For three quarters of Hillsboro?s season finale football game with Council Grove Thursday night, a young and gutsy Trojan squad had within its grasp that long-awaited first victory of the year.
Leading 19-18 on their home field, Council Grove surged forward on the legs of quarterback Trey Langvardt as the fourth quarter began. The senior contributed runs of 28, 14 and eight yards before Keegan Honas crossed the goal line from two yards out for a 26-18 lead.
Hillsboro was still within a single score of the Braves, but fate did not smile upon the hard-luck Trojans. Sophomore Kaden Kleiner, stepping in at quarterback after starter Jorge Hanschu was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter, had his first pass tipped and ultimately intercepted by lineman Peyton Lerner at the Trojan 30-yard line. Four plays later, Justin Skerce found the end zone from eight yards out as the Braves boosted the lead to 33-18.
On the first play of Hillsboro?s ensuing possession, Kleiner threw a second interception, this time to Brett Birzer. With the ball at the Trojan 46, Langvardt threw to a wide open Chandler White for the score that made it 40-18.
It was a crushing 21-point blow over a 2:30 span.
To their credit, the Trojans never rolled over, scoring a final touchdown on a seven-yard pass from Kleiner to Braden Vogt with 3:54 to play for the 40-24 final margin.
At the start, neither team scored until White crossed the goal line on a 25-yard reverse with 21 seconds left in the first quarter. A 2-point run by Honas made it 8-0.
Hillsboro responded immediately, marching 69 yards in 11 plays with Car?son Herbel catching a 12-yard pass from Hanschu for the touchdown. Jeff Jorgen?son?s kick was blocked, keeping the Braves on top, 8-6, with 7:36 left in the first half.
White boosted the lead to 11-6 with a 27-yard field goal at the 4:36 mark. That lead held until halftime.
The Braves received the second-half kickoff and covered 51 yards on six plays with Paul Lamberson scoring on a 33-yard pass from Lang?vardt at the 8:51 mark. Honas added another 2-point run for a 19-6 lead.
Hillsboro then scored twice — first at the end of a 54-yard, 12-play drive with Joe Knoll scoring on a pass from Hanschu with 2:55 left in the third quarter. Jorgen?son?s kick was again blocked to keep the score at 19-12.
After Knoll recovered a Skerce fumble two plays into Council Grove?s ensuing possession, Hanschu connected on a deep throw to Braden Vogt for a 63-yard touchdown with 2:15 left in the third quarter. Hanschu?s 2-point conversion pass was not successful, but the Trojans were within a point at 19-18.
Hanschu was knocked out of the game one play later.
With the loss, the Trojans finish the year at 0-9 — the first winless season for a Trojan team in 65 years, when Hillsboro finished 0-8 in 1950. Council Grove improved to 6-3.