If the ground game isn?t there, put it in the air.
That was Hills?boro?s offensive strategy in the second game of the season, and it proved to be effective in a 41-30 win at Sterling Friday.
Coming off a game last week where Hillsboro managed only 25 rushing yards on 19 carries, quarterback Jesse Brown and the Trojans put the ball in the air 47 times against Sterling. He completed 33 of those passes — most of them short throws toward the sideline or across the middle — for 319 yards and five touchdowns.
Evan Ollenburger had an outstanding night, grabbing 13 passes for 121 yards and touchdowns of 11, 17 and 22 yards; Cody Delk scored on passes of one and seven yards. Justus Hilliard registered Hillsboro?s sixth and final touchdown of the night on a 20-yard run with just under 4 minutes left in the game.
Hillsboro actually trailed at halftime, 14-13, with Brown hitting Ollenburger and Delk for Trojan scores. But after the defense stopped Sterling on the opening possession of the second half, Hillsboro began to click, marching 75 yards in six plays — including 4-for-5 passing by Brown — climaxed by Ollenburger?s 17-yard reception for the touchdown.
When Sterling fumbled on the first play of the Black Bears? next possession, the Trojans recovered the ball on the Sterling 22-yard line. On the next play, Ollen?burger caught Brown?s pass just across the goal line to give Hillsboro a 28-14 lead after Brown?s extra-point kick.
Early in the fourth quarter, Delk set up Hillsboro?s next touchdown with a punt that pinned Sterling at its own 2-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the 10-yard line, the Black Bears opted to try for a first down. But Delk stopped Sterling quarterback Austin Myers for no gain and Hillsboro took over. Three plays later, Brown threw to Delk for the 7-yard score with 5:13 left in the game for a 35-14 cushion.
Another touchback on the kickoff put Sterling at its 20-yard line. The Black Bears threw four consecutive incomplete passes to give the ball back to Hillsboro with the goal line in sight. That set up Hilliard?s 20-yard scamper with 3:54 left.
The 28-0 second-half explosion carried the Trojans to a comfortable 41-14 lead.
Maybe it was too comfortable. Sterling?s Tret Bagby returned the ensuing kickoff for one touchdown. The home team added a second score with 2:13 to play when Shane Winter picked up a Preston Nelson fumble at the Trojan 3-yard line and crossed the goal line for a touchdown. Successful 2-point conversion plays after each touchdown cut the Trojan lead to the final 41-30 margin.
With the win, Hillsboro evened its record at 1-1 overall and in the Central Kansas League?s North Division. Sterling dropped to 0-2 overall and in the division. Hillsboro will travel to Nickerson (0-2) next week.