Trojan heartbreak continues against Eagles

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
This one may have hurt the most.

It wasn’t that Caleb Marsh missed by mere inches a 27-yard field goal attempt with 51 seconds left in the game that would have given Hillsboro a homecoming victory over Ellinwood Friday.

It was knowing that this game should never have come down to needing a last-second field goal.

“We gave this one away,” a subdued Dustin McEwen said afterward.

The Trojan coach was right. The Eagles converted two Hillsboro fumbles and spotty pass coverage into 19 points en route to a 22-20 win at Reimer Field.

The pivotal play of the game came on the first play of the fourth quarter. With Hillsboro leading 20-13 and driving for another score, an option pitch from quarterback Dustin Jost sailed high and through the hands of running back Kris Jones.

Ellinwood’s Josh Williams scooped up the ball and raced 88 yards to the opposite end zone to pull his team within one point, 20-19.

When the Trojans couldn’t move the ball on their next possession, a rejuvenated Ellinwood team pieced together its best drive of the night.

Fueled by a huge 30-yard pass from quarterback Cody Engle to Ryan Isern on third-and-10, and then a 33-yard pass to Drew Conwell two plays later, Ellinwood drove to the Trojan 4-yard line.

Engle then kicked a 27-yard field goal with 7:34 left in the game to give the Eagles the lead and ultimately the win.

“I’ll give them credit for their drive at the end, but most of the time they barely ever got the ball across the 50 on their own,” McEwen said. “It was us giving it to them.”

Hillsboro’s generosity began early.

Tyler Peachey grabbed the opening kickoff and headed for the left sideline-only to fumble away the football when he was hit.

Ellinwood took over on the Hillsboro 27-yard line and scored six plays later when Engle hit a wide-open Anthony Barr in the middle of the end zone. Engle’s extra point made it 7-0 less than two and one-half minutes into the game.

After the Trojans went four-and-out on their first possession, the Eagles started on their 41-yard line and drove to the Trojan 8 before the defense held. This time, Hillsboro caught a break when Engle missed a 25-yard field-goal attempt.

But the Trojans gave the ball right back when Alan Yoder fumbled on Hillsboro’s first play from scrimmage and the Eagles recovered at the Trojan 23.

On the next play, Engle hit Isern in the left corner of the end zone. Engle missed the point-after, but the visitors were up 13-0 with 4:03 still to play in the opening period.

After a stern word from McEwen along the sideline, the Trojans began to turn things around.

Starting at its own 32, Hillsboro marched to the Ellinwood 20 in seven plays as the quarter ended.

On the first play of the new period, Yoder took the pitch from Jost and swept the end for the touchdown. Marsh added the point-after, and Hillsboro was within six, 13-7.

When Ellinwood fumbled away the ball two plays later, the Trojans headed north once again, this time from the Eagles’ 35-yard line. They drove to the 8-yard line in eight plays, but couldn’t cash in on fourth-and-2.

Ellinwood took over and drove to its own 41-yard line before two major penalties sent them all the way back to the 8.

One play later, Engle punted and the Trojans took over on the Ellinwood 44. Four plays after that, Jost and Jones combined for a pretty 28-yard pass to the left side that gave Hillsboro a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. Jost scored two plays later on a keeper from a yard out. The extra point by Marsh gave Hillsboro its first lead, 14-13, with 41 seconds left before intermission.

Hillsboro enlarged its lead in the third quarter. An interception by Marsh gave Hillsboro the ball at the Ellinwood 42. Two plays later, Jost laid a pass right into the arms of Jones, who raced down the left sideline for the score. The extra-point was wide right, but Hillsboro led, 20-13.

The two teams traded possessions twice before Hillsboro began the fateful drive that started at the Eagle 45-yard line with 2:35 left in the third quarter and ended with Williams and his teammates celebrating in the Trojan end zone on the fumble return.

This game was the third straight in which Hillsboro came up short by two points or less. It also marked the first time a McEwen team has lost three games in a row since his first season in 1996, when the team finished 1-8.

“My biggest thing right now is that nobody jumps ship, and that they realize we can still win a lot of ball games,” McEwen said. “We’ve got to decide right now-is it poor play, or are we playing above ourselves and we’re just equal with everybody?”

Yoder had his most productive night running the ball this season, finishing with 97 yards on 16 carries. The rest of the team managed only 53 yards on 24 carries.

Jost threw for 130 yards, completing nine of 15 attempts and did not throw an interception for the first time this season. Jones caught three of Jost’s passes for 80 yards.

Engle, meanwhile, threw for 168 yards, completing 10 of 22. Isern had four receptions for 91 yards.

Coming-The Trojans will try to get back on the winning track Friday when they travel to Ellsworth for a non-league game.

The Bearcats (0-4), members of the North Central Activities Association, are coming off a 49-0 shellacking at the hands of Southeast of Saline. Game time is 7 p.m.

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