The Hillsboro High School football team defeated Marion on Thursday in Marion, 21-0, to advance to a bi-district contest against 9-0 Sedgwick on Tuesday in Sedgwick.
The Trojans submitted a dominant defensive performance against the Warriors. Hillsboro only allowed 37 rushing yards to Marion. With tackles for loss, Marion quarterback Cole Lewman delivered a -44-yard rushing performance.
Explosive Marion running back Colten Johnson was held to 60 rushing yards on 19 carries, an average of 3.2 yards per carry. The Hillsboro defensive linemen, Brandon Rooker, Dylan Jirak, Aaron Klassen, and Tyrell Thiessen pushed the Marion offensive lineman back on plays to create no gain or loss situations on many first down runs.
Marion converted only one third-down play for a first down and only one fourth-down play.
“They call it inside veer,” Hillsboro safety Shaq Thiessen said. “We pushed everyone down.”
Hillsboro head coach Max Heinrichs had the Trojans’ strong safety Derrick Kelsey play in the box to stop the run.
Linebacker Tanner Jones was the Trojans leading tackler with six solo stops; Rooker was second with five, including two tackles for loss. The Hillsboro defense compiled six tackles for a loss in the game.
“We’ve worked harder than we ever have on defense this year,” Heinrichs said.
For the offense, Thiessen played the game of his high school career, catching all three of Hillsboro’s touchdowns. On Hillsboro’s second drive of the game, Thiessen caught a 10-yard slant on a fourth-and-9 play slipped between two Marion defenders and went into the end zone standing up.
On Marion’s subsequent possession, Lewman threw a floating pass that Thiessen leaped to intercept along the left sideline.
After three first downs, two passing, one running by quarterback Luke Moore, Moore threw the ball to Thiessen on a fourth-and-long fade route into the end zone. Between two Marion defenders, Thiessen caught the 25-yard pass as he was falling to the turf for his second score.
“He’s as good a receiver as there is,” Heinrichs said. “Sometimes we’ve got to play fast-break basketball and have him go up and get a couple.”
The Trojans would not score again until the fourth quarter. In between, Hillsboro controlled the clock with their running game; they held the ball for 36 minutes of possession. Although the Trojans only amassed 89 yards on the ground, Hillsboro picked up seven rushing first downs.
Running back Tyler Proffitt was the leading rusher for Hillsboro with 38 yards on the ground on 15 carries.
“I challenged my running backs at half time to run the ball with authority,” Heinrichs said. “I’m proud of Tyler.”
Moore completed 11-of-19 passes for 176 yards and ran for 20 more yards. Heinrichs said Moore did a good job commanding the game, especially with accurate throws. Heinrichs compared it to his effort against Hesston.
It was Hillsboro’s game plan to spread the Marion defense out with three and four wide receiver sets and then start running as the Warrior defensive backs began to anticipate the pass, Heinrichs said.
After Christian Ratzlaff intercepted Lewman on a go route throw to Dakin Ledford, Moore delivered the dagger: a 22-yard strike to Thiessen on another fade route to seal the victory with 2 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game.
For Heinrichs, the victory was both a ticket to the state playoffs and a guarantee that the Trojans will not end the year with a losing record.
After the game Thursday, the Hillsboro coach had already started looking ahead to the Tuesday date with Sedgwick.
“We played them two years ago and we beat them,” he said.