?Life can?t be better than tonight,? said jubilant Trojan coach Len Coryea.
With the victory, the Trojans improved to 6-3, qualified for bi-district play as district runner-up and tied with Marion (6-3) and Hoising?ton (7-2) for the MCAA Mid Division title.
?We put ourselves in position to win the game but they just made one more play than we did,? said Grant Thierolf, Warrior coach.
Marion had taken a 21-14 lead on the first possession of overtime when Sheldon Boone scampered all 10 yards around his right end on Marion?s first play from scrimmage. Brian Fruech?ting kicked the extra point to give the Warriors a seven-point margin.
?Sheldon’s run was fantastic and we had some great blocking on that play,? Thierolf said. ?He played at an all-league level this season.?
On the first play of Hills?boro?s possession, the Warriors were flagged for encroachment, giving HHS a first down at the 5-yard line. Running back Ishmael Morris then crashed through the middle of the line on the next play to find paydirt for Hillsboro.
Coryea said he never hesitated to go for the win instead of the tie.
?Our guys deserved a chance to win it right there,? he said.
Following a Marion timeout, Gottsch took the shotgun snap and looked for his first three options: receivers Daniel Jost and Andy Klassen and halfback Ishmael Morris.
Finding them covered, the senior, starting only his second game of the season after being slowed by injury, opted at the last moment for Bebermeyer in the front of the end zone near the Trojan sideline. The sophomore pulled in the ball to ignite the celebration of the home town players and fans.
?I asked him earlier if was ready to be a hero tonight,? Coryea said of Bebermeyer. ?He said he was.?
In the early going, the game seemed headed for an offensive shootout.
Hillsboro took the opening kickoff and scored in three plays, including a pass of 28 yards to Jost, a seven-yard run by Morris and then a 45-yard pass to Jost again for the touchdown. Jacob Wiebe?s kick made it 7-0 less than one minute into the contest.
Unfazed, the Warriors came right back with a nine-play, 58-yard drive that had Drew Maddox dashing in for the score from nine yards out. Fruech?ting’s kick made it 7-7 at the 6:46 mark.
After the Trojans stalled out on their next possession, Marion took the lead with a 53-yard drive in eight plays. Marc Wash?ington swept the left end for a 16-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Fruech?ting?s kick was on the money for a 14-7 Warrior advantage.
After the teams traded possession, Hillsboro pieced together its longest sustained drive of the night, starting at its own 21-yard line and marching the length of the field in 18 plays.
Gottsch connected with Jost for the touchdown on a slant pass from eight yards out and only 14 seconds left in the half. Wiebe?s kick tied the game for intermission.
?We needed to make a stand at the end of the first half and just could not get our defense off the field,? Thierolf said. ?That was the turning point in the game.?
In the second half, the game turned into a defensive standoff. Hillsboro threatened to score toward the end of the third quarter, but lost the football at the Marion 20 on a fumble by Morris that was recovered by the Warriors? Eric Vogel.
In the fourth quarter, Hills?boro stopped an MHS drive at the Trojan 23-yard line on fourth-and-two.
The Trojans then rode the arm of Gottsch all the way to the Warrior 16-yard line in seven plays (five of them passes) before Boone intercepted a Gottsch floater in the end zone with 16 seconds left in regulation.
Marion quarterback Matt Sprowls, who was making his first start of the season for the injured Mitchell Leppke, took a knee to run out the clock and send the game into OT.
Coryea said the game turned in Hillsboro?s favor midway through the second quarter when the Trojans switched to a six-man front that thwarted Marion?s ground attack.
The Trojans mixed defenses later in the contest but the line played with confidence and surprising effectiveness on both sides of the ball, enabling HHS to build a 343-yard to 191-yard advantage in total offense.
Gottsch generated most of the yardage, throwing for 226 yards on 16-for-22 passing. Jost led a corps of five receivers with seven receptions for 148 yards.
Andy Klassen had three for 52 yards, including an outstanding 20-yard summersault grab over the top of Marion defender Tylor Neil in Hillsboro?s last drive of regulation.
On the ground, the line sprung Morris for 102 yards on 23 carries for the senior?s seventh 100-yard game of the season.
?We moved the ball and had a nice mix (of passing and running),? Coryea said. ?The thing tonight was when we started shutting them down. I told them all week that every time you stop somebody, we get another chance. We made some great catches tonight, we made some good runs.
Sprowls led the Warriors well in a pressure-filled debut, but the Warriors attempted only two passes all night with no completions. Boone spearheaded Marion?s attack with 108 yards on 28 carries.
?We did miss Mitchell,? Thierolf said. ?To say that we were the same team without him would be a great disservice to the leadership and athleticism that he brings to our team.
?With that said, I thought Matt Sprowls came in and did very well. He got us into the correct play and ran the offense well.?
Coryea said his team has faced its share of injury challenges, too, during the season.
?They missed their quarterback, but doggone it we?ve been beat up all year too,? he said. ?We haven?t had the same team on the field all year.?
Thierolf said he and the team are disappointed, but have nothing to hang their heads about.
?We are proud of the way our kids played and very proud of the fact that our seniors have stayed with us through their four years of high school,? he said.
?They have grown into great leaders and have represented our school very well.?
Coming?Hillsboro was scheduled to play at Hutchinson Trinity (7-2) on Tuesday in a bi-district playoff game. Check the Free Line (947-3363) and the Web (www. hillsborofree?press.com) for same-night results.
If the Trojans were to defeat the Celtics, they would take on the winner of the bi-district contest between Garden Plain (9-0) and Douglass (4-5) on Saturday at a site to be announced.