Even though the Hillsboro High School football team scored first, Halstead defeated the Trojans 36-7.
Head coach Max Heinrichs said the difference in the game was Halstead’s superior team speed and the fact that Hillsboro’s lineman — with Brandon Rooker, Nathan Unruh, and Dylan Jirak playing on both offense and defense — became worn down during the game.
The Dragons scored three touchdowns in the third quarter. A 14-7 lead for the home team at halftime ballooned to 36-7.
Quarterback Luke Moore picked up 5 yards on a spinning run to his left on the Trojans first series of the third quarter but Hillsboro could not pick up a first down, the ball falling incomplete on a third-and-5 throw.
After punting, Halstead picked up first downs on third-and-11 and third-and-13 runs. Quarterback Jonah McKee reached the marker on a weak side rollout run play. Cory Amendariz received a handoff and sliced between his right guard and tackle on the second long first down run.
The run was just the first of several for Amendariz in the second half. Heinrichs said that the Trojans were running past Amendariz on counter runs. Hillsboro defensive ends would attempt to contain the outside edge, which would leave Amendariz with an inside rushing lane.
“He’s a good running back,” Heinrichs said of Amendariz. “They run that veer well.”
Amendariz scored Halstead’s final touchdown on a similar run.
The Halstead rushing attack led to a goal-line opportunity and McKee finished the drive with an untouched, up-the-middle touchdown scamper.
On the first play for the Trojans after kickoff, the Hillsboro running back fumbled on a run between the left guard and tackle and Halstead recovered. While Moore was a consistent rushing threat, picking up three outside running first downs in the first half, the Hillsboro running backs struggled to accumulate positive yards.
“We need to get tougher there,” Heinrichs said of the running back position.
On the Dragons first play, McKee connected with receiver Riley Soward, who streaked down the middle of the field and caught a wide-open touchdown pass worth more than 20 yards.
Even with safety Derek Kelsey playing level with Hillsboro linebackers to defend against the run, a Hillsboro defensive back was in position to make a play but did not react fast enough to the receiver on a straight-line route.
Halstead had run two similar plays earlier in the contest. Chance Spicer dropped one open touchdown catch in the end zone during the first quarter. Spicer was again open in the end zone in the second quarter.
“We couldn’t figure that out,” Heinrichs said. “We were telling them, ‘here he comes.”
On offense, senior Rooker was injured when a defender twisted his knee, Heinrichs said. Heinrichs was not sure of the severity of the injury after the game.
Rooker had six tackles in the game including a sack. He was consistently in the Halstead backfield on defense and played strong on the offensive line.
“He had a great offseason,” Heinrichs said. “He has a great attitude. He deserves to have a great season.”
The loss created chaos on both lines for Hillsboro. Soon after Rooker went down, Tyrell Thiessen and Lucas Sinclair went down with cramps. The heat and the fact that the Trojans were constantly on defense were factors in the fatigue.
The Trojans picked up one first down in the second half. Tyler Proffit ran up the middle on fourth and short with 3:25 left in the game.
Hillsboro moved the ball well in the first half. At the start of the second quarter, the Trojans marched half of the length of the field and Evan Ollenberger caught Hillsboro’s touchdown from Moore on a slant over the middle of the field in a goal line situation. Ollenberger had two catches; Josh Wiebe led the team with three catches.
Although it was more successful than the running game, the Hillsboro passing attack also struggled. The Trojans threw three interceptions, two to Ryan Bibb in the first half. Moore got one play back by making a tackle to force a fumble after the first pick.
Heinrichs was not worried about the interceptions. Using their speed, Halstead could cover the Hillsboro wide receivers, even in four-wide sets, man-to-man with zone help from safeties over the top. He said it was a unique athletic advantage the Trojans will not often encounter.
Hillsboro’s defense was also more effective in the first half, forcing Halstead to three and outs in the Dragons’ first three possessions.
The Trojans play again Sept. 9 against Lyons.