Trojans one bullet short in shootout loss to Moundridge

 Justus Hilliard (5) follows the blocking lead of Evan Ollenburger during a second-half kickoff return in the opening district game between Hillsboro and Moundridge. The Trojans ended up on the short end of an offensive shootout, 40-35. The first round of district play Friday turned into a shootout between two teams with nearly opposite attack strategies.

In the end, the ground game of Moundridge prevailed over the passing attack of Hillsboro, 40-35, on a damp and cold night at Joel H. Wiens Stadium.

?We still have a chance,? coach Lance Sawyer said about his team?s prospects following the loss. ?We?ve just got to get all the miscues out of the game and play a full four quarters?which we haven?t done all year.?

The two teams traded touchdowns almost from the start. After Moundridge scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Garrett Higgins at the 5:29 mark, Hillsboro countered with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Jesse Brown to Jordan Faul to tie the game at 7 with 4:38 left.

Moundridge countered with an 8-yard pass from Higgins to Kyle Huxman with 46 seconds left in the first quarter, then seemed to take control when Colby Badman broke loose for a 54-yard touchdown run for a 21-7 lead just 17 seconds into the second quarter.

But Hillsboro struck back in two plays. A run by Brown, combined with a personal foul by Moundridge, carried the Trojans from their own 28-yard line to the 45. Brown then hit Faul with a 55-yard pass for the touchdown that cut the lead to 21-14.

The offense subsided until the final minute before halftime. Hillsboro had driven from its own 18 to the Wildcat 8-yard line?thanks in large part to a 61-yard completion from Brown to Justice Hilliard.

Facing fourth-and-goal at the 1, Brown attempted to sneak the ball across the goal line, but fumbled. Team?mate Cody Delk picked up the ball and stepped into the end zone for the game-tying score with 47 seconds left.

On the opening possession of the second half, the Trojans took their first lead, capping a five-play, 63-yard drive with a 17-yard scoring pass from Brown to Delk to make the score 28-21.

Moundridge rallied later in the period with a 54-yard, nine-play drive that ended when Higgins scored from a yard out.

Hillsboro regained the lead one last time when Preston Nelson took a swing pass from Brown and scored from two yards out with 10:51 left in the final quarter.

But on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession, Wildcat DeShawn Pfieff took a handoff on a reverse and raced 65 yards for what appeared to be the tying touchdown.

But for the first time all evening, a kicker missed an extra point. Leo Sontag was five-for-five for the Trojans, but this time Moundridge?s Badman misfired after kicking his first four PATs successfully.

Hillsboro led 35-34, and desperately needed to run some time off the clock. But without a running game, the Trojans went three-and-out and Moundridge had the ball again only 57 seconds later.

From there, the Wild?cats launched a 13-play drive to the Trojan 18. Badman then swept the left end and scored with 2:54 to play. The 2-point conversion run by Stucky failed for the 40-35 lead.

Hillsboro?s hopes of a late comeback ended when Brown?s deep pass downfield was intercepted at the 2:32 mark. Moundridge then ran out the clock.

?That was my call,? Sawyer said of the pass. ?It was a play we hadn?t run. We put them in a bad spot.?

For the game, Mound?ridge outran the Trojans 406 yards on 63 attempts to 12 yards on 16 attempts. Hills?boro finished with 293 yards through the air on 18-for-31 passing while the Wildcats managed only 24 yards on 3-for-7 passing.

The victory improved Moundridge?s season record to 3-4, while Hillsboro dropped to 3-4.

Coming?Hillsboro will travel to Marion Friday for Round 2 of district play. The Warriors are 6-1 for the season and 1-0 in the district.

Admission to the game is free, thanks to the generosity of county banks. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

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