Fueled by big plays on offense and a determined front line on defense, the Hillsboro football team strengthened its credentials as a force to be reckoned with in the Central Kansas League with a convincing 28-6 win over Sterling at Joel H. Wiens Stadium.
The Trojans came out of the gate slowly, going three-and-out with two penalties in its opening series, then found itself facing a second-and-23 at its own 9-yard line on its second possession.
But the game turned on the next play when quarterback Tyler Proffitt kept the ball and swept the right side for a 92-yard touchdown. Jesse Brown?s kick made it 7-0 with 3:27 left in the opening period.
?We were dead at the beginning of the game until his run,? coach Lance Sawyer. ?He just sparked us. I thought he played pretty well.?
After the defense forced a second Sterling punt, the Trojans covered 89 yards in four plays, capped by Proffitt?s perfect strike to a sprinting Shaq Thiessen along the near sideline for a 57-yard score. Sterling?s Jed Dierkson blocked Brown?s kick, but Hills?boro led 13-0 with 10:03 left in the half.
Sterling?s next drive lasted 10 plays but ran out of gas on fourth down at the Trojan 34. Hillsboro then drove 64 yards in eight plays for a third score.
One play went for 22 yards on a pass from Proffitt to Lucas Sinclair, and the last play of the drive was a pass for 24 yards from Proffitt to a diving Evan Ollenburger in the end zone.
Brown?s kick put Hillsboro ahead 20-0 with 2:46 to play in the half.
Brown?s squib kickoff gave Sterling the ball at the Black Bear 27. Back-to-back face-mask calls against Hillsboro on the first two plays gave Sterling a first down at the Trojan 30-yard line. From there, the Black Bears sliced up the Trojan defense, scoring in three plays with running back Austin Maxwell, a man among boys at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, rumbling into the end zone from 8 yards out.
The Trojans did manage to stop quarterback Ryley Gaylon?s 2-point conversion run to keep the score at 20-6 with 1:37 left.
It was the last time Sterling?s offense would threaten the end zone.
One last highlight before intermission was Thiessen?s 84-yard punt that pinned the Black Bears on their own 3-yard line with 43 seconds to go.
After Sterling began the second half with a three-and-out, Hillsboro overcame three penalties?one that wiped out a 28-yard touchdown run by Evan Ollenburger?and still found its way to the end zone. Tyrell Thiessen caught a quick pass from Proffitt and ran for the final five yards on a third-and-4 play, capping a 13-play, 71-yard drive.
Hillsboro added a two-point conversion when Proffitt pitched to Ollenburger, who pitched to Brown, who passed to a wide open Shaq Thiessen in the end zone. The play gave the Trojans its final 28-6 margin with 6:44 left in the third period.
Hillsboro might have scored a couple of more times if not bogged down by the flag-fest of penalties the Trojans endured. HHS was flagged for 15 penalties for 125 yards while Sterling had 11 for 83 yards.
Proffitt contributed another strong passing performance in his second start, completing 14 of 22 for 261 yard for three scores and only one interception. Shaq Thiessen and Ollenburger each snagged four passes.
The Trojans finished with 376 yards of total offense compared to Sterling?s 208.
?We knew they were going to run that option coming out, and we knew their quarterback was pretty fast,? Sawyer said. ?But coach (Scott O?Hare, defense) called a really good game. I was impressed with our front four.?
With Hillsboro?s first two scores of the night, the Trojans now have five scoring plays this season exceeding 55 yards.
?With our athletes, I think that?s going to be the staple of our offense,? Sawyer said of the big play. ?We?ll grind out a couple of plays, and then we?ll just hit it.?
The Trojan coach credited his offensive line for a lot of his team?s productivity so far.
?Our line did an extremely good job blocking tonight,? he said. ?That was one of our worries coming in, that they were going to blitz. They did blitz, but our line did a great job of picking that up.?
Of all the good things he saw, Sawyer said he was most pleased that his team played four solid quarters after stumbling through the second half against Lyons a week ago.
?Our defense never let up and our offense just kept pushing,? Sawyer said. ?That (third-quarter) drive where we had third-and-15 and drove down the field for that last touchdown?that was a pretty big drive for us.?
Coming?Friday?s win improved Hillsboro?s record to 2-0 in the Mid Division of the CKL and for the season. This week the Trojans face what could be their best opponent yet when they host Nickerson (2-0), a 57-20 winner over Hesston last week.