again and scored from 24 yards out, capping an eight-play, 57-yard drive. Bina nailed his third straight PAT for a 37-6 lead.


The Railers managed a late and mostly meaningless 35-yard field goal after Curtis Floyd got behind Yoder in the secondary for a 39-yard pass play from Haire.


The Trojans totaled 319 rushing yards, including a game-high 157 by Duerksen on 19 carries.


Trojan coach Dustin McEwen said after the game that his team’s mistakes snowballed as the game went along.


“We had a lot of mental mistakes and you start doubting youself a little bit,” he said.


McEwen added that the Trojans’ big lead early in the game in some ways hurt them.


“You build up all week that everyone is 0-0 (in district play) and that we have to come out fired up because (the other team) is coming out fired up,” he said. “But they came out and they weren’t fired up. You’re up 23-0 and, all of a sudden, how do you get the emotion back?


“It’s tough to play a team that’s 2-4 when you know next week you may be playing a team that’s 6-1 or 5-2,” he said.


McEwen said he wasn’t particularly concerned about the mistakes, given the situation.


“You just want to bring the physical and mental together again and come back and play next week,” he said.


Coming-The Trojans will take their 7-0 record and No. 3 ranking into their intra-county rivalry with Marion (5-2) Friday night at Tabor’s Reimer Field.


“They’re playing well,” McEwen said. “They managed to do what we did this year-they beat their big rival, Sacred Heart, and we managed to beat our big rival, Collegiate. So it’s going to be two neighbors hooking it up.”

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