Hillsboro thwarts two-point conversion for 35-34 win
If Trojan coach Len Coryea has any question about the guts of his team, he got a big answer Friday night in Salina against the Sacred Heart Knights.
As a three-year starter on both the offensive and defensive lines, senior standout John Hein has been in on some big plays.
In a heart-stopping few seconds, arguably Hein’s best play came in the closing 41 seconds with the Knights threatening to hand the Trojans a season-opening setback.
With the Knights backed up at their own 23 on third-and-a-mile, Sacred Heart’s talented quarterback Connor Martin completed two passes for a combined 54 yards to set up a first-and-10 at the Trojan 23.
Six plays later, Martin hooked up with Mark Riordan for a third time, for a five-yard score, cutting Hillsboro’s lead to 35-34.
Knight coach Jim Wittman may be haunted for sometime on his decision to go for the victory instead of possibly playing for overtime.
Sacred Heart opted to go up the middle with Colby Wetter for the two-point conversion, which would give the Knights the 36-35 lead.
Hein had other plans, stopping Wetter head-on to help the Trojans hang on for the win.
However, as the season starts, two of Coryea’s worst fears may already become a reality.
Prior to the season, Coryea believed one of the biggest keys for the Trojans’ success was to stay healthy and for the defense to hold opponents’ scoring down.
Staying healthy might not be possible — at least not for the planned starting quarterback.
Ben Gottsch is already out with an injury, leaving Jacob Fish to take the snaps, instead.
Much like he did in his debut last season in the Trojans’ finale against Conway Springs, Fish didn’t disappoint, completing 9-12 passes for 181 yards.
Perhaps the best quarterback the Trojans could see all season, Martin put the Knights in front fast and early, building a 12-0 lead in a span of 1:36 of the first quarter.
The Knights offense also may be one of the most explosive the Trojans may see, and they showed it with Martin completing 13 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns, while the team also picked up 143 yards rushing.
Hillsboro didn’t stay down long, with Fish airing it out for his reliable all-state Class 3A wideout Daniel Jost, who hauled in a diving 65-yard touchdown completion.
Ishmael Morris put the Trojans on top to stay, driving up the middle for a one-yard touchdown before Fish found Jost for the two-point conversion to make the score 15-12.
Morris and Isaac Leihy combined for 160 yards on 23 carries with Morris carrying 12 times for a team-high 82 yards.
Fish and Jost connected again for the third of three unanswered touchdowns, giving Hillsboro a 21-12 lead with 2:08 still to go in the first half.
Jost was indeed a heartbreaker for the Knights, hauling in six catches for a career-high 141 yards and two touchdowns.
The Knights wouldn’t stay down either with Martin pulling Sacred Heart to within 21-20 right before halftime, firing a 14-yard dart to Riordan.
The Trojans stretched their lead back to eight at 28-20, helped by a 39-yard run by Leihy, and capped off by his five-yard run with just less than 8:00 left in the third quarter.
Sacred Heart came back to knot the game up with 5:29 left as Wetter plowed through from five-yards out before scoring on an option pitch for the two-point conversion.
In a game loaded with big plays, Morris added to the barrage, peeling off a 54-yard touchdown with 4:10 to go to close out Hillsboro’s scoring entirety.
The Trojans open the home portion of their schedule at 7 p.m. Friday, hosting 1-0 Smoky Valley.