ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Neither cold, nor wind, nor occasional light mist could keep the Hillsboro High football team from its appointed round Friday night.
The bi-district round of the state playoffs, that is.
In fact, the elements may have helped the Trojans return to post-season play for the first time in three years with a surprisingly easy 42-0 win at Remington Friday night.
“It’s a great weight off our shoulders,” coach Len Coryea said of the accomplishment.
While the weather helped a tenacious Hillsboro defense limit the effectiveness of the Bronco’s vaunted passing attack, the Trojan offense put on a clinic on the ground, averaging more than seven yards per carry on the way to 404 yards.
Senior Michael Suderman enjoyed a career night of 191 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. He would have had even better numbers except for a bizarre play to start the game.
On the first play from scrimmage, the deceptive ball fakes of Hillsboro quarterback Spencer Brown not only fooled the Remington defenders, but also the officials.
The men in stripes had their eye on Jacob Yoder and blew the play dead when he was brought down after a 5-yard gain.
Meanwhile, Suderman was darting untouched downfield with the football.
As it turned out, the error affected only Suderman’s individual stats. Two plays later, Brown turned his talent for deception into a bootleg that went for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Suderman caught a 2-point conversion pass from Brown and the Trojans led 8-0 less than 1:30 into the contest.
Eight plays into Remington’s ensuing possession Suderman picked off a pass by Bronco quarterback Cole Cherryholmes to give the Trojans the football at the Remington 33-yard line.
The Trojans advanced to the 7 in eight plays, but Brown’s throw into the end zone was picked off, ending the threat.
The game turned into a defensive standoff until midway through the second quarter, when the Trojans rediscovered their stride and completed a 52-yard, eight-play drive that Suderman capped with a 10-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
Brown’s 2-point pass was incomplete, but Hillsboro led 14-0 with 2:47 left in the half.
That proved to be enough time for one more strike before intermission. After the Trojan defense forced a three-and-out followed by a short punt into the wind, Hillsboro had the ball at the Remington 34-yard line with 1:08 to go.
Brown came up empty on his first two plays, but then Brown connected with wide receiver Troy Frick for a 30-yard pass for a first-and-goal at the 4. On the next play, Brown threw to Yoder coming out of the backfield for the score.
The PAT pass went incomplete, but Hillsboro suddenly had a 20-0 lead with 4.5 seconds left in the half and confidence that the game was well in hand.
Coryea said a change in blocking assignments enabled the Trojans to take control.
“I wanted to run better early (in the game),” he said. “We made two adjustments, and then they couldn’t stop anything.”
The Trojans cemented the outcome with two more Suderman touchdown runs in the second half-a 16-yard burst with 4:51 left in the third quarter, and 5-yarder with 10:50 left in the game. A successful 2-point run by Brown and a 2-point pass to Frick gave the Trojans a 34-0 margin.
The Hillsboro junior varsity finished the scoring when Tyler Brown crossed the goal line from three yards out, capping a nine-play, 50-yard drive with 5:48 left in the game.
On a night when momentum was Hillsboro’s companion, a high snap on the extra-point kick ended in one more 2-point conversion when holder Daniel Jost took off for the left pylon and scored.
The Trojans finished with 472 yards of total offense while holding the Broncos to 57. Cherryholmes, under pressure all evening, completed only seven of 19 passes for a scant 36 yards.
Brown didn’t fare much better through the air, going 5-for-15 for 68 yards, but the junior chipped in 84 rushing yards on seven carries.
Senior Lucas Hamm caught one of those passes for 22 yards-and it came on a fourth-and-12 play that led to Hillsboro’s second touchdown. But the standout linebacker had another huge night on defense with six tackles, five assists and an interception.
Coming-With the victory, Hillsboro improved to 6-3 for the season. More important, its 2-1 record in district play advanced the Trojans into the state playoffs as the district runnerup.
Remington finished the season at 7-2, with both losses coming in district play.
Hillsboro was scheduled to play its bi-district game Tuesday night at Halstead (6-3), a league foe that was not on the Trojans’ regular-season schedule this year.
The results of that game will be posted on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Free Press Web site.
Should the Trojans get past the Dragons, they would face the winner of the bi-district game between Wichita Collegiate and Cheney on Saturday for the sectional championship.
If Collegiate wins, since neither team will have hosted a playoff game yet, the deciding factor would be geography. As the farthest west team, Collegiate would play host, likely in the afternoon.
If Cheney wins, the game will be played either at 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. in Hillsboro. That matchup would mark the return of former HHS football coach Dustin McEwen, who is the Cardinals’ head coach.