Hillsboro survives wild second half to beat Southeast in district opener

Hillsboro got some key defensive plays at critical moments to put the kabosh on a Southeast of Saline rally in the second half and escape with a 38-27 win at Southeast in the first round of district play on Friday.

Hillsboro seemed to have SES figured out in the first half as HHS jumped to a 20-0 lead before settling for a 20-7 halftime margin after the home team scored on 7-yard pass with 32 seconds left before intermission.

Hillsboro scored its three touchdowns on an 11-yard run by Chance Reece with 2:50 left in the first quarter, a fumble recovery in the end zone by Devin Dick about 1:30 later after a bad snap from center by SES, and then a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Luke Moore with 8:59 left in the second quarter.

The second half got crazy quickly for HHS when Moore was intercepted by Brock Long on the third play from scrimmage. Eleven plays later Long capped a 38-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:21 left in the quarter to pull SES to within 20-14.

Hillsboro had appeared to avert the score two plays earlier when they stopped Long on a fourth-and-three at the 1-yard line. But the official spot gave SES the first-and-goal by the thinnest of margins.

Hillsboro?s next possession went three-and-out and Reece?s high but short punt gave SES the ball at the Trojan 42. Seven plays later SES quarterback Nathan Peterson floated a pass over the head of his intended receiver and the HHS defenders, but it fell into the hands of SES receiver John Balthazor for a 20-yard TD at the 1:05 mark. Hillsboro blocked the PAT kick to keep the score knotted at 20-20.

When the SES kicker whiffed on the ensuing kickoff attempt, SES was called for illegal procedure and Hillsboro got the football at the SES 41-yard line. After Moore missed Bebermeyer on a long pass for the first play from scrimmage, Reece took the handoff and raced 41 yards for a TD. Ben Gardner missed the PAT kick as SES defenders poured through the offensive line. But Hillsboro led 26-20.

SES ran two plays on its ensuing possession before the clock ran out to complete the third quarter. One the first play of the fourth quarter, Gardner picked up a fumble in the SES backfield and rumbled 30 yards for Hillsboro?s second defensive touchdown of the night. The score remained at 32-20 when Moore?s 2-point conversion pass was intercepted.

But SES came right back on the legs and arm of quarterback Peterson. On a fourth-and-1 at the Hillsboro 45, Peterson sliced through the line and ran 28 yards to the 17. On the next play he connected with Cole Bright?bill for the touchdown pass. The kick made it 32-27 with 8:08 left in the game.

Hillsboro managed only 15 net yards on eight plays before having to punt back to SES. Reece?s kick from the 50 put SES on its own 6-yard line with 4:16 to play. Four plays, including a 42-yard run by Long, gave SES the ball at the Hillsboro 47 before Peterson was picked off by Ben Bebermeyer. The senior returned the ball to the SES 43-yard line with 2:20 left.

Hillsboro ran only a minute off the clock before having to punt the ball back to SES. But Reece?s kick stuck the home team on its own 2-yard line with 1:12 to play. With SES out of timeouts, the clock wound down to 19 seconds on five plays. Peterson then threw desperately downfield, but Hillsboro?s Caleb Hilliard grabbed the ball and went to his knee with 10 seconds remaining.

Coach Max Heinrichs, looking the maximum 13-point cushion in district play, called for a deep pass downfield. Moore and Bebermeyer came through for a last-second score on a 40-yard completion. With the score 38-27, Hillsboro still needed a 2-point conversion to go up by 13. But the game ended when Hills?boro was called for illegal procedure with no time left on the clock.

The win boosted HHS to 4-3 for the season and 1-0 in district play while SES fell to 3-4 and 0-1.

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