Hillsboro rally falls short against Hesston

It truly was a game of inches Friday night as Hillsboro came up just short in a gallant comeback effort at Hesston, 17-12.

The Trojans scored first on a 1-yard run by Michael Suderman. Aaron Stepanek set up the score with a punt return that gave Hillsboro the ball at the Hesston 2. Hesston blocked Tyler Kaufman’s extra point attempt, but the Trojans led 6-0.

Hesston came right back with a 70-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run by Camron Bailey on a fourth-down play with 3:47 left in the first period. The Swathers scored another TD on fourth-and-1 early in the second period to go up 14-6.

To start the third quarter, Hesston drove from its own 27 to the Trojan 9-yard line in 16 plays. Hillsboro pushed them back to the 20, thanks to good defense and a holding call on the Swathers. On fourth down, Hesston lined up at the 20 for a 37-yard field goal attempt into the wind. But a loose chin strap cost Hesston a five-yard penalty. The Swathers then lined up for a 42-yard field goal attempt, but an encroachment call against Hillsboro moved the ball back to the 20. Back to a 37-yard attempt, the kick by Hesston’s Lee Voth-Gaeddert, barely cleared the crossbar. Hesston led 17-6 with only 2:29 left in the third quarter.

With their possession of the second half, Hillsboro went to a roll-out passing offense and covered 63 yards in four plays — the big one being a 34-yard pass to Lucas Hamm — and capped it with a 1-yard run by quarterback Spencer Brown for the score. Brown’s 2-point conversion pass was intercepted by Gaeddert to keep the score at 17-12 with 19.8 seconds left in the third period.

Hillsboro made the game thrilling when Suderman recovered a Hesston fumble at the Trojan 25-yard line. Hillsboro marched all the way to Hesston’s 11-yard line, where a fourth-and-6 pass by Brown sailed just over the outstretched arms of a leaping Hamm in the end zone with 2:06 left in the game.

Hesston ran out all but 5 seconds of the clock on its next possession. On its last play, Hillsboro tried a razzle-dazzle run, with numerous laterals, but could not pull off the miracle finish.

With the loss, Hillsboro falls to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in district play while Hesston improves to 6-2 and 2-0. Hillsboro can still move on to bi-district play if it can beat Remington (7-1) on Thursday night. The Broncos defeated Marion on Friday night.

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