ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
For one quarter, the Hillsboro Trojan football team stayed in contention against a Wichita Collegiate squad that was bigger, quicker and more experienced.
But it was only a matter of time before the Spartans showed why they are ranked among the top teams in Class 4A. Ultimately dominant in every facet of the game, Collegiate prevailed, 35-0, in its homecoming contest on Friday.
To the Trojans credit, they never rolled over-even when the league’s mercy rule would have given them a reason to.
“We had a better effort this week,” coach Len Coryea said afterward. “We showed more courage than we have this season. For the first time, we played hard the whole time.”
Also playing dinged-up-with eight players nursing injuries-a relatively inexperienced Trojans team lined up against a Spartan squad with 16 seniors and held its own through the first 12 minutes.
Even so, Collegiate controlled the game from the opening kickoff, completing a 67-yard scoring drive in nine running plays. Freshman standout Chris Harper ran the final five yards for the touchdown.
Hillsboro got a lift when Ryan Kaiser blocked Conner Anderson’s extra-point kick, keeping Collegiate’s lead at 6-0 with just under 8 minutes left in the quarter.
But the lift was short-lived. Following a familiar theme, the Trojan offense struggled to move the ball with any consistency. Hillsboro did not pick up a first down until it cashed in a pass-interference call with less than two minutes to go until intermission.
Meanwhile, the Trojan defense stopped Collegiate on three plays on the Spartans’ second possession. But the Trojan offense could not take advantage of a short Collegiate punt into the wind that gave Hillsboro the ball at its own 48-yard line.
Facing fourth-and-1 at the Spartan 43, the Trojans gambled for the first down and came up craps when Tim Funk was stopped for no gain.
The stop led to a Spartan score. Facing third-and 6, Harper dashed off left tackle, cut inside and gained 32 yards to the Trojan 21. He likely would have scored on the play if he had not run into a teammate downfield.
A Spartan touchdown proved inevitable, though, when junior John Houlik ran the final two yards four plays later. Harper added a 2-point conversion run for a 14-0 lead just 4 seconds into the second period.
The change of field bit Hillsboro on its next possession when Lucas Hamm, punting on fourth-and-10 at the Trojan 14-yard line, advanced the ball only 20 yards against the wind.
But the Trojan defense held, aided by a couple of Spartan penalties and one bad exchange between the center and quarterback. Defensive end Ben Schaefer ended the threat when he sacked freshman quarterback Jess Evans for a nine-yard loss on fourth-and-6.
The Trojans took over on their own 29, but faced fourth down three plays later. This time, the long snap sailed over the head of Hamm, who managed to get off a rushed punt that moved the ball to the Collegiate 46-yard line.
The Spartans ended any realistic hope for a Trojan comeback by driving to paydirt in eight plays. Houlik ran the final 11 yards with 2:46 left until intermission. Anderson’s extra point made it 21-0.
The Spartans had a chance to increase the lead in the final seconds of the half, but Anderson’s 29-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left.
Collegiate made short work of the second half-literally-with a couple of 62-yard scoring runs by Harper in the third period.
The first one came on the opening possession of the second half, and the other came four minutes later, when Harper broke multiple tackles on the way to the end zone.
Anderson’s extra points gave Collegiate its final 35-0 margin, and the league’s continuous-clock rule went into effect with 4:10 left in the third quarter.
The Trojans did threaten a late touchdown when, playing against Spartan reserves, they blocked a punt and took possession at the Collegiate 46-yard line with less than 2 minutes to go.
Consecutive passes from Derek Hamm to Adam Scheele and Tyler Goldsby gave Hillsboro the ball at the 32-yard line.
Derek Hamm then hit Goldsby with a quick, 5-yard pass. Goldsby immediately pitched the ball back to Lucas Hamm, who steamrolled to the Collegiate 4-yard line.
With the final seconds slipping away, Derek Hamm’s pass in the direction of Lucas Hamm fell to the ground and Collegiate escaped with the shutout.
Boosted by his two big scoring runs, Harper finished with 205 rushing yards on 14 carries. Evans added 101 yards on 13 carries. As a team, Collegiate rolled up 384 yards on 50 carries
Hillsboro, meanwhile, managed 60 rushing yards. Lucas Hamm led the team with 23 yards on 13 carries.
The Trojans had the advantage through the air. Derek Hamm completed four of 12 passes for 74 yards. Collegiate missed all four passes it attempted.
The loss dropped Hillsboro to 1-4 for the season and 0-3 in the Central Division of the Mid-Central Activities Association. Collegiate improved to 4-1 and 3-1.
Coming-Hillsboro’s prospects for a victory on Friday are brighter than they have been the past couple of weeks. The Trojans face the 1-4 Nickerson Panthers as their homecoming opponent. Game time at Reimer Field is 7 p.m.