After enduring double-digit losses the previous three weeks, Hillsboro’s determined but dwindling band of brothers came agonizing close to victory Friday at Haven.
Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Trojans suddenly had victory within their grasp when co-quarterback Brooks Gardner threw to Caleb Potucek for a 57-yard score with 8:12 left in the game. The Trojans opted to go for the 2-point conversion, but the Wildcats stopped Gardner’s run attempt for the 14-13 score.
With Gardner and Darian Ratzlaff sharing quarterback duties—as starter Kaden Kleiner watched from the sidelines—the Trojans struggled to maintain offensive continuity.
Hillsboro started strong. After receiving the opening kickoff with a south wind at their backs, the Trojans drove 40 yards downfield before the possession stalled.
Haven, with their slight-of-hand spin offense, covered 73 yards in five plays, highlighted by a 57-yard jaunt by Wildcat Thane Unruh before he was brought down at the Trojan 5-yard line.
The Wildcats scored two plays laters when Wayne Winter crossed the goal line from three yards out. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but Haven led 6-0 with 5:56 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Haven’s Haxton Smith intercepted a Gardner pass, giving Haven possession at the Hillsboro 46.
Six plays later, the Wildcats were in the end zone again on a 1-yard plunge by Dalton Smith with 7:49 left in the half. Smith added the 2-point run for a 14-0 lead.
The Trojans responded promptly when Ratzlaff hit Jacob Funk in stride for a 76-yard touchdown pass. Wes Shaw’s extra-point kick hit the left upright but the ball ricocheted between the uprights for the 14-7 score with 5:55 left in the first half.
For the game, Hillsboro led Haven in total yards, 243 to 168, including 188 passing yards—all but 38 yards coming on the two long touchdowns.
“The guys didn’t give up, but the close (losses) hurt especially because the missed opportunities stand out more,” coach Devin Metzinger said afterward.
“We’ve got to figure out how to capitalize on those opportunities, and figure what we can do to get better at that.”
Metzinger said trying for the 2-point conversion was calculated gamble.
“We started to feel we were getting the pieces together to get back to kick a field goal or score another touchdown,” he said. “It just never quite happened.”
Coming—The Haven loss gives the Trojans a 1-5 record heading into the start of district play Friday versus Hesston.
The Swathers will come to Joel Wiens Stadium Friday with a 3-3 record after a challenging schedule. Kickoff is planned for 7 p.m.