The Hillsboro High School football team was despondent after a 38-34 loss to Sedgwick Saturday in Hillsboro. Coach Lance Sawyer’s normally exuberant postgame speech was delivered in a whisper. The players could not hide their disappointment that the season would not continue to Friday.
“These kids expected more all year, that’s what made us good,” Sawyer said.
With the first loss of the season coming in the final game, the flavor of defeat was destined to be bitter, but the attitude the Trojans had after the game did not match their effort during the contest. The second half was a showcase for their resolve.
The Trojans started the second half down a touchdown, 22-14, in part because of turnovers and penalties.
“Turnovers killed us,” Sawyer said.
Tyler Proffitt threw three interceptions in the first half. The first occurred on the opening drive, a throw intended for Shaq Thiessen who was lined up in single coverage. Sedgwick was the first team since Remington who dared Hillsboro to beat them with fades deep down field to Thiessen. Drake Standefer caught the interception on an underthrown ball at midfield in the first quarter. He made a similar play on another deep pass to Thiessen at the end of the second quarter.
In between, Nic Johnson intercepted a fourth-and-5 slant intended for running back Tyrell Thiessen. Tyrell Thiessen was lined up as a receiver opposite a bunch of four wide outs. It was part of the Trojans game plan to work the receiver opposite the bunch in five-receiver sets. With another defender over the top, Johnson jumped underneath the slant route.
Proffitt was not the only Hillsboro player guilty of a turnover in the half. Shaq Thiessen fumbled Sedgwick’s first punt of the game in the second quarter. It set up Sedgwick’s third score of the game, a Logan Thompson 5-yard run with 6 minutes, 48 seconds left in the half.
Despite committing four turnovers in the half, the Trojans were still in the game because of Tyrell Thiessen. Tyrell Thiessen took the first play of Hillsboro’s second drive, an inside handoff out of shotgun, 63-yards up the left sideline for a touchdown. After breaking a tackle to burst through the 3-4 Sedgwick front, he was sprung by a downfield block from receiver Evan Ollenburger.
On the ensuing Sedgwick possession, linebacker Lucas Sinclair forced a Sedgwick fumble by standing up running back Dalton Brandt on a sweep run to the left. Defensive end Josh Wiebe recovered the fumble at the 9-yard line. Tyrell Thiessen took a sweep run to the right side of the offensive line, spun off a tackle, and landed in the end zone on the next play. Again facing single coverage, Shaq Thiessen caught a slant for the two-point conversion and Hillsboro tied the game at 14.
With Hillsboro in a 4-4 defensive alignment to stop the run, Josh Davidson was playing linebacker for Hillsboro. With Sedgwick threatening in the red zone, the Cardinals ran one of 14 pass plays in the game, a fake option, rollout right. Davidson jumped the hook pattern in the right side of the end zone for an interception and returned the ball just past the goal line. Davidson also had five tackles and Sawyer said the senior played his best defensive game of the year. It was a bounce-back performance after Davidson struggled snapping the ball against Haven on Oct. 30.
In spite of a rocky first half, Proffitt should not have hung his head after the game. The Hillsboro senior orchestrated three touchdown drives in the second half to keep the Trojans in striking distance. Sawyer had not asked Proffitt to try to win any games this season with his arm. The Trojans had to throw Saturday to have a chance and Proffitt delivered.
The Trojans started the third quarter backed up against their goal line. Proffitt led the Trojans on a nine-play drive, including two first down throws, the first on a screen to Tyrell Thiessen to get the Trojans out of the shadow of their goal posts and the second was a 35-yard slant Lucas Sinclair took to the Sedgwick 32-yard line.
However, Hillsboro faced fourth-and-8 at 37, when Proffitt unleashed a bomb to Ollenburger running a go route up the right sideline. Against double coverage, Ollenburger was able to come back to the ball and haul in the throw. He then eluded a Sedgwick tackler to dive into the end zone. Tyrell Thiessen punched the ball in with a fullback dive to tie the score at 22.
Sedgwick responded with a three-minute drive featuring all rushing calls. Thompson converted a first down on a fourth-and-2 run where he carried three Hillsboro tacklers. Brandt took the ensuing inside handoff 26 yards for the touchdown. Thompson thundered in for the two-point conversion, 30-22.
The Trojans had the ball again with 15.4 seconds left in the third. Going to the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Proffitt led a 10-play drive. Facing third-and-13, Proffitt delivered a strike to Tyrell Thiessen running a wheel route up the right side line for a 22-yard gain. Proffitt threw without budging from the pressure of an oncoming pass rusher.
Facing fourth-and-9 on the next series, Proffitt threw a back-shoulder bomb to Shaq Thiessen along the left sideline for a 29-yard gain. With a defender on his left hip, only Thiessen could have caught the accurately thrown ball. Proffitt brought up third-and-2 with a 9-yard out-route completion to Ollenburger and then picked up the first down with his legs on an inside dive. He finished the drive with a 6-yard rushing touchdown up the middle. The Trojans failed to convert the two-point conversion making the score, 30-28.
Thompson responded in kind, guiding Sedgwick on the defining drive of the game, a clock eater worth 12 plays and 5:53. Sedgwick’s option running game was unstoppable all game. Thompson piled up 215 yards on 31 carries, for a 6.9 average. Dalton Brandt had 136 yards on the ground. Sedgwick completed 22 rushing first downs in the game.
Even facing second-and-17 and first-and-15, the Cardinals chopped out massive blocks of yardage, especially three consecutive option runs in the middle of the drive. Thompson eventually scored his third touchdown of the game on an option run for five yards. He shook off three Hillsboro defenders for the two-point conversion.
Needing to work quickly, Proffitt completed four passes to Evan Ollenburger on a six-play drive. Ollenburger scored on a 30-yard go-route catch. He brought down the pass between two close defenders near the left front corner of the end zone. The resulting kick by Tyler Burst was blocked, 38-34.
Ollenburger caught seven passes for 86 yards receiving in the game.
“Evan is going to be a good player in the future,” Sawyer said. “He’s going to be the go-to guy.”
The Trojans lined up in a formation to onside kick, but Tyrell Thiessen squibbed the ball deep into Sedgwick territory. Tyrell Thiessen was subbing for Jesse Brown who was injured against Haven. Sawyer said if Brown had been in the game, Hillsboro would have attempted an onside kick.
Thompson sealed the Sedgwick victory with two first down runs.
The Trojans finish the season with a 10-1 record and bi-district, district, and league championship plaques.
“They’ve been great,” Sawyer said of his team. “These guys have been fun to coach. I wish we could have gone a little further.”