Hillsboro falls short of victory by mere inches

Hillsboro?s Jakob Hanschu pulls down a pass from quarterback Justus Hilliard for 31 yards and a first down during the second quarter against Smoky Valley. Four plays later, Hanschu caught a second 31-yard pass from Hilliard for the Trojans? first score in a 21-20 loss. Phyllis Richert photoAn impressive fourth-quarter rally fell mere inches short of victory Friday as the Hillsboro football team dropped a 21-20 decision to Smoky Valley in Lindsborg.

With the loss, Hillsboro slipped to 1-4 for the season while Smoky Valley improved to 3-2.

After falling behind 21-7 midway through the fourth quarter, the Trojans rallied for two touchdowns to pull themselves to the brink of a much-needed win.

The first score came on the first play from scrimmage after the Vikings? third touchdown. Quarterback Justus Hilliard connected with an open David Dick down the middle for a 59-yard bomb with 6:51 to play. Jeff Jorgenson?s kick narrowed the gap to 21-14.

The defense then did its part, forcing a three-and-out on Smoky?s next possession. The Trojans then drove from the Viking 45-yard line to the 14 in eight plays.

On first down, Hilliard connected with Dick across the middle for a first-and-goal at the 1. Hilliard then scored on a quarterback sneak with 1:03 left.

With no hesitation, the Trojans went for the 2-point conversion and a victory. Hilliard took the snap, powered off left tackle, but was stopped inches short.

?We decided that when we got the ball,? coach Lance Sawyer said of the 2-point try. ?I asked them, are we going for two or going for one? Every one of them said we?re going for two. We just didn?t quite make the play.?

After being dominated by Hoisington the previous week, Hillsboro came out focused and battle-ready in the first half.

Near the end of the first quarter, the defense stopped four Viking plays inside the Trojan 10-yard line, with the offense taking over on downs at the 4. The first quarter ended four plays later.

On the first play of the second quarter, facing second-and-8, Hilliard connected with Jakob Han?schu down the middle of the field for a 31-yard pass that gave the Trojans a first down at the Viking 41.

Four plays later, Hilliard connected with Hanschu for a second 31-yard pass, this time for a touchdown at the 10:24 mark. When Jorgenson added the extra-point kick, Hillsboro enjoyed a 7-0 lead that it successfully defended the rest of the first half.

Smoky Valley grabbed the momentum to start the half second. Quarter?back Cole Norberg engineered three unanswered touchdowns as the Vikings built their 21-7 lead.

Norberg hit Brandon Archuleta for a pair of scoring passes in the third period, the first from 8 yards out with 6:52 left in the period, and the second at the 2:29 mark from 23 yards away. With 7:07 left in the game, Norberg added the third score on an 8-yard run.

For the night, the Vikings had a 317-263 yardage advantage in total offense. Smoky Valley out-gained Hillsboro on the ground, 237-101, but the Trojans had the advantage through the air, 162-80, with Hilliard completing eight of 12 passes.

Dick caught three balls for 72 yards while Hanschu accounted for 62 yards on his two catches.

Sawyer said his team improved significantly on both sides of the ball.

?I thought the offense played outstanding,? he said. ?Tyson (Reimer) came back (after sitting out with an injury last week) and ran the ball hard. Justus made some great plays. We had some receivers start to make plays.

?We need to throw the ball more than 10 yards down the field. If we can continue to make plays, we?ll continue to get better.?

Sawyer said his defense improved in at least one critical area.

?We didn?t give up big plays,? he said. ?We?re getting better, and it?s good to see those kids compete like that. It means a lot to them now.?

Coming?The Trojans have a chance to snap their four-game losing streak when they host Lyons (0-5) Friday at Joel H. Wiens Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Written By
More from Don Ratzlaff
Hillsboro basketball teams sweep Larned- Girl’s Team
More aggressive defensive play in the second half enabled the Hillsboro girls...
Read More