Hillsboro secures overwhelming victory

A Marion fumble was recovered by the Trojans’ #67, Tristan Rathbone. Karrie Rathbone / Special to the Free Press
A Marion fumble was recovered by the Trojans’ #67, Tristan Rathbone. Karrie Rathbone / Special to the Free Press
In an intra-county district football matchup on a night when temperatures dropped into the 30’s, both Hillsboro and Marion started a bit cold by trading fumbles on each of their first possessions. But although the teams combined for eight turnovers in the game, it was Hillsboro that lit up the scoreboard for an eventual 51-14 victory.

“This team is on a three-game winning streak,” Hillsboro coach Demetrius Cox said. “They’re starting to improve, and they’re showing some growth. Two great seniors to lead the way. We just played solid tonight overall.”

Hillsboro struck first when Matthew Potucek connected with Hunter Hein for a 35-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter, which ended with the Trojans in front, 7-0.

In the second quarter, the Trojans sandwiched a Warrior fumble with a pair of touchdowns—first, a 19-yard pass from Potucek to Frank Wichert, and later, a 1-yard touchdown run by Potucek that increased Hillsboro’s lead to 20-0 with 8:33 remaining in the first half.

Not to be outdone, Marion rallied, capitalizing on a Trojan fumble and scoring twice in a 2:18 span. In his first game under center, quarterback Seth Lanning crossed the goal line on a 28-yard touchdown run, and later, completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jaxton Tracy that put the Warriors within 20-14 and temporarily silenced the home crowd with 3:57 left in the half.

“We executed well,” Marion coach Shaun Craft said of the Warriors’ second-quarter success. “Seth read the option like you’re supposed to and Calib (Mallory) was running hard. We also got a turnover off a great play by Braedon Mercer, and then we were able to capitalize on that.

“We had a chance to keep the momentum going but gave another huge third down and long conversion where we had their quarterback sacked, but he was able to get the pass off at the last second for a long touchdown.”

Momentum shifted Hillsboro’s way when the Trojans added a pair of touchdown passes in the final 2:34 before intermission. Matthew Potucek threw a 66-yard strike to Caleb Potucek to make it 26-14, and with 17 seconds left in the half, connected with Hein for a 53-yard touchdown completion, for a 32-14 Trojan advantage at halftime.

Luke Lanning intercepted a pass on Hillsboro’s first possession of the third quarter, but the Warriors fumbled not long after, with Tristan Rathbone recovering the ball.

That set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Potucek to Wichert in the back corner of the end zone, increasing Hillsboro’s lead to 38-14, which held through the end of the third quarter.

Hillsboro scored on both of its fourth-quarter possessions—a 20-yard touchdown pass from Potucek to Hein at the 8:51 mark, and a 77-yard touchdown run by Caleb Potucek that brought it to the final spread and set a running clock into effect with about 6:00 remaining.

“Even when they started making a run, my team still faced adversity and they just overcame things,” Cox said. “We had a lot of third-and-longs, second-and-longs where we just overcame down and distance to be able to score or to pick up the first down. These guys are growing.”

Hillsboro presented a balanced attack, rolling up 524 yards of offense.

Through the air, Matthew Potucek was 11-for-16 for 297 yards and six touchdowns. Hein hauled in five receptions for 138 yards and three touchdowns.

The Trojans recorded 227 rushing yards, led by Caleb Potucek with 15 carries for 137 yards and one touchdown.

Cole Kaufman led the defense with five tackles.

Marion, meanwhile, recorded 164 yards of offense, including 143 rushing yards. Calib Mallory led the attack with 19 carries for 79 yards.

Through the air, Seth Lanning was 3-for-9 for 21 yards and one touchdown.

Mercer led the defense with two solo tackles.

Marion’s scoring opportunities were limited as a result of five lost fumbles—three in the first half, two in the second.

Coming—Hillsboro improves to 1-0 in Class 1A, District 2, 4-2 overall. Marion, meanwhile, falls to 0-1, 1-5. The Trojans will host Leon-Bluestem (0-1, 1-5) Friday, while Marion will host Olpe (1-0, 6-0).