The Hillsboro Trojans went to Marion and stood toe-to-toe with the Heart of America league champion Warriors for three quarters, entering the final stanza trailing just 12-6.
Then the dam burst, unleashing a 30-point flood the Trojans couldn’t stop as they fell 42-14.
Marion turned good field position into one score and an interception into another to lead 12-0 with 3 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Trojans responded with their best drive of the game, a 69-yard, 12-play scoring drive that began at their own 31-yard line.
Shaking off an earlier interception, Kaden Kleiner used his arm to convert two first downs and his legs for another.
On third-and-7 from the Trojans 34, Kleiner found Elliot Ollenburger for 17 yards and a first down. Facing fourth-and-6 at the Marion 46, Kleiner dropped back, looked left, and fired a strike to Jacob Funk for 7 yards.
With no receivers open on third-and-8 at the Marion 37, Kleiner opened the second quarter with a 22-yard scamper and another first down.
Jorge Hanschu got the call from the 11 and raced around right end for Hillsboro’s first score. Jeff Jorgenson’s kick was no good, and the Trojans trailed 12-6.
Hillsboro avoided disaster on Marion’s next offensive series when a 75-yard touchdown run by Jack Schneider was nullified because an official inadvertently blew the play dead at the line of scrimmage.
Unfazed, the Warriors drove to a first down at the Hillsboro 15. From there, Trojans defenders said, “No more.” Braden Vogt and Tyson Reimer came up with big plays to force a fourth-and-3 at the 8-yard line, and the defense smothered Schneider short to halt the drive.
Marion was marching again early in the third quarter, but several Hillsboro defenders converged on Warriors running back Corbin Wheeler at the Hillsboro 6, causing a fumble that the Trojans recovered.
The Trojans couldn’t moved beyond their own 33, but a monster punt by Carson Herbel pinned the Warriors back at their own 15.
The Trojans were called for dual infractions on an incomplete pass that moved the ball to the 44, setting the stage for the oncoming Marion scoring barrage.
In a 7-minute span of the fourth quarter, Marion quarterback Jack Schneider scored three touchdowns on runs of 5, 46, and 3 yards, as the Trojans fell behind 34-6.
Aided by two Marion penalties, the Trojans drove 73-yards in about 3 minutes to score on a Brooks Gardner 3-yard run. With a 2-point passing conversion from Kleiner to Funk, the Trojans trailed 34-14 with :50 remaining.
Marion scored its final touchdown when Brice Shults fielded an onside kick attempt and dashed 58 yards for the score.
Hanschu led the Trojans in rushing with 47 yards on 9 carries, with Kleiner toting the ball 14 times for 42 yards.
Kleiner was 8-for-20 passing for 88 yards and 2 interceptions. Ollenburger caught 2 passes for 31 yards, and Funk caught 4 for 30.
With the loss, Hillsboro was eliminated from advancing to the postseason, but could still play a spoiler roll Thursday against Southeast of Saline.