Hillsboro cleared its first hurdle in the state playoffs Tuesday night by defeating Haven, 34-13, at Joel H. Wiens Stadium in Hillsboro.
The two Central Kansas League teams traded early scoring punches at the start of the game. The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and marched 90 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 32-yd run by Trae Regier with 7:16 left in the opening quarter. The extra point made it 7-0.
Hillsboro came right back with a 65-yard scoring drive that took only five plays to complete. The big gainer came on the first play when quarterback Tyler Proffitt heaved a long pass to his big-play receiver, Shaq Thiessen, for a 44-yard gain to the Wildcat 21-yard line. Three plays later Proffitt and Thiessen hooked up again, this time for 17 yards and the score with 5:28 left in the quarter. Jesse Brown missed the extra-point kick and the Trojans trailed, 7-6.
After a Haven three-and-out, Hillsboro launched another scoring drive, this one covering 58 yards in 11 plays. It culminated in a touchdown on a one-yard carry by Tyrell Thiessen. Brown nailed the kick and Hillsboro led 13-7 with 1:17 left in the first quarter.
But the back-and-forth flow continued with Haven responding with an 82-yard drive that ended eight plays later with a two-yard run up the middle of the Trojan defense by Samuel Fritzemeier. This time, Haven missed the extra-point kick and the game was tied at 13 with 10:24 left in the half.
Hillsboro struck back one more time on its ensuing possession. A personal foul by Haven at the end of the kickoff return gave the Trojans the football at the Haven 46-yard line. An 16-yard pass to Tyrell Thiessen followed by a 30-yard connection to brother Shaq put Hillsboro in the end zone again and gave the Trojans a quick 20-13 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the half.
But the scoring suddenly dried up for the rest of the half and much of the second half, thanks in large part to turnovers by both teams. Twice the Trojans blew scoring opportunities in the red zone when shotgun snaps misfired between center and quarterback. An interception by Haven at its own 13 ended another Hillsboro opportunity early in the second half.
Late in the third quarter, Hillsboro started a critical drive at its 33. Three plays into it, quarterback Proffitt left the game with a twisted ankle. Backup Sinclair stepped in and the Trojans didn’t miss a beat. He completed the 13-play drive with a three-yard pass over the middle to Josh Wiebe for the decisive score with 8:11 left in the game.
Then, on Haven’ first play following the kickoff, Shive’s pass was deflected at the line and Dylan Jirak snagged the ball for the interception at the Wildcat 17. Four plays later, Proffitt, who had re-entered the game, connected with Sinclair for a 12-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone on a fourth-and-5 play. Tyler Burst kicked his second extra-point of the evening for the final 34-13 margin.
With the win, the Trojans claimed its first bi-district championship since 2009 and improved to 10-0 for the year. Hillsboro will hook up with Sedgwick (9-1) on Saturday at Joel H. Wiens Stadium for the regional championship. Game time is yet to be determined.
Sedgwick, champion of the Heart of America League, was a 62-25 winner over Chaparral on Tuesday night.