The Hillsboro High School football team lost to Sterling 30-14 Friday at Sterling, but the score does not tell the whole story.
Led by senior linebacker Luke Moore and senior defensive tackle Brandon Rooker, the Trojan defense consistently contained the Black Bears power T running game.
“Those guys are tough,” head coach Max Heinrichs said of his two senior leaders.
Hillsboro’s defensive ability was on display in two consecutive goal line stands to start the third quarter.
Facing third and goal at the 10-yard line, Moore tackled Sterling senior running back Chad Bennet for a 1-yard loss on first down. On second down, Tyrell Thiessen stopped Sterling senior quarterback Seth Humphries with a minimal pickup. The Trojans gang tackled the Sterling running back on third down. Hillsboro forced a long fourth-down throw to the corner of the end zone that fell incomplete.
However, the Trojan offense struggled all day to gain yards against a big and physical Sterling front seven — Sterling has six players listed at 230 pounds or more. Running back Mitchell Day was tackled for a 4-yard loss to start the series after the goal line stand and Trojans punted after four plays.
“They were just bigger and better than us,” Heinrichs said of Sterling. “We couldn’t match it.”
Having to kick from their own end zone, Sterling started their next drive deep in Hillsboro territory.
Senior linebacker Devin Dick wrapped up senior Sterling running back Bryant Patterson on a counter run for a 3-yard gain. Then Bennett was tackled by corner Christian Ratzlaff to bring up a third-and-2 opportunity. After an offside penalty on the Black Bears, senior defensive end Dylan Jirak came up with a 7-yard tackle for a loss and Sterling punted.
“Our corners did a good job containing the run,” Heinrichs said.
The Hillsboro returner caught the punt on a fair catch at the 2-yard line; the ball seemed destined for the end zone if the player would have let the ball drop as Heinrichs was instructing from the sideline. It was a mistake that gave Sterling a favorable swing in momentum.
Although Moore gained two yards on a quarterback dive, he was sacked in the end zone on the second play; he was looking to his left for Dick but could not find the open receiver before he was tackled for a safety.
Sterling expanded its lead to 14-6 and received the ball. They proceeded to march down the shortened field; Patterson scored a touchdown standing up after shaking off two defenders on an inside run. Bennett ran for the two-point conversion.
With a favorable return by Shaq Thiessen to the 38-yard line, the Trojans needed a score to break the home team’s momentum. Junior Lucas Sinclair was inserted at quarterback but he could not energize the offense to pick up a first down on a short fourth down conversion.
With another short field, Bennett eventually scored on a 10-yard run up the middle of the field, which Patterson punctuated with a right side off tackle run for the two-point conversion.
Sterling dominated in field position and time of possession throughout the contest.
“They just wore us out,” Heinrichs said.
Along with creating multiple tackles for losses, the Trojan defense also recorded two turnovers. Shaq Thiessen caught an interception in the first quarter, on one of three Sterling passing plays.
Senior corner Derek Kelsey recovered a fumble in the second quarter.
The Trojans did have a couple bright spots on offense. Moore scored two rushing touchdowns for Hillsboro’s scores; Day recorded the two-point conversion on an inside run after Moore’s touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Sinclair also played well in spot duty at quarterback. Formations involving Sinclair and Moore together, with Moore at running back, were especially effective in moving the ball. Sinclair has impressed coaches with his ability to run the option.
“Lucas is a free runner,” Heinrichs said. “He’ll do all three parts (of the option). We told him though if you pitch and it’s a bad pitch then we’ll yell at you.”
The Trojans play Friday at home against Kingman.
“We have a tough one next week,” Heinrichs said.