For three quarters of Hillsboro?s season finale football game at Council Grove Thursday, a young and gutsy Trojan squad had within its grasp that long-awaited first victory of the year.
But fate intervened. A 21-point burst by the home team over a span of 2:36 cemented Hillsboro?s winless season with a 40-24 loss.
Climbing to within 19-18 after Braden Vogt scored on a 63-yard pass from quarterback Jorge Hanschu late in the third quarter, the Tro?jans clearly had momentum.
Then Hanschu, a key contributor on offense all evening, was knocked out of the game as a defender on the Braves? first play of their next possession.
Council Grove then drove the remaining 75 yards in six plays, scoring on a 2-yard run by Keegan Honas with 10:04 left in the game to boost the lead to 26-18.
It was the doorway into the twilight zone.
Kaden Kleiner, stepping in for Hanschu at quarterback, had his pass tipped and then intercepted on the first play of Hillsboro?s next possession.
The Braves scored four plays later for a 33-18 lead.
Improbably, Kleiner?s first-play pass on Hillsboro?s next possession was intercepted as well. Council Grove scored one play later with a 25-yard pass.
It was a crushing 21-point blow.
?Jorge is turning into a leader and he showed it tonight,? coach Lance Sawyer said of the freshman. ?He played really well, he made great decisions. When Jorge went out it hurt. I think it hurt us more mentally than anything else.?
To their credit, the Trojans never rolled over, capping an eight-play, 76-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Kleiner to Vogt with 3:54 left for the final margin.
?I thought the kids played well, I thought we played really hard,? Sawyer said. ?Council?Grove is a decent team.?
At the start, neither team scored until Chandler White crossed the goal line at the end of a 25-yard reverse with 21 seconds left in the opening quarter. A 2-point run by Honas made it 8-0.
Hillsboro responded immediately, marching 69 yards in 11 plays with Car?son Herbel catching a 12-yard pass from Hanschu for the touchdown. Jeff Jorgen?son?s kick was blocked, keeping the Braves on top, 8-6, with 7:36 left in the first half.
White boosted the lead to 11-6 with a 27-yard field goal at the 4:36 mark. That lead held until halftime.
The Braves received the second-half kickoff and covered 51 yards in six plays with Paul Lamberson scoring on a 33-yard run at the 8:51 mark. Honas added another 2-point run for a 19-6 lead.
Hillsboro then scored twice?first at the end of a 54-yard, 12-play drive with Joe Knoll scoring on a 9-yard pass from Hanschu with 2:55 left in the third quarter. Jorgen?son?s kick was again blocked to keep the score at 19-12.
After Knoll recovered a Skerce fumble two plays into Council Grove?s ensuing possession, Hanschu connected with Vogt for a 63-yard score with 2:15 left in the third quarter. Hanschu?s 2-point conversion pass was not successful, but the Trojans were within a point at 19-18.
With the loss, the Trojans finish the year at 0-9?the first winless season for a Trojan team in 65 years, when Hillsboro finished 0-8 in 1950. Council Grove improved to 6-3.
Sawyer said this team has a bright future.
?We have a great group of kids,? he said. ?Even though we haven?t won, it?s been a great group to coach. Not many 0-8 teams play that hard in the ninth game. It?s a good group and we?re excited to have everyone of these guys back next season.
?We know we can play with some good teams,? Sawyer added. ?When get another year of growth on these kids, and we get our 12 guys back who are hurt right now, we?ll be OK.?