For the first time this season, the Trojans were shut out offensively, scoring their only touchdown of the night on a 55-yard interception return by Justus Hilliard in the closing seconds of the first half.
Hoisington, meanwhile, drove the ball almost at will for most of the night. The final score might have been worse, but the Cardinals stopped themselves four times on three lost fumbles and Hilliard?s pick-six interception.
?We got dominated up front on both sides of the ball,? coach Lance Sawyer said. ?Coach (Scott) O?Hare put in a heck of a defense to put our kids in the right spot to make plays, but we just lost our confidence again.?
The Trojan defense started well, keeping Hoi?sington off the board until Brandon Ball kicked a 28-yard field goal with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
The Cardinals added a touchdown at the 7:16 mark of the second quarter on a 26-yd run by Hunter Hanz?lick. Hillsboro blocked the kick to keep the score at 9-0.
Hoisington struck again late in the half, recovering a fumble by Hilliard at the Cardinal 35, then scored in three plays?the final one being a 43-yard run by Hanz?lick with 2:26 left. The extra-point kick missed the mark and the Trojans were still within two scores at 15-0.
After Hillsboro punted the ball back to Hoisington with 29.8 seconds left in the half, Cardinal quarterback Tyler Specht launched a deep pass down the Hoising?ton sideline.
Hilliard snatched the aerial, zig-zagged his way through a flock of pursuing Cardinals, then crossed the goal line with 16 seconds remaining. Jeff Jorgenson?s kick was blocked for a 15-6 halftime score.
Hoisington continued to wear down the Trojans as the second half began. After Rudy Gearhart ran back the opening kickoff to the Hoisington 46-yard line, the Cardinals actually scored twice on the drive?first on a 22-yard touchdown run by Hanzlick that was called back on an offensive face-mask penalty, then later for real on a 4-yard run by Hanzlick, who fumbled near the goal line then recovered the loose ball in the end zone. When Ball converted the kick, the visitors led 22-6.
A 35-yard touchdown run by KC Stephens pushed the lead to 28-6 with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
The outcome of the game seemed sure, but Hillsboro responded by putting together its most impressive drive of the night.
Shifting into hurry-up mode, the Trojans drove from their own 29-yard line to the Hoisington 8 in seven plays. The highlight of the drive was three quick passes from Hilliard to sophomore Carson Herbel?his first receptions of the season.
But at the 8-yard line, Hillsboro imploded. Two delay-of-game penalties and three sacks of Hilliard pushed the ball all the way back to the 31-yard line, with Hoisington taking over on downs.
?When we go to that offense we have to be solid, but we weren?t solid at the end,? Sawyer said. ?We just didn?t convert.?
The Cardinals scored their final touchdown on a 17-yard sweep by Dolechek with 5:06 left in the game.
The impact of Hoising?ton?s line play is reflected in the total-offense numbers: The Cardinals rolled up 449 yards while holding the Trojans to 125, including a mere 55 yards on the ground on 27 carries.
With the loss, Hillsboro?s record fell to 1-3 for the season while Hoisington improved to 3-1.
Having lost their last three games by an average score of 44-15, Sawyer said his team will need to look deep within itself to turn the season around.
?They?ve got to believe they can win,? he said. ?That?s one thing we?ve got to work on?toughness and a little belief that we can actually win these games.?
Coming?The Trojans have a chance to rebound Friday when they travel to Lindsborg to take on Smoky Valley, who is 2-2 after losing to Halstead last Friday, 38-20. Kickoff is 7 p.m.