Hillsboro came out against Southeast of Saline looking like a team that was ready for a disappointing season to be over.
The purple-clad Trojans from SES were more than happy to oblige, scoring almost at will in a 52-0 domination of their maroon-clad namesakes on a cold and windy Thursday night.
It didn’t take long to get a sense of where the game was headed. Southeast cashed in each of its first three possessions in the opening quarter for an 18-0 lead. Hillsboro’s only merit was that it prevented the home team from adding 2-point conversions after each score.
The scenario continued into the second quarter when quarterback Kaden Kleiner’s pass was intercepted by Southeast’s Tyler Breeding at the Hillsboro 15-yard line. Four plays later, SES quarterback Hunter White was in the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the game. This time the 2-point pass was good, giving Southeast a 26-0 lead with 10:08 left in the half.
But Southeast was far from finished. After Hillsboro lost a fumble on its next possession, the purple Trojans rolled down the field and scored in seven plays, with Kyler Berry running in from two yards out for a 32-0 score.
Still not finished. To add salt to the wound, Southeast recovered its squib kickoff at the Hillsboro 40.
Darian Ratzlaff picked off a White pass on the first play of that possession, but four plays later Hillsboro fumbled away another possession. Southeast recovered the football and scored in two plays, with White adding a 13-yard touchdown run to his resume. He also ran the 2-point conversion to push the lead to 40-0.
Still not through. Grant Tillberg intercepted another Kleiner pass, giving the home team another opportunity from the Hillsboro 15-yard line. Three plays later, White scored from six yards out. The 2-point pass failed, but Southeast led 46-0.
It appeared Hillsboro might punch in a touchdown before halftime. Starting at its own 47, the team drove to the Southeast 20 in 11 plays before turning the ball over on downs with 11.8 seconds left in the half.
As the third quarter began, the running clock eased the misery of Hillsboro fans, but it didn’t keep Southeast from scoring one more time. Seth Ecklund capped a 58-yard, four-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter for the final 52-0 margin.
Hillsboro came close to scoring when Kleiner connected with Jacob Funk for what appeared to be a 22-yard scoring pass in the final seconds—but it was waved off by the officials, who said Funk was out of bounds when he gained possession of the football.
The loss finished Hillsboro’s season, which was plagued by injuries with a relatively small roster to begin with, with a 1-8 record.
Southeast’s season also ended, but with a 4-5 mark.
Coach Devin Metzinger said it wasn’t that his team gave up before the game began.
“It wasn’t an issue of not wanting to be there, but more of an issue that when you start getting into that hole it becomes harder and harder to get out of it.” he said. “You start to force things, and when you start to force things it leads to more mistakes.
“We got in a hole early and tried to force some things that ended up backfiring on us, and then it just became a bigger hole, one that we wouldn’t be able to dig ourselves out of.”
Metzinger said he is proud of his team and particularly his seniors.
“Our senior class has had to go through a lot of stuff over the past four years,” he said. “There’s been high notes, there’s been low notes. But I’m extremely proud of them and they way the battled.
“In my two years here, this is the year they’ve had to battle the most because of adversity and all the things that have gone on through injury, though a tough schedule and everything else.
“They just continued to fight all year long and continued to bring their best—and they didn’t complain. They showed up every day and went to work on it.”