Watching the Trojans, it’s not hard to see that pounding the football on an opponent is not Hillsboro’s cup of tea — they’re not a physical team with a lot of size and strength.
Nor is it much of a secret that if you can shut down Ishmael Morris, or Daniel Jost, the Trojans aren’t themselves offensively.
At an inopportune time Friday night in Gypsum in the opening game of district play, the Southeast of Saline Trojans exposed Hillsboro’s weaknesses, destroying the Trojans, 32-13.
“They just way outplayed us, we were tired and tight and we weren’t ready to play,” a shell-shocked Trojan coach Len Coryea said. “I thought we were ready with our blocking schemes and ready to go, they just manhandled us. They beat us up and took away everything we could do.”
The loss was so disheartening for Coryea, he even went to the extent of expressing disappointment in his team’s summer conditioning and commitment to getting stronger.
Coryea was leery going in about one player in particular for SES — quarterback Bryant Beneke.
He had a good reason to worry as Beneke ran through, around, and over the Hillsboro defense, having a hand in all five SES touchdowns with a trio being scored by him.
Beneke isn’t so much a power runner, but his shifty play and elusiveness made him nearly impossible for Hillsboro to stop, running roughshod for 228 yards on 45 carries.
Finding a game that’s gone more miserably for the Trojans than what Friday’s did would be a tough order.
Twice they did manage to get past midfield, picking up a modest three first downs — two coming from penalties — while going a woeful one for 12 on third down.
For Jost to be on, quarterback Jacob Fish has to be, too.
Fish was running for his life most of the night from a smothering SES defensive line, which limited Hillsboro to a season-low total of 162 yards.
Part of the Trojans’ pains were self-inflicted, gift-wrapping a 14-0 lead nearly 13:00 into the game with two of their four turnovers — four in the first half.
Grant Weaver intercepted Fish on third-and-long, which led to Beneke hitting Weaver for an eight-yard score with just inside :30 left in the first quarter.
The evening was so disastrous for the Trojans, the best things that happened for them was stopping SES on three out of five two-point conversion attempts.
Disaster struck Hillsboro on its next series with Morris fumbling right into the hands of Braden Long inside the Trojans’ 35.
Morris never got on track, being held to a season-low 85 yards on 16 carries and fumbling twice.
Beneke put SES up by two touchdowns just under a minute into the second quarter, sweeping around the right side for the first of two 29-yard touchdown runs and keeping for the two-point conversion.
Hillsboro got its biggest break of the game with Matt Mortimer fumbling the punt return at SES’ 36-yard line — the Trojans’ best starting spot of the game.
Fish hit Jost, who flipped it to Andy Klassen on a hook and ladder for a 27-yard gain to give Hillsboro a first-and-goal at the nine.
Two plays later on third down, Fish found Klassen to chop Hillsboro’s deficit to 14-7 with 3:12 left in the first half after Jacob Wiebe put the PAT kick through.
Poor field position hindered Hillsboro the entire game and the Trojans turned the ball right back over to SES on its last two possessions — one at the SES 31 — to still trail at halftime, 14-7.
Beneke continued his rampage the second half, taking off on another 29-yard run to stretch the lead to 20-7 with 9:00 left in the third quarter.
He struck again, scoring on a first-and-goal from the one to make it a 26-7 game 5:36 later.
Jost gave Hillsboro some hope, though, on the kickoff return.
What appeared to be a big scrum at midfield, Jost somehow emerged from the pack, taking it in for an 84-yard return to bring the Trojans to within 26-12.
Wiebe’s PAT went wide left, and Hillsboro was doubled over, 26-13 with 4:02 still to go in the third quarter.
Beneke iced the game with 11:30 left, firing to Weaver for a four-yard touchdown.
“They just crushed us on the line tonight,” Coryea said. “I think we’re seeing a factor of two things, we’re not physical enough, and we’re not strong enough. Once they beat us on the first few plays, we sat on our heels.”
With two weeks left in the season, the pressure now is on Hillsboro as it must win out, which includes beating red-hot Marion.
More bad news for the Trojans is they may have to do it without Morris, who suffered a gruesome injury to his hand late in the game.