Chance Reece, back in the lineup Friday after missing a game because of injury, rushes for some of his team-high 88 yards, which included a 27-yard go-ahead touchdown run.
Don Ratzlaff / Free Press
In the end, a win is a win even if it?s ugly. The Hillsboro Trojans survived a boatload of mistakes, lapses and missed opportunities to pull out a 24-12 victory at Herington Friday night (Oct. 23).
Together, the two teams accounted for 11 turnovers?six by Hillsboro and five by Hering?ton. It was a wonder anyone emerged victorious.
?I was worried we?d come in here flat, because we had done that against Ellinwood and against Sterling,? coach Max Heinrichs said. ?We?ve won those games, but we?ve looked terrible.
?It?s one of those where we came out and did enough to win,? he said. ?I?ll give (Hering?ton) credit, though, they were well prepared.?
The game started as expected for the favored 5-2 Trojans. The defense stopped Herington (1-6 coming in) in four plays after the kickoff, then Jacob Edwards returned the punt to the Hering?ton 26-yard line.
The Trojan offense scored six plays later on a five-yard pass from Jacob Fish to Ben Beber?meyer with 8:20 left in the opening quarter. Ethan Frantz?s extra-point kick was blocked for a 6-0 lead.
On that ominous note, the game seemed to unravel, especially for Hillsboro. By the end of the quarter, the Trojans had suffered two interceptions, one lost fumble and two center snaps that were fumbled but recovered. Meanwhile,
Herington had thrown two interceptions.
Fish?s second interception of the quarter turned into points for Herington when Dylan Barber returned the stolen pass to the Trojan 20. Three plays later, Drake Heitfeld scored on a pass from quarterback Matt Biehler.
Heitfeld was penalized for celebration, making Herington?s 2-point pass attempt a lengthy and ultimately futile effort. The game was tied 6-6 with 28 seconds left in the period.
After Fish threw his second interception to Barber to give Herington the ball at the Trojan 30 with 8:10 left in the half, Edwards came right back with his second pick of Biehler to give Hillsboro the ball at the 22.
From there, Hillsboro drove the length of the field and finally scored when Fish hit Taylor Hagen with an 8-yard TD pass at the 2:53 mark. The 2-point run fell short to keep the lead at 12-6, which lasted until halftime.
To start the third quarter, Hillsboro?s first possession consisted of a penalty, an incompletion, a quarterback sack, another penalty and an incompletion before the Trojans finally executed a fourth-down punt.
Herington took the ball and marched 51 yards in seven plays with Biehler scoring on a 13-yard run. Matt Yoder intercepted Biehler?s 2-point pass to keep the score tied at 12-12 with 7:31 left in the third period.
Hillsboro came back with a 62-yard scoring drive hindered by a personal-foul penalty on the Trojans, but also helped later by pass-interference called against Herington.
Chance Reece capped the drive with a 27-yard run up the middle with 3:14 left in the period. Frantz?s kicked veered left and it was 18-12, Hillsboro.
Early in the fourth quarter, Hillsboro drove from its own 45 to the Railer 13, but Reece?s fumble gave the football to the Railers at their own 10-yard line. Herington drove to the 31 before Biehler?s pass was snatched away by Hillsboro?s Daniel Dick, who returned it about 40 yards for a score with 4:46 left in the game. It was Dick?s second pick of the night.
Once more Hillsboro flubbed the extra-point kick, this one attempted by Max Bertinchamp.
The two teams swapped interceptions one more time to give Hillsboro possession at its own 49-yard line with 1:39 left in the game. This was significant because Hillsboro led only by 12 points, and needed to win by at least 13 points to be assured of a trip to the first round of the state playoffs?regardless of the outcome of next week?s finale with Marion.
Fish hooked up with Beber?meyer for a 45-yard pass to the Railer 3-yard line with enough time to punch in a score. But word came to the Hillsboro bench that Marion had defeated Southeast of Saline, 16-0, assuring the Trojans of a playoff spot since SES would be eliminated from contention.
Heinrichs opted to run out the clock at the 3-yard line, and the Trojans secured the 24-12 win?only to discover minutes later that the information they had received was wrong. South?east had defeated Marion, 16-0.
As Thursday?s showdown approaches, the door is cracked open to a bizarre finish to the end of the regular season. If Hillsboro defeats Marion, the Trojans proceed to the playoffs as the undefeated (3-0) district champion.
If Marion and Southeast would both win their games, all three teams would have a 2-1 record in district play.
Under the tie-breaker system, the Trojans could still advance if they would lose to Marion by 12 points or less or if Herington would upset Southeast.
?Thirteen points meant a lot and we didn?t get them,? Hein?richs said. ?Our goal is just to go out and win the game (on Thursday).?
Both teams finished with 182 passing yards Friday, with Fish completing nine of 30 passes and Biehler 21 of 34.
For Hillsboro, Bebermeyer led the receiving core with four receptions for 82 yards, while Reece added 64 yards on two receptions and picked up a team-high 88 rushing yards on 18 carries. The rest of the backs netted no yards on 17 carries.
Thursday?s game between the Trojans (6-2) and Warriors (5-3) will begin at 7 p.m. at Marion.