ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Big plays led to some big results Friday night as Hillsboro won its third straight game in resounding style, 40-6 over Lyons at Reimer Field.
The win gave the Trojans a 4-3 record for the season and, more important, a 1-0 mark in district play.
As they did against Sterling a week ago, the Trojans stumbled out of the gate. After his team gained 24 yards on its first three plays from scrimmage, quarterback Dustin Jost coughed up the football.
Lyons recovered the ball at the Hillsboro 43. But the Trojan defense, helped on consecutive plays by a procedure penalty on Lyons, a four-yard loss on a fumble, a nine-yard loss on sack by Steven Chisholm and a six-yard loss on a pass, forced a punt and regained possession on their own 13.
Three plays later from the 20, Jost nailed Shawn Hughbanks with a pass along the left sideline. The senior wide receiver outraced the defense to the end zone for the first score of the game.
“Jost just threw a good ball on the pass,” Hughbanks said afterward. “All I had to do is run.”
The Lions blocked Caleb Marsh’s extra-point attempt, but Hillsboro led 6-0 with 4:30 left in the opening period.
Trojan coach Dustin McEwen said Jost’s pass typifies his quarterback’s mental toughness.
“The nice thing about Dustin Jost is that a mistake happens (on the fumble) and he comes back and throws a strike to Shawn and we run it in for a touchdown,” coach Dustin McEwen said. “He went ahead and did the right things after that.”
After Lyons went three-and-out on its next possession, the Trojans drove 55 yards in seven plays for their second score. This time, Kyle Jilka scored from a yard out to give Hillsboro a 12-0 lead three seconds into the second quarter. Hillsboro tried to run in a 2-point conversion, but failed.
When the Trojan defense again denied the Lions a first down, a weak punt gave Hillsboro the ball on the Lyons 24. Three plays later, Alan Yoder swept the left end and scored from 7 yards out.
The two teams traded possessions before Hughbanks struck again, this time on defense. Tipping a Wade Church pass into the air, Hughbanks grabbed the ball and raced 38 yards for the score with 4:04 left in the first half.
Marsh kicked the extra point to give Hillsboro a 25-0 margin, which they carried into intermission.
The third quarter was consumed in two long possessions. Lyons, clicking for the first time, took the kickoff and pieced together a 72-yard, 14-play drive that ended with a 1-yard score by Church with 5:12 left in the quarter to close the margin to 25-6.
But Hillsboro came right back with a 64-yard, 15-play drive of its own. It ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jost to Marsh about a minute into the fourth period.
Chisholm made a leaping catch of a Jost pass in the end zone for the 2-point conversion and a 33-6 lead.
The Lions looked like they might drive the field again midway through the final period, moving from the Trojan 45 to the 21. But Hillsboro’s Daniel Deckert picked off a fourth-down pass to end the threat at the Trojan 3-yard line.
Two plays later, Yoder ran 91 yards for an apparent score. An illegal block nullified the touchdown, but only temporarily. After one play, Yoder burst forth again, this time off left tackle, and reclaimed it with 2:48 to go.
Marsh’s extra point completed the scoring.
Except for Lyons’ long scoring drive that cost the Trojans their third straight shutout, McEwen was proud of his defense.
“Some young kids stepped up,” he said. “I thought Deckert played extremely well, stepping in at safety. He made some big hits, came up and supported well. That was very positive for us.”
Deckert got the opportunity because the Trojans were missing starters Tyler Peachey and Kris Jones, who both sat out the game. Then Brodie Unrau sat down after taking a hard hit in the first half.
But it could have been worse.
Yoder was questionable early in the week after aggravating an ankle injury against Sterling. Against Lyons, though, he ran with an elusiveness reminiscent of his remarkable middle school years.
“It was nice to be able to have Yoder,” McEwen said with a smile.
The senior speedster enjoyed another productive night, rolling up 136 yards on 11 carries. Marsh contributed 79 yards on nine carries to the team’s rushing total of 261 yards.
Hesston on tap
McEwen said the momentum his team has gained over the past three weeks will be critical as the Trojans prepare for fifth-ranked Hesston Friday at Reimer Field.
“I think they believe (in themselves) with this score,” McEwen said. “Maybe some of the naysaying in their minds is quieted, and now they’re think, ‘Hey, we’re going to come out and compete with them.'”
“I think confidence is sky-high right now,” he said. “We really needed this win to be big, too. If we could have gotten a goose egg, it would have been huge.”
The Swathers (6-1), meanwhile, are coming off a relentless 83-6 conquest of winless Halstead in their district opener.
Game time Friday at Reimer Field is 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on KXKU 106.1-FM out of Hutchinson. The pregame show will start at 6:45.