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Last minute denial sinks Trojans, 21-20

News editor

A game filled with big defensive stands ended with the biggest, as Smoky Valley stopped Hillsboro’s Justus Hilliard inches shy of the goal line on a last-minute conversion attempt to preserve a 21-20 win Friday over the visiting Trojans.

The play was a sour ending to a furious Trojan comeback in the game’s final seven minutes.

Hillsboro took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Hilliard hooked up with receiver Jakob Hanschu on a 31-yard touchdown pass.

Smoky Valley roared back in the second half, taking a 21-7 lead with 7:07 remaining when Cole Norberg scored on an 8-yard run and 2-point conversion, capping a three-touchdown barrage that erased Hillsboro’s 7-0 halftime lead.

It took one play, a 59-yard touchdown pass from Hilliard to David Dick, for the Trojans to get back into the game. Hilliard connected with Dick in an open crease at the 50, and the senior receiver slipped out of the grasp of a diving Vikings defender to outrace everyone to the end zone. With Jeffrey Jorgenson’s extra point, the Trojans trailed 14-21 with 6:51 remaining.

Norberg ran for 215 yards in the game, but none of those came on Smoky Valley’s next possession, which started at the Vikings 16. Trojans Dusten Plenert and Cody Craney dropped Norberg for a 1-yard loss on first down. Jesse Meier held Norberg to 4 yards on second down, then Plenert sliced through the line to throw Norberg for a 3-yard loss. Following the Vikings punt, Hillsboro took over at the Smoky Valley 45 with 4:40 remaining.

After a short run by Tyson Reimer and a Smoky Valley penalty, Hilliard ran for 10 yards and a first down at the Vikings 25. On fourth-and-2 at the 17, Hilliard faked to Reimer, then followed him through the middle of the line for 2 yards and another first down.

Hilliard connected again with Dick on a slant pattern that took the ball to the 1-yard line, and Hilliard scored on a quarterback sneak at 1:11. Trailing by 1, the decision to go for the 2-point conversion and the win had already been made.

“We talked about it when we first got the ball back, and we knew that was the play we wanted to run,” Trojans head coach Lance Sawyer said.

Hilliard running left worked twice in the final Trojans drive, and the senior quarterback got the call again for the conversion attempt. Hit by Vikings defenders at the 2, Hilliard lunged toward the end zone, but toppled to the ground with the ball in his outstretched arm inches short of the goal line.

Smoky Valley recovered Hillsboro’s onside kick and ran out the clock to preserve the 21-20 victory.

Sawyer said he was pleased with the intensity the Trojans displayed on both sides of the ball, and praised the defense for getting defensive stands when the team needed them.

The Trojans will host Lyons on Friday in a final tuneup before district play begins Oct. 17.

Last modified Oct. 8, 2014

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