The Hillsboro Trojans had a plan, focus, and desire on their side when they took to Reimer Field against state-ranked Halstead on Friday.
What they didn’t have were the matchups they needed to withstand the onslaught of bigger, faster, more experienced players the Dragons threw at them, as Halstead piled up eight touchdowns and 459 rushing yards to bury the Trojans 55-7.
“I thought our kids came out ready to play,” coach Lance Sawyer said. “Offensively and defensively we were ready for what they were going to do. I think we just weren’t ready for the speed and physicality that they were going to come out and do it with.”
That was apparent on Halstead’s first play from scrimmage, when Blake Beckett left Hillsboro defenders grasping at air as he dashed 83 yards for a touchdown.
“I think the first play kind of set the tone,” Sawyer said.
That tone was akin to a roaring bulldozer, as the Dragons scored six more touchdowns before halftime, including a 50-yard score by Beckett, who rushed for 178 yards.
Trailing 43-0 going into the second half, the Trojans had to battle another opponent, a running clock, to try to get something on the board.
Their first drive stalled, but in the fourth quarter Jacob Funk pulled down a 23-yard sideline scoring pass from Kaden Kleiner, and Wes Shaw kicked the extra point.
Hillsboro’s jubilation was short-lived, as Halstead returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown, accounting for the 55-7 final.
Sawyer grudgingly agreed his team faced a tough challenge against the Dragons, ranked in the top-5 in Class 3A in several state polls, but refused to use that as an excuse for the outcome.
“This shouldn’t happen,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of leaders. We have some athletes that make plays. I don’t think these kids ever played down. They believed walking on this field they could win this game.”
Sawyer said several players sidelined by injuries could be back in practice this week, including starters Eliot Ollenburger and Travis King. That should help, he said, to develop more consistency.
“We’re not going to overthink anything this week,” he said. “We’re going to work on perfect execution, both offensively and defensively. We want to be known for playing fast and hitting. We’ve got to get to that point.”