ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The team with one big weapon was good, but the team with many weapons proved to be better as Hillsboro’s diversified attack overwhelmed Hesston, 42-14, Thursday night at Hesston.
The convincing victory earned the Trojans their fourth straight district championship and the second undefeated regular season under coach Dustin McEwen.
“I was very pleased with our effort,” McEwen said afterward. “To beat a team 42-14 that’s 7-1-the guys just played great.”
Hillsboro made the game challenging in the first quarter by giving the home team great field position on its first two possessions. The powerful legs of Brian Rouhlac, the Swathers’ star running back, helped move the ball into Trojan territory.
But both drives were thwarted by fumbles once the Swathers drove to the Trojan 39-yard line. Hesston lost 11 yards on the first fumble, which led to a punt three plays later. They lost the ball the second time when Hillsboro’s James Bina recovered the fumble on the 41-yard line.
After running the ball three times and then punting on their first possession, the Trojans capitalized on the second fumble by launching a 10-play, 59-yard scoring drive. The drive included two key passes from Dustin Jost to fullback Phillip Terrell and a 13-yard run by Jost.
Then, facing fourth down and nine yards to go on the Hesston 23-yard line, Jost hit Frick with a perfect pass down the right sideline and the senior wideout ran in for the first score with 10:34 left in the second quarter. Terrell’s 2-point conversion run gave Hillsboro an 8-0 lead.
After Hesston managed one first down on a run by Rouhlac on the ensuing possession, the Trojan defense forced a punt and the offense took over on the Hillsboro 14-yard line.
This time, a 15-yard pass from Jost to Frick on third-and-13 at the 11 seemed to open the gates for the Trojan running attack to take hold.
Four runs later, the Trojans had a first down on the Swather 39-yard line. Alan Yoder then took the handoff up the middle, cut to his left into the open field and scored the Trojans’ second touchdown with 4:47 left in the half. Jost ran in the 2-point conversion to give Hillsboro a 16-0 advantage.
Hesston, fueled by a double-pass play for a 26-yard gain, made a charge late in the half. The Swathers drove from their own 44-yard line to the Trojan 26. But Frick intercepted quarterback Dustin Klassen’s pass with less than a minute left to kill the drive and preserve the 16-0 lead at intermission.
As they had the week earlier against Marion, the Trojans dampened hopes for a Hesston comeback by opening the second half with a scoring drive.
On the first play from scrimmage, Jost kept the ball on the option and raced 59 yards to the Swather 15-yard line. Three plays later, he threw to running back Ross Duerksen, who scored from 11 yards out only two minutes into the half. This time the 2-point run failed, but Hillsboro led 22-0.
Hesston did not fold, though. On their next possession, the Swathers drove 62 yards on 10 plays-including 60 yards on eight carries by Rouhlac-for their first touchdown. The Swather star scored standing up with 5:40 left in the third quarter, then ran in the 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 22-8.
But the Trojans broke Hesston’s back with an impressive 75-yard scoring drive on their ensuing possession. Duerksen capped the 10-play series with a 10-yard touchdown run with 12.2 seconds left in the quarter. The 2-point run failed again, but the Trojans were clearly in command with a 28-8 lead.
The picture only darkened for Hesston when two turnovers led to the final Trojan touchdowns.
On the Swathers’ first play after Duerksen’s touchdown, quarterback Klassen caught and then fumbled a halfback pass from Rouhlac. Hillsboro’s Ronn Coates recovered the ball on the Swather 32.
Jost then connected with Frick once again, this time for 29 yards. Terrell then punched the ball across the goal line three running plays later. Jost’s pass to Adam Woods for two points made the score 36-8 with 10:11 left in the game.
The Swathers gave up the football again on the first play of their next drive. This time Kris Jones intercepted a Klassen pass.
Hillsboro started from the Hesston 37, then were pushed back to their own 49-yard line on a holding call. From there, Terrell burst through the line for 17 yards. Then a Jost run combined with a Hesston holding penalty put the ball at the Swather 7-yard line.
Jones then took the handoff from Coates, who came in to relieve Jost, and ran the ball in for the score with 7:17 to play. The 2-point pass failed, but Hillsboro was up 42-8.
The Swathers scored a final touchdown after Chad Hershberger returned the kickoff to the Hillsboro 26. Klassen scored from four yards out seven plays later for the 42-14 margin.
Hillsboro’s multi-dimensional attack proved to be the difference between these two good teams.
Hesston’s only effective weapon was Rouhlac, who finished with 135 yards rushing on 25 carries-easily the most productive effort by a running back against the Trojans’ “Black Shirts” all season.
But the Swathers managed only 73 yards through the air, 35 of which came on trick-play halfback passes.
Hillsboro. meanwhile, complemented 266 rushing yards divided relatively evenly among five players with 175 passing yards.
Jost, who seems to save his best games for the biggest opponents, was the Trojans’ leading rusher with 93 yards on eight carries and threw for 161 more yards on 9-of-11 attempts. Jost’s favorite target was Frick, who caught five passes for a game-high 98 yards.
The 6-4 Frick credited his grandmother’s backyard for the successful partnership he has had on the field this season with Jost, who is his first cousin.
“We spent a lot of time there over the years,” Frick joked. He added that his height against Hesston’s defenders gave him an advantage, too.
“Their cornerbacks were shorter,” he said. “Dustin could throw it up to me and I could go up and get it. The passing seemed to open up the run for us.”
Though McEwen was pleased with his team’s play, he said the Trojans still have room for improvement as they head into the post-season.
“We had some things tonight that could have made life a little bit easier on us-like not having a kicker who can kick it real deep and far,” he said. “That made it look like their offense was moving the ball in the first half.
“Really, they weren’t moving the ball on us that much. We were just giving them great field position to begin with. So, two first downs and it seemed like they had moved the ball a long way.”
Post-season-With the win, the 9-0 Trojans earned the right to take on Minneapolis (7-2) in Tuesday’s bi-district championship. Results of the game, played in Minneapolis, are available on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Free Press Web site (old.hillsborofreepress.com).
If the Trojans defeated Minneapolis, they will play the winner of the Collegiate-Conway Springs bi-district game on Saturday. That game would will begin at 7 p.m. and would be played in Hillsboro if Collegiate wins and in Conway Springs if the Cardinals defeat the Spartans