Hillsboro responded to a sluggish first half Thursday night with a 21-point blitzkrieg in the first 8:30 of the third quarter to claim a 35-8 win Thursday at Halstead in the final regular-season game of the season.
The victory gives the undefeated Trojans (9-0), the District 12 championship (3-0), the Central Kansas League North Division championship (4-0) and the school a seventh-straight berth in bi-district play Tuesday.
“It’s a proud moment for those seniors,” said first-year coach Lance Sawyer about the first undefeated regular season for Hillsboro since 2001. “They are a great group of guys. But I don’t think we’re done. I think we can go a long way from here.”
Hobbled by penalties and miscues, the Trojans seemed less than focused in the opening half of this game, though.
Even so, Hillsboro got on the board midway through the first quarter when Tyrell Thiessen grabbed a swing pass from quarterback Tyler Proffitt and ran 64 yards for a touchdown. Jesse Brown kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 5:26 on the clock.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, a punt return by Brown gave the Trojans the ball at their own 49-yard line. Overcoming three illegal-procedure penalties during the drive, Thiessen scored on the 16th play with a nine-yard screen pass from Proffitt. Brown’s kick made it 14-0 with 9:27 left in the half.
Halstead scored right before halftime with an 82-yard drive that was aided by a Trojan personal-foul penalty at the end of a run that gave the Dragons the ball at the Trojan 45.
Seven plays later Alex Thibault ran in from 15 yards away, then added a 2-point conversion run to cut the margin to 14-8 with 1:29 to play.
The third quarter changed the landscape of the game.
After intermission, Hillsboro recovered Halstead’s onside kick at its 49-yard line. Opting for a hurry-up offense, the Trojans scored in five plays with Thiessen rumbling in from six yards out for his third score of the night. Brown was good as gold on the kick, and the Trojans appeared to be in command at 21-8 with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
Another three-and-out capped by a short Halstead punt gave Hillsboro a short field at the Dragon 33-yard line. Still in the hurry-up mode, Hillsboro was in the end zone five plays later, this time on a 16-yard pass from Proffitt to Shaq Thiessen along the Halstead sideline. Brown’s kick made it 28-8 with 7:15 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Halstead picked up one first down, but then ran out of downs when the Dragons opted to run on a fourth-and-five from their own 35-yard line.
Hillsboro pounced on the opportunity and scored in five plays when Proffitt crossed the goal line from a yard out with 3:33 left in the third period. Another kick by Brown put the score at the final 35-8 margin.
“We just needed to come out and control the ball,” Sawyer said about his team’s third quarter. “We weren’t winning the line battle to begin with, at least not often. That’s what we talked about (at halftime).”
The Trojans seemed to take their foot off the gas at that point, and Halstead began to move the ball. But twice, when the Dragons threatened to add points, the Trojans intercepted passes in the end zone to kill the threat.
Lucas Sinclair grabbed one of the picks and Brown the other. Add a fumble recovery and an interception by Shaq Thiessen in the fourth quarter and Hillsboro was able to maintain its 27-point lead to the final gun.
Tyrell Thiessen finished with 121 rushing yards on 14 carries to account for well over half of Hillsboro’s 229 yards on the ground. Proffitt added 196 yards through the air on 18-for-25 passing to give the Trojans 455-265 advantage in total offense.
Even with Tyrell Thiessen’s big night on offense, Sawyer was even more impressed with the senior’s defense.
“I thought defensively this was his best game,” Sawyer said. “He made a lot of tackles. He got off the ball and won a lot of one-on-one battles, which is good to see. We need that to continue.”
Coming—By virtue of being the district champion, Hillsboro was scheduled to host fellow CKL member Haven (4-5), the runner-up team in District 11, in a bi-district game Tuesday night at Joel H. Wiens Stadium.
Should the Trojans get past the Wildcats, they will play the winner of Sedgwick (8-1) and Chaparral of Anthony (4-5) Saturday. If Sedgwick wins, the game will be at Joel H. Wiens Stadium. If Chaparral pulls off the upset, the Trojans will be on the road.
Coach Lance Sawyer said he and his team aren’t ready to wrap up the season anytime soon.
“We talked about having high expectations even before the season started,” Sawyer said. “We talked about what this team could accomplish. We’re still not there yet.”