Trojans snatch 19-7 win

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF


If a pass was in his vicinity, chances are Daniel Deckert caught it. And it didn’t matter which team was throwing the ball.

The Hillsboro junior caught five passes from teammate Derek Hamm-including two for touchdowns-and then grabbed three passes thrown by Smoky Valley quarterbacks to lead the Trojans to a 19-7 victory Friday in Lindsborg.

“What a night for him,” coach Dustin McEwen said afterward.

Deckert’s three interceptions were only one part of a great defensive effort from the Trojans (2-1), who gave up only 126 total yards to the Vikings and made key plays when they needed them.

That was never more true than in the second half, when the Viking offense practically lived in Trojan territory but could not score.

Smoky started its first two second-half drives around midfield and were stopped both times-first on downs and the second time on Deckert’s second interception of the evening.

After the Trojans fumbled away the ball on their possession, the Vikings were poised for a score on the HHS 24. But this time senior linebacker Kyle Jilka picked off the pass by backup quarterback Kyle Hubele.

Three plays later, Hamm fumbled the snap and the Vikings recovered it on the Trojan 35-yard line. But on fourth down, freshman Lucas Hamm broke through the Viking line and dumped Matt Hodges on the reverse for a 12-yard loss to the Trojan 42-yard line.

That play sparked a Trojan 58-yard, 13-play drive for the game-clinching score. Derek Hamm crossed the goal line from one foot out with 4:57 left in the game.

“The defense really came through in the third quarter,” McEwen said. “We were inside the 30 almost the entire time and I kept telling myself they cannot keep them out every time. But they kept doing it and kept doing it.”

The game started somewhat ominously for the Trojans-and for Deckert, for that matter.

On the opening series, Hillsboro stopped the Vikings for no gain on three plays, and then sophomore Wade Weibert partially blocked their fourth-down punt. Deckert picked up the loose ball, but then fumbled it away when he was hit.

After the Trojans forced another punt in four plays, Michael Suderman was dropped for a two-yard loss on the Trojans’ first offensive play, and then a wide-open Deckert dropped a perfect pass from Hamm on the next play.

The Trojans lost six yards on third down when Hamm was sacked.

But the Vikings broke the stalemate later in the first quarter when they pieced together their only sustained drive of the night.

Starting at its own 17, Smoky drove the length of the field in 10 plays, scoring on an 11-yard pass from Kyle Martin to a wide open Ryan DuMars with 1:25 on the clock.

Martin added the extra-point for a 7-0 advantage.

Hillsboro got its first scoring opportunity on its next possession when DuMars fumbled away a Deckert punt and gave the Trojans new life on the Viking 38 to start the second quarter.

But a 13-play drive ended when Jason Johnson picked off a Hamm pass in the end zone.

Undeterred, the Trojan defense stuffed the Vikings in three plays and once again Weibert partially blocked their punt on fourth down.

With a first down at the Viking 27, Hillsboro scored three plays later when Hamm nailed a diving Deckert as he was cutting toward the middle for a 15-yard score. David Funk’s kick tied the game with 2:35 left in the half.

Moments later, Deckert struck again. On the second play from scrimmage, he picked off Martin for the second time and, combined with a holding penalty on Smoky, the Trojan offense was back in business at the Trojan 34.

Hamm hit Deckert with a 22-yard pass over the middle on the first play. Then, three plays later, the duo hooked up again, this time along the left sideline for a 31-yard score with 1:05 left in the half.

Funk’s extra-point attempt was wide left, but Hillsboro led for good, 13-7.

McEwen was enthused about the effort his team put forth.

“It’s hard to talk about one person in particular because they did such a nice job as a team,” he said.”The drive for the score, and the drive at the end (of the game) to get some first downs, shows the maturing process of these guys.

“We just talked about giving a maximum effort the entire game,” he added. “I told them if they’re laying exhausted out there and can’t get off the field, I will carry them off. They had to put that kind of effort into it.”

For the game, Hillsboro made a bundle of big plays on defense-four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, two partially blocked punts and six quarterback sacks.

The Trojan coaches’ decision to move Deckert from tight end to safety paid off big time.

“We knew coming in that we might have a chance to pick off some passes just because of the way they’ve thrown it up, and we just came up with them,” McEwen said.

At the same time, the Trojan coach also was pleased to see his own team do a better job of protecting the ball. After giving up five turnovers in each of their first two games, the Trojans gave away the ball three times-twice by fumble and once by interception.

In his first full game at quarterback after stepping in for an injured Caleb Marsh last week, Hamm completed 11-of-21 passes for 130 yards and two scores.

“He did a fine job,” McEwen said of the junior. “He’s calm and cool under pressure, and, with another week of practice, was able to take more snaps so we were a little smoother on handoffs.”

The Trojans rushed for 108 yards on 40 carries. Leading the way was sophomore Tim Funk with 75 yards on on 17 carries.

“We didn’t do anything fancy tonight,” McEwen said. “We just executed at some key times.”

He said his young team took a big stride forward in this game.

“I was very impressed with their attitude this week,” McEwen said. “Gradually, they’re feeling like we’re going to be pretty good.”

Coming-The Trojans will take to the road again this Friday to battle Ellinwood (2-1). HHS will be looking to avenge last year’s 22-20 loss in the final seconds.

“We want to play well against Ellinwood,” McEwen said. “We’ve got to take that long drive and play there, and we’re really looking forward to them.”

Game time is 7 p.m.

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