Dragons spoil Trojan opener
Two unanswered touchdowns push Halstead by Hillsboro, 14-9
Having to open the season against the Halstead Dragons didn’t exactly give Trojan football coach Max Heinrichs the easiest feeling.
The Dragons are coming off a 4-5 year and since Friday was the first game, Heinrichs and the Trojans were unsure what to expect.
It certainly didn’t help either team that the only films the Trojans had seen on the Dragons were last season’s.
Despite having just about everything go wrong for them in the first half, visiting Halstead’s (1-0) physical play and bamboozling ground game was enough to ruin Hillsboro’s (0-1) season opener Friday night, 14-9.
“Our execution wasn’t where I’d like it to be,” Heinrichs said. “They did a good job of holding the ball and their option game and their sweeps caught us off guard.”
“They’re a real physical team and we’re not ready for that yet. They made us play harder than we’re used to. It was just one of those things.”
One of those things was Halstead snatching a victory out of the jaws of defeat and the Trojans failure to take advantage of numerous opportunities.
Hillsboro showed promise on its opening drive, moving all the way to the Dragon 18-yard line with the help of a 22-yard pass from Luke Moore to Caleb Hilliard.
That drive stalled with the Trojans turning it over on downs.
Halstead fumbled four times —losing three of them — and its opening drive ended on the first snap with Devin Dick recovering at the Dragons 18.
One play later, the Trojans were up 6-0, with Moore firing to Ben Bebermeyer for an 18-yard score.
Moore completed 11-of-24 for 155 yards with five completions going to Bebermeyer for a game-high 108 yards.
Ben Gardner’s PAT kick went wide left, but Hillsboro had taken the lead less than 4 minutes, 13 seconds into the game.
The Dragons tough bout with hanging onto the ball continued early in the second quarter with Dylan Delk recovering Halstead’s second fumble at the Trojan 29.
Moore went deep for Bebermeyer on the first play of the ensuing drive on a 54-yard completion, setting up Hillsboro with only its first of two trips inside the Halstead 20.
An illegal substitution penalty marred the drive on fourth down, though, leaving the Trojans to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Gardner to stretch the lead to 9-0.
When they figured out how to hang onto the ball, the Dragons ground game tore the Trojan defense apart with 5-foot-4, 155-pound tailback Rodney Strohl running rampant for a game-high 169 yards on 27 carries.
For the game, the Dragons 253 yards rushing alone was nearly 60 yards better than the Trojans entire offensive output.
Heinrichs wanted to emphasize a balanced offense this year, however, the Trojans had a hard time getting anything going running the ball, averaging just 1.8 yards a carry and 39 yards.
Halstead swiped Hillsboro’s momentum by halftime with Peyton Wingert ripping off a 21-yard gain on the opening play to move the Dragons to the Trojan 32.
Facing a second-and-goal from the 5, quarterback Simon McKee’s bootleg around the right side pulled the Dragons to within 9-7 after Ethan Rodenberg’s PAT just before the break.
The Trojans offense shriveled up the second half partly because of the swarming Halstead defense keeping the passing game in check and smothering the run.
Of Hillsboro’s five drives, its own 44 was its best starting point and the Trojans never inched any closer to midfield than the 46, twice going three-and-out.
By that time, the Dragons had taken command, 14-9, with Strohl nearly strolling into the end zone untouched on a 14-yard touchdown up the middle with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
With its ground game shut down, Hillsboro still had a few chances left passing.
Moore was just 4-for-12 the second half, and a pair of catches for 25 yards by Bebermeyer still didn’t get the Trojans past midfield.
Hillsboro’s last chance with 4:56 left in the game sealed its fate.
Moore went 3-for-8 on the drive, while being sacked once on first down.
To make matters worse two downs later, a false start on the Trojans made it third-and-17.
Halstead’s win was saved with Moore’s pass to Bebermeyer short of a first down.
“Their quickness on the line was a big difference,” Heinrichs said. “We had several guys cramping up and several blown assignments.
“We need to work on our running game this week as far as our counters, sweeps, and miss-directions go. We’ll be better the next game.”
The Trojans travel to Lyons on Friday with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The rebuilding Lions dropped a 20-7 decision to Marion in the first week.
Last modified Sept. 8, 2010