Hillsboro?s young football team took a step closer toward varsity success Friday, but fell a key play or two short of victory against Haven at Joel Wiens Stadium.
The Wildcats recovered a Trojan fumble with 4:14 left in the game, then ran out the clock to nail down a 22-14 win.
After a scoreless first quarter, Hillsboro got on the board with a 50-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Kaden Kleiner to sophomore receiver Carson Herbel with 8:26 left in the half. Center Ryan Stepanek scored on a 2-point conversion sneak. The Trojans spread the offense, except for the center and quarterback. Stepanek then picked up the ball and rumbled into the end zone.
The Trojans were flying high when the ensuing kickoff nailed Haven at its own 5-yard line. But the Wildcat runners pounded the middle of the line again and again behind the blocking of Kobe Ford, their 6-foot-3, 371-pound center. Nineteen plays later, Wildcat quarterback Thane Unruh scored from six yards out with 12.3 seconds remaining in the half. Unruh ran the 2-point conversion successfully on the same play to tie the game at 8.
Haven eventually took the lead when Unruh capped a 10-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Kleiner intercepted Unruh?s 2-point conversion pass to keep the score at 14-8 with 5:20 left in the third quarter.
Hillsboro appeared to score the tying touchdown two plays into its next possession when Kleiner connected with freshman Jorge Hanschu down the Trojan sideline for an apparent 53-yard score. But Hanschu was called for offensive pass interference, which ultimately aborted the drive.
After a Trojan punt gave Haven a first down at its own 44-yard line, the Wildcats? Jamal Rogers fumbled a pass over the middle, but picked up the loose ball for a 56-yard touchdown scamper. Eric Williams ran in the 2-point conversion to give Haven a 22-8 lead with just under 3:30 left in the third period.
The Trojans came right back, using the passing game to move from its own 32-yard line to the 39-yard line of Haven as the third quarter ended. On the first play of the final period, Kleiner fired a pass downfield that Hanschu caught in full stride for 39-yard score. This time?s Hillsboro?s 2-point conversion attempt failed when Kleiner?s pass fell incomplete.
Haven took more than 6:00 off the clock on its next possession before turning the ball over to Hillsboro on downs with 5:40 to play in the game. Kleiner fumbled four plays later, with Patrick Hartung recovering the ball and essentially saving the win for Haven at the 4:14 mark.
With the loss, the Trojans find themselves at 0-2 for the young season while Haven improved to 1-1 for the year. Hillsboro will host state-ranked Halstead next Friday. The Dragons defeated Haven in last week?s season opener, 48-6.