A game without rival / Hillsboro edges Marion in first alumni football game.

Roger Hoffner (77) and Trevor Kruse (28) join their teammates in celebrating Adam Janzen’s 42-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter (left photo)
Roger Hoffner (77) and Trevor Kruse (28) join their teammates in celebrating Adam Janzen’s 42-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter (left photo)
by Don Ratzlaff

& Janae Rempel

The Free Press

The first alumni football game between Marion and Hillsboro high schools ended as it should have: Quality competition with a high-drama finish.

A one-yard dive into the end zone on fourth down by Jacob Yoder (Class of 2008) gave the alumni from Hills­boro an 18-12 overtime victory Friday at Joel Wiens Stadium.

Hillsboro appeared to take control of the game when Yoder scored his first touchdown of the night on a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Spencer Brown (2008) with eight seconds left in the first half, giving the Trojans a 12-6 lead at intermission.

But neither team found much success on offense in the second half—until the very end. Marion began what appeared to be its last possession of the game at its own 42-yard line with 1:40 left in regulation.

Two scrambles by player-coach Shaun Craft (1998) went nowhere, leaving the Warriors with a third-and-10. But Marion running back Adam Janzen (2015) water-bugged his way through the line of scrimmage, then broke away for a 42-yard touchdown scamper with a mere 17 seconds left in regulation.

Craft’s extra-point pass was broken up by Hillsboro’s Michael Suder­man (2007), keeping the score tied at 12 and setting the stage for an overtime showdown.

Under the rules established by the game organizers, Alumni Football USA, each team would get the chance to score in four plays from 10 yards out. The team leading after equal possession would be the winner.

The Delk brothers, Cody (left) and Dylan, team up to sing the national anthem before the start of the game.
The Delk brothers, Cody (left) and Dylan, team up to sing the national anthem before the start of the game.

Hillsboro won the toss and elected to give Marion first possession. The Warriors’ first play from scrimmage resulted on a 6-yard loss. Two incomplete passes and 5-yard run by Janzen ended their possession at the 11-yard line.

On its first play, Hillsboro was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. But on second down, Yoder caught a pass from Brown for seven yards, then carried the ball to the 1-yard line on the next play, setting up his final touchdown leap for the win.

Marion drew first blood in the game when Dakin Ledford (2012) scored on a 24-yard pass from Craft with 1:35 left in the opening quarter. The score culminated a 10-play, 63-yard drive that consumed just over 7 minutes.

Hillsboro tied the game on its next possession — a 19-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 9:19 before Lucas Hamm (2007) crossed the goal line from one yard out with 2:16 left in the first half.

Marion’s Dakin Ledford hauls in a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Shaun Craft in the first quarter.
Marion’s Dakin Ledford hauls in a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Shaun Craft in the first quarter.

Game response

This first alumni matchup attracted just over 70 players between the two schools, and those recruits put on a show for an estimated 300 to 400 fans.

Following the game, Alumni Football USA named Janzen as the MVP on offense for Marion and Brendan Kraus (1995) the Warriors’ MVP on defense.

For the Trojans, Brown was named MVP on offense and Dylan Delk (2011) the MVP on defense.

Craft received the leadership award for Marion and Yoder received the award for Hillsboro.

Doug Dick (1978), who taught and coached at Marion prior to his current assignment at Hillsboro, received the oldest-player award.

Dick’s son, Daniel (2010), played for Hillsboro as well. Also playing as Trojan father-and-son teammates were David Suderman (1981) and Michael Suderman (2007).

Alan Kruse (1990) and son Trevor (2015) took the field together for Marion.

“It’s an awesome experience,” the elder Kruse said. “Probably a once-in-a-lifetime type of deal. It’s something I never expected to have the opportunity to do. It was a lot of fun. A lot of fun to put the pads back on.”

That sentiment was echoed by most players, including Yoder, who served as captain and peer recruiter for Hillsboro.

“Once they heard there was an opportunity to play again, that’s all they needed,” said Yoder about his recruiting duties. “Most of us never thought we’d play again after high school. When they found they found out there was a real opportunity to play tackle football again against our home town rivals, I didn’t need to say more. That was enough to hook them.”

Adam Dirks eludes a couple of Marion tacklers on his way to a 22-yard run. Unfortunately he suffered a suffered a dislocated elbow when he was finally tackled.
Adam Dirks eludes a couple of Marion tacklers on his way to a 22-yard run. Unfortunately he suffered a suffered a dislocated elbow when he was finally tackled.

The game produced some casualties on both teams, with the most serious injury absorbed by Hillsboro’s Adam Dirks (2007) who suffered a dislocated elbow when he was tackled at the end of a 22-yard run early in the second period.

Yoder saluted both teams for their competitiveness and their conduct on the field.

“Everybody competed hard, kept it clean,” he said. “Everybody still has that competitive drive and it made for a fun game.”

Yoder said he appreciated the willingness of coaches from both schools to provide organization and leadership for their teams.

“All those coaches are very busy, but took time out to help with this alumni game and coach us again,” he said. “We all appreciated that.”

Yoder said teammates bonded with each other and even with their opponents.

“It’s a brotherhood, and if you’ve never played the game you can’t understand what it’s like,” Yoder said. “There’s a bond that everybody shares on that field. That’s something we all missed and we were able to get a taste of that again with this alumni game. It was pretty amazing.”

Trojan coach Len Coryea said, “The whole week (prior to the game) was really a lot of fun.

As for the game itself, “I was mainly a spectator just like everyone else,” he joked. “But I had a great time seeing some of those old guys back. These guys are kind of scattered now all over.”

Trojans Alex Nuss (51) and Josh Kenney celebrate Hillsboro’s overtime victory with some high-fives. Hillsboro edged Marion, 18-12, on a fourth-down 1-yard touchdown drive by Jacob Yoder.
Trojans Alex Nuss (51) and Josh Kenney celebrate Hillsboro’s overtime victory with some high-fives. Hillsboro edged Marion, 18-12, on a fourth-down 1-yard touchdown drive by Jacob Yoder.

According to Scott Moshier, regional coordinator for Alumni Football USA, the two schools will be given an opportunity for a rematch perhaps in two years with Marion getting the opportunity to host game.