Marion?s Drew Maddox runs for a seven-yard gain early in the second quarter of Thursday?s game. The senior finished with a game-high 169 yards on only 15 carries.
It?s rare that both teams can walk away a winner after a football game, but that?s what happened in Thursday night?s regular-season finale between Hillsboro and Marion.
The Warriors prevailed in the game, 21-20 in overtime. But for losing by fewer than 13 points, Hillsboro returned home with the District 9 championship and will move on to bi-district play while Marion concluded its season. Hillsboro (6-3), Marion (6-3) and Southeast of Saline (8-1) each finished 2-1 in district play.
This was the third straight year the matchup between the two intra-county foes ended in a one-point overtime win in district play; Hillsboro won the previous two games.
?It is certainly bittersweet,? Marion coach Grant Thierolf said of the win. ?We knew what we needed to do going into the game, and we were not able to accomplish our end goal.
?You win the game against your county and league rival, you win bragging rights for the year, you win the final MCAA game that you play, and you know that there was still more out there,? he added. ?It was just a surreal end to a very good season.?
Adding to the surreal ending was the streak of overtime games.
?I don?t know of any other rivalry out there that has had three games in a row end in one point games in overtime,? Thierolf said. ?I do know that it was good for our kids and our fans to end up on the top end of the score this year.?
Hillsboro coach Max Heinrichs said his team was playing to win the game, not just the district championship.
?It?s probably right that it?s our turn to lose an overtime game to them,? Heinrichs said. ?I?m disappointed and our kids are disappointed?and that?s what makes me more proud of them than anything.?
The game was tied 14-14 at the end of regulation play on a misty, chilly and breezy night. Marion won the toss and elected to defend.
Hillsboro capitalized on its possession with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Fish to Jacob Edwards on second down.
But when Ethan Frantz?s extra-point kick veered right, the door was open for Marion to grab the victory.
The Warriors used a run and a face-mask penalty to get to the 1-yard line on their first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Matt Sprowls snuck it in from there on the next snap. Mitch Cady?s kick angled right but still passed through the goal posts for the winning point.
Hillsboro?s Jacob Edwards leaps to grab a touchdown pass from Jacob Fish during the first overtime of the Trojans? 21-20 loss to Marion. Edwards grabbed four passes for 57 yards.
Hillsboro drew first blood in the contest when Fish hit Taylor Hagen with a 17-yard touchdown pass over the middle with 1:30 left in the first quarter. Frantz?s kick made it 7-0. The big play on the drive was a 51-yard pass from Fish to Ben Bebermeyer, moving the ball from the Trojan 20 to the Warrior 29.
Marion wasted little time cashing in its first touchdown, scoring in six plays. Sheldon Boone registered runs of 10, 42, nine and seven yards on the brief drive, but it was Sprowls who registered the touchdown on a 1-yard keeper. Cady?s kick tied the game with 11:05 left in the half.
Marion took the lead minutes later. A long punt return by Boone gave Marion the football at the Trojan 35-yard line. On the next play, Drew Maddox blistered the left end for a touchdown along the home sideline. Cady?s kick made it 14-7 with 4:20 left in the half.
Marion maintained that lead through halftime, but Hillsboro scored on its first possession of the second half on a 51-yard drive.
On the fourth play of the drive, Fish hit Edwards with a 25-yard pass to put the ball at the Marion 13. On consecutive plays, Marion defenders muffed opportunities for interceptions, possibly for scores. Fish then hit Edwards with a 10-yard pass to the 3-yard line.
The Trojans almost frittered away the opportunity when three penalties and a bobbled snap contributed to a third-and-six for HHS at the Warrior 14. But Fish hooked up with Hagen on the same play that worked earlier in the contest and got the same result?a touchdown.
Frantz?s kick made it 14-14 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
Marion then pieced together a time-consuming drive that started at the Warrior 24 with 1:39 left in the third quarter. It ended 18 plays later when Maddox was stopped on a fourth-and-three at the Trojan 9-yard line. Boone had made it into the end zone four plays earlier on a 16-yard run, but the apparent touchdown was nullified by a holding call against Marion.
Hillsboro took over with 6:01 left in the final quarter at its own 8-yard line. The Trojans drove to midfield?first throwing deep, then using as much clock as possible?before punting to Marion with 1:05 left in the contest. The Warriors ran out the clock to force overtime.
?I wanted to go for the win, that?s why we threw some long ones,? Heinrichs said. ?But at a point I said, let?s run the clock down, let?s be smart with this thing. That?s what we did.?
On the hard running of Maddox and Boone, Marion held the advantage in total yards, 344 to 268. All but four of Marion?s yards came on the ground, with Maddox rolling up 169 on 15 carries and Boone 149 on 24 carries.
?Our run offense was pretty good most of the night,? Thierolf said.
?We were able to run inside and outside for much of the night, but we failed to pick up key conversions on some big third and fourth downs.?
As has been the case for most of the season, Hillsboro controlled the airways with 216 yards on Fish?s 11-for-26 passing. He surrendered interceptions to Marion?s Colten Johnson and Randy Carlson.
Bebermeyer led the Trojan receiver corps with 119 yards on four receptions for his third 100-yard performance in the past four games. Edwards grabbed three passes for 52 yards and Hagen finished with four receptions for 41 yards.
?I thought our defense was pretty good most of the night,? Thierolf said. ?We gave up too many plays on third down, but sometimes the other team makes good plays.?
Heinrichs said both teams gave a strong effort.
?(Marion) came and played hard, we came and played hard,? he said. ?I think we took away each other?s strengths quite well. Grant does a nice job here. His teams are always physical and they get after it.?
Coming?As district champions, Hillsboro was scheduled to take on District 10 runner-up Sedgwick (7-2) Tuesday night at Joel H. Wiens Stadium. A report of the game will be available at hillsborofreepress.com that night.
Should the Trojans get past the Cardinals, they will take on the winner of the showdown between Garden Plain (8-1), ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, and Wichita Collegiate (9-0), ranked No. 5.
Game location and starting time will be announced after the games have been completed.