Great players make big plays even when they have been game-planned against. For the Hillsboro High School football team on Friday, that player was Shaq Thiessen.
Thiessen faced double coverage from his normal wide out position all night from Remington. He had one catch on a designed back-shoulder throw for 25 yards in the third quarter. He countered the Bronco defense scheme by running for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Except his 41-yard touchdown run was not a rushing play. Thiessen was perfectly content to punt the ball away facing fourth-and-21. The snap back to the Hillsboro punter was a wild toss over Thiessen’s head. He was barely able to corral the airborne ball with his left hand as the Remington defenders emerged to tackle him. He did not have enough time to attempt a punt. Instead of panicking, he swiftly juked to his right to avoid one tackler.
Seeing daylight, Thiessen sprinted up the left sideline leaving several Remington defenders far behind in pursuit. Avoiding another tackler, Thiessen cut across the field to the right. He ran into the end zone untouched for the Trojans’ first score with 1 minute, 22 seconds left in the half.
“That first touchdown was huge for momentum,” head coach Lance Sawyer said.
Two tackles for losses by Dylan Jirak and Evan Ollenburger forced Remington to punt to its 45-yard line. With 22.8 seconds remaining in the half, the Trojans struck again on a 21-yard pass from Tyler Proffitt to Ollenburger in the near left corner of the end zone. Ollenburger made the catch with two defenders in the area. The play was very similar to a Trojan interception earlier in the half, where Proffitt was looking for Ollenburger who was covered by two defenders. Both times Proffitt said the receiver was open; the second throw was on target.
Suddenly a half where the Trojans had struggled ended at 14-0. The floodgates had opened, leading to four Hillsboro touchdowns in the second half. The Trojans finished the game with a 42-0 victory.
Sawyer and Proffitt agreed that Tyrell Thiessen had his best offensive game of the year. He was the Trojans’ leading rusher and receiver against the Broncos. He ran eight times for 107 yards and caught four passes for 79 yards. He added a rushing and receiving touchdown.
“Some of his best runs were when he was carrying three or four guys at a time,” Proffitt said.
The Trojans’ running game accounted for 282 yards. Proffitt had 59 yards on 12 carries, including two late touchdowns.
Hillsboro was caught off guard by Remington’s methodical running attack. The Broncos were content to pound away with runs up the middle for four plays to pick up first downs. The Trojans surrendered 13 rushing first downs in the contest.
Kyle Regier compiled 188 yards rushing for Remington on 42 carries. Sawyer said the Trojans knew Regier was an athlete, but he was impressed with how well Regier ran late in the game.
“Nobody expected No. 34 to take that many hits,” Sawyer said.
The Trojans recorded their second shutout of the season in part because of big plays. Cody Delk recovered a Regier fumble when Remington was threatening in the red zone in the second quarter. Scott Brazil delivered the hit that jarred the ball loose.
Ollenburger forced a fumble on another Regier run in the second half. He hit the Remington runner low, Regier flipped end over end and dropped the ball on impact. Nathan Unruh recovered the ball.
Hillsboro also made several key fourth down stops.
“They bent at times, but they never broke,” Sawyer said of his defense.
The Trojans shaky start against Remington may serve as a wakeup call for the team as they head into district play starting Friday at Moundridge. Proffitt threw two interceptions, the second of which was picked off by Regier playing linebacker. He said he needs to limit the turnovers and he is going to work harder studying film to make the right reads on plays.
While some of Proffitt’s interceptions this year are the result of bad decisions, some are the result of the Hillsboro offense, which has lived off big plays, mostly throwing the ball deep. Proffitt has taken risks on deep throws.
Sawyer stressed that the Trojans will not be able to change who they are at this point in the season, but that they are working on plays to take advantage of what the defense is giving them. One example was Shaq Thiessen’s one catch. The route was a designed fade, but facing zone, Thiessen stopped for a hitch with the ball in mid-flight and caught the pass between the corner and safety.