The win propelled the Trojans (6-4) into Saturday’s regional contest against Conway Springs (8-2), but the price of victory was huge. Quarterback Spencer Brown’s outstanding senior season essentially ended when he went down with a knee injury late in the first half.
By that time, Hillsboro had secured a 27-7 lead following back-to-back touchdowns less than 2 minutes earlier.
The game started, though, as a shootout between two teams that couldn’t amount an effective defense.
Brown returned the opening kickoff to the Hillsboro 40-yard line, then took off five plays later on a great fake to Jacob Yoder, skirting the end for a 44-yard score. He shanked his point-after kick, but Hillsboro led 6-0 a little more than 21⁄2 minutes into the contest.
But Sedgwick, led by halfback Jon Schrick, a 5-foot-5 dynamo, marched downfield with surprising ease. He capped an 80-yard, 10-play drive with a 4-yard score. Dillon Richardson kicked the extra point to put Sedgwick in front, 7-6, with 5:15 left in the quarter.
Then Hillsboro took its turn. Starting at the Trojan 20, Brown ran for 6 yards and Ishmael Morris for 19 before Brown and Yoder combined for a 55-yard scoring pass. Brown’s throw to Daniel Jost for the 2-point conversion put HHS ahead 14-7 with 3:42 left in the priod.
Sedgwick seemed unphased, marching from its own 20 to the Hillsboro 20 in 12 plays. Two plays after a holding penalty pushed the Cardinals back 10 yards, Loren Fields launched a pass toward the end zone.
Jost intercepted the ball at the goal line and then worked his way upfield for an apparent 100-yard touchdown return.
But the score was called back because of an illegal block. Instead of seven points, HHS was back at the Sedgwick 7-yard line with 8:32 left in the half.
Gratification was delayed, but not denied. Brown engineered a masterful 93-yard drive that culminated with a 5-yard Yoder touchdown run. Brown’s kick made it 21-7 with 2:31 to go.
The game breaker came on the ensuring kickoff when Sedgwick fumbled and Andy Klassen recovered the ball for Hillsboro at the Sedgwick 35.
The Trojans were in the end zone four running plays later with Brown scoring from a yard out with about 1:30 left in the half. The kick was blocked, but HHS was clearly in command at 27-7.
The Trojans almost scored again before halftime after Morris intercepted a Sedgwick pass on the Cardinals’ first play from scrimmage.
Five plays later, including a 15-yard run by Brown that took him down, an apparent 15-yard touchdown run by Yoder was called back on a false-start penalty.
Time had run out, but the Trojans got a second chance at the end zone when Sedgwick players, thinking the half was over, left the sideline too soon. Officials penalized the team for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Junior varisty quarterback Jacob Fish, in for Brown, threw into the end zone for Klassen, but the pass fell incomplete.
Ultimately, the near-miss didn’t matter. Hillsboro scored three more unanswered touchdowns in the second half—one on a 29-yard run by Morris, one on a 1-yard run by Yoder and the last on a 1-yard run by Chris Couts with 10:11 left in the game.
Sedgwick scored on a 41-yard halfback pass with 8:55 left in the game, but by then it was simply a waiting game as the Trojan junior varsity played out the clock.
The final margin reflected Hillsboro’s statistical dominance. The Trojans rolled up 429 yards on the ground, including 156 yards from Yoder on 20 carries, 134 from Morris on 13 carries and 95 from Brown on only six carries.
Hillsboro threw the ball only four times, three times with one completion by Brown for 3 yards and a 19-yard connection by Fish—both to Jost.
“I knew we could run,” Coryea said. “We didn’t want to throw the ball because the wind was so strong.”
Meanwhile, after a shaky start, the Trojan defense finished with respectable numbers. The Cardinals managed only 129 rushing yards on 28 carries. They picked up 135 yards through the air, but Hillsboro picked off three of 15 pass attempts.
“We tried too many things, then settled down and did one thing,” Coryea said about shutting down Sedgwick’s early effectiveness. “We got into rhythm on defense instead of trying to guess what they were going to do.”
The joy of Hillsboro’s impressive win was tempered by the apparent loss of Brown, who cheered on his teammates from the sideline throughout the second half.
“I just feel for him because he’s such a strong competitor,” said coach Len Coryea. “He’d cut his leg off if it meant he could play. This is going to be hard for him.”