Halstead Dragons fly past Trojans

Hillsboro’s Brooks Gardner runs behind his offensive line for a 5-yard gain against the Halstead Dragons. The junior finished with 127 yards rushing yards in the Trojans’ 56-17 loss on Friday. Finding themselves in an early deficit for the third straight week, the Hillsboro Trojans struggled to defend against a Halstead offensive scheme that seemed at times to be unstoppable on the way to a 56-17 outcome at Joel Wiens Stadium.

Add to the scoring mismatch a handful of injured Trojans hobbling off the field and a flurry of penalty flags prompted by both teams. A running clock in the final quarter ended the game none to soon.

Halstead didn’t mess around. Three plays following the opening kickoff, Aric Probst dashed off right tackle for a 58-yard touchdown just 1:03 into the contest. Scott Grider ran the 2-point conversation for an 8-0 lead.

After the Trojans turned the ball over on downs after nine plays, it took Halstead five plays to spring Dalton Kraus for a 40-yard score with 5:10 left in the quarter. Bryant Odendahl caught the 2-point conversion pass for a 16-0 Dragon lead.

To their credit, the Tro­jans responded with a 68-yard, 13-play drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Wes Shaw with 52 seconds left in the quarter. Shaw kicked the extra point to narrow the lead to 16-7.

Unfortunately, Probst returned the Trojan kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown with 36 seconds remaining. The 2-point conversion run made the score 24-7 as the first quarter ended.

But the Trojans regrouped again, driving from their 20-yard line to the Halstead 2, where Brooks Gardner penetrated the end zone with 7:56 left in the half. Shaw’s kick made it 24-14.

The Trojans caught a rare break when Halstead fumbled the football on the first play of its next possession. Gardner recovered the ball at the Trojan 16-yard line.

When a 6-yard loss put Hillsboro on the 20-yard line on fourth down, Shaw nailed a 36-yard field goal to pull the Trojans to within a touchdown at 24-17.

The game turned when Halstead added two more touchdowns in the final 6:43 of the first half. The first one came on a 2-yard run by Grider, and the second on a 26-yard pass to a wide-open Grider in the end zone with 17 seconds left for a 40-17 lead at intermission.

When quarterback Kaden Kleiner went down with an injury on the first play of the third quarter, the game’s outcome was all but sealed. Gardner stepped in for Kleiner to finish the possession, then Darian Ratzlaff took the controls the rest of the way.

Halstead rounded out the scoring with a 16-yard run by Grider with 6:29 to play for a 48-7 lead followed by a yet another Grider score at the 11:56 mark of the fourth quarter, giving the Dragons a 56-17 lead and a running-clock finish.

“We dug a hole pretty quickly and got behind by not being assignment-sound on defense,” coach Devin Metzinger said. “We know when Halstead comes to town what they’re going to run. We put game plans in to be able to stop it, but we just have to make sure we stay assignment-sound.”

The loss dropped Hills­boro to 1-4 in the league and for the season. The Dragons improved to 3-2 and 3-2.

Coming—Hillsboro travels to Haven Friday to take on the Wildcats (1-4) prior to the start of district play the following week.

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