Late surge comes too late as HHS falls to Haven

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
For the second week in a row, the Hillsboro Trojans waited until the game was already lost before asserting themselves-this time falling to Haven, 20-6, Friday at Reimer Field.

Their performance was reminiscent of the 25-7 loss suffered last week against Chapman. In both games, the Trojans waited until their opponent had victory secured before striking back with a touchdown late in the contest.

Last week, it was easy for coach Len Coryea to commend his team for showing heart against a strong opponent.

This week, it wasn’t so easy.

“We’ve got to quit showing heart just at the end when we’re down 20-0,” he said. “That kind of heart can get to be a habit, too.”

Adding to the disappointment: Haven was considered to be less formidable than Chapman.

“I thought this was a game we should win,” Coryea said.

Through much of the first half, it appeared neither team wanted to win.

Hillsboro received a made-in-heaven opportunity to take charge when Haven fumbled away the football on its first play following the opening kickoff. Wade Weibert recovered the ball for Hillsboro on the Wildcat 29-yard line.

But two incomplete passes and a six-yard-loss on a running play forced the Trojans to punt. After Matt Brown angled his kick so it went out at the 12-yard line, a Haven holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 6-yard line.

But the Trojans’ psyche, already fragile because of recent injuries to key players, took another blow when Wildcat halfback Matt Meyer swept to the right, stopped, and heaved a long pass along the Trojan sideline to teammate Brent Cooprider, who grabbed the ball near midfield and raced for a 94-yard touchdown.

The extra point made the score 7-0 with 10:21 showing on the clock.

Understandably stunned, the Trojans needed to respond in kind. But on the second play of their next possession, Tim Funk coughed up the football. The Wildcats recovered it and were in position to score again on the Trojan 26-yard line.

Three Wildcat runs moved the ball to the 10-yard line, but quarterback Isiah Barfield then fumbled the football on a keeper. Tyler Goldsby recovered it for Hillsboro on the Wildcat 16.

The Trojans appeared to have regained their composure, moving the ball to the 49-yard line on consecutive passes to Jayce Penner, Goldsby and Chad Hughbanks.

Fullback Lucas Hamm then broke through the middle of the Wildcat line for a 12-yard gain to the Haven 39.

But on the next play, quarterback Derek Hamm was hit as he cocked his arm to throw. The ball bounced to the turf and Haven recovered it at the Trojan 42.

Neither team was effective on offense over the next several possessions-until a couple of Trojan mistakes fueled another Wildcat score.

This time, a bad snap from center on a punt sent Brown scurrying for the football. He grabbed it and tossed a hurried pass into the middle of the field, where Cooprider was waiting to catch it for Haven.

When the confusion cleared, the Wildcats had the football at the Trojan 42-yard line. Barfield then connected with wide receiver Kevin Mantisano on a 32-yard pass play to the Trojan 10. Three plays later, Meyer burst into the end zone from one yard out.

Kicker Ben Drake nailed his second extra point of the night and Haven led, 14-0, with 6:43 left in the half. Both teams got two chances on offense before intermission, but neither could move the ball.

Haven added a third touchdown midway through the third quarter, capping one of the few sustained drives of the night-57 yards in 11 plays-with a two-yard run by Cooprider with 35 seconds left to play. Drake’s kick clanked off the right upright, but Haven led 20-0.

The Trojans scored their lone touchdown when backup quarterback Josh Boese connected with wide receiver Adam Scheele for a 40-yard pass with 6:31 on the clock.

After Haven failed to move the ball, Hillsboro put together its best sustained drive of the night, marching in nine plays from its own 22-yard line to the Haven 12 before running out of downs with less than a minute left in the game.

Leading the Trojan attack was Lucas Hamm, who ran the ball four times for 38 yards. A 28-yard pass from Boese to Scheele gave the Trojans a first down at the Wildcat 12. But the drive floundered there on four straight incomplete passes.

Lucas Hamm finished as the Trojans’ most consistent offensive weapon for the evening, rolling up 65 yards on eight carries. As a team, Hillsboro managed only 78 yards on the ground on 28 carries.

The Trojans picked up 115 yards through the air, but Derek Hamm and Boese combined for only eight completions in 27 attempts.

Haven, meanwhile, rushed for 135 yards on 50 carries while adding 151 yards through the air on three completions in six attempts-94 of those yards coming on the first-quarter touchdown.

Coryea said his team simply was not mentally ready to play.

“I will accept the blame for us not being fired up,” he said. “We were just flat coming out.”

He said injuries have taken a physical and psychological toll on his team. Mental mistakes and a shaken confidence are the most apparent result.

“The Bear Bryant in me tells me to go hard,” Coryea said in reference to the legendary coach and taskmaster from Alabama. “But I’m not sure that’s what we need.

“We’ve just got to keep working fundamentals.”

Coming-The path doesn’t get any easier for Coryea’s team as they take to the road the next two weeks against Smoky Valley and Wichita Collegiate, two of the toughest teams in the Central Division of the Mid Central Activities Association.

The Trojans will take a 1-2 record overall and an 0-1 mark in the Central Division to Lindsborg on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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