Hillsboro got the early jump, but it was a physically superior Halstead squad that eventually won the day in a 14-9 victory over the Trojans in the season opener at Joel H. Wiens Stadium.
?We knew they?d be a load and they would hit us hard,? coach Max Heinrichs said. ?They were a quick team and very aggressive and well coached.?
Helped by a couple of Halstead mistakes, Hillsboro grabbed the momentum early in the contest.
The Trojans took the opening kickoff and moved from their own 43-yard line to the Halstead 18 before running out of downs. But an errant pitch on Halstead?s first offensive play resulted in a Hillsboro recovery when Devin Dick pounced on the football at the Halstead 18.
On the next play Trojan quarterback Luke Moore fired to wide receiver Ben Bebermeyer on the goal line for the first touchdown of the season. Ben Gardner missed the extra point, but the Trojans led 6-0 with 7:47 left in the opening period.
Hillsboro took advantage of another Halstead fumble early in the second quarter after Dylan Delk fell on the football at the Dragon 29.
Moore hit Beber?meyer for a 12-yard pass on Hillsboro?s first play. Three plays and an illegal-motion penalty later, Gardner split the uprights for a 32-yard field goal and a 9-0 Trojan lead with 8:34 left in the half.
Once the Dragons learned to hold on to the football, they began moving down the field? primarily on the legs of 5-foot, 4-inch Rodney Strohl, who finished with 169 yards on 27 carries.
Halstead started on its own 30-yard line and drove to the Hills?boro 20 in nine plays. But on fourth-and-4, the Trojans held Strohl and the Dragons to a 1-yard gain with 4:04 left in the half.
Taking over at the 19, Hills?boro put the ball in the air three straight plays. The first pass was caught by Delk for a 6-yard gain, but the next two missed the mark, forcing the Trojans to punt from deep in their own territory
Halstead started its next drive at its own 43 with 3:01 left. Eight plays later, quarterback Simon McKee scored from five yards out on a bootleg around the right end to put his team on the board with 12.9 seconds left. The extra point made it 9-7 going into halftime.
The two teams exchanged possessions to open the second half before Halstead mounted what turned out to be the winning drive, starting at its own 41-yard line.
Six plays later, Strohl carried the ball for the fourth time in the drive and scampered all but untouched 14 yards up the middle for the go-ahead touchdown. Ethan Rodenberg?s second extra point made it 14-9, Halstead.
The Trojans struggled to move the football the rest of the way as Halstead clamped down on the run and neutralized Hillsboro?s passing game. The Trojans blew a few opportunities for big plays on a couple of dropped or off-target passes.
?What it came down to is we had a couple of times where we could have made plays and we didn?t,? Heinrichs said.
For the game, Hillsboro managed only 39 rushing yards on 22 carries compared to Halstead?s 253 yards on 45 carries.
?We knew that option (play) was going to cause us some fits,? Heinrichs said. ?We watched film from last year, and they ran a lot of option and sweep?but we saw just a big dose of option. They ran it well.?
As for his own team, Hein?richs said, ?We?re going to work on our run a lot in the coming week. We want to get in some counter and some trap and some misdirection. We just didn?t have it in well enough to run it.?
Moore finished with 155 passing yards on 11-for-24 passing. Bebermeyer snagged five throws for 108 yards.
?I thought we were pretty good in the first half,? Heinrichs said. ?In the second half, we started having cramps and some kids with some injuries. We just don?t have a lot of depth yet.?
The loss gives the Trojans an 0-1 record in the Central Kansas League North Division. Halstead takes the early division lead with its 1-0 mark.
Coming?Hillsboro will travel to Lyons Friday. The North Division foe lost to Marion in their season opener, 20-7.