The Hillsboro High School football game Friday against Smoky Valley in Lindsborg featured about everything a football fan would want in a game — a close game with points scored, a last-minute scoring drive, physical play from both sides, trick plays, a spectacular touchdown catch, multiple defensive plays, and controversial calls.
Unfortunately for Trojan fans, the contest did not include a Hillsboro victory; the Trojans lost, 26-21.
“We played hard and we got better,” head coach Max Heinrichs said. “Every year you want to be 14-0.”
This particular loss was hard for the Hillsboro coach to swallow. The Trojans had a touchdown lead heading into the third quarter. The team fought to execute the coach’s plan to have the lead in the fourth quarter when the persistent wind would be at its back. The Trojans seemed to have the Vikings where they wanted them.
Driving against the wind, the Trojans scored with just under 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The drive featured four first downs, including a 20-yard in-route pass to Evan Ollenburger on third-and-7 and an inside run by Tyler Proffitt on a third-and-3 play.
After picking up the first, Proffitt then ran in for the touchdown, dragging a Smoky Valley defender who gripped and stretched his jersey. On both the first down and the touchdown runs, the interior Hillsboro lineman — right guard David Nelson, center Brandon Rooker, and a rotation of players at left guard — opened up massive holes for Proffitt. On the touchdown run, wide receiver Derek Kelsey provided a key block.
The drive, which only included one pass, was a change in strategy for the Trojans from earlier in the game. Heinrichs thought he could take advantage of the Vikings on the outside, but the Trojans got away from their identity, which starts with inside runs driven by middle offensive linemen.
“We over thought it,” Heinrichs said.
On the ensuing Smoky Valley possession, Kelsey intercepted a desperation option pitch from Nick Deterding.
The Trojans stalled on their drive and lined up in punt formation with 26.2 seconds left in the quarter. Instead of kicking the ball away inside Viking territory, the Trojans directly snapped the ball to Moore who threw a strike to Ollenburger streaking across the middle of the field. The 10-yard pickup was good enough for a Trojan first down.
After two short gains by Tyrell Thiessen, Hillsboro faced third-and-6. An incomplete pass to Shaq Thiessen and a stuffed Moore gave the Vikings possession.
After Dederding connected with Grayson Pihl in the flat for a first down, the first of two controversial calls occurred. Again, Dederding threw to Grayson, this time in the right flat, but Kelsey was there to wrap up the Smoky Valley running back. The play seemed as though Pihl caught the ball and went to dive past Kelsey. The ball spurted free from under the Viking and Kelsey recovered.
However, the officials ruled that Pihl was juggling the pass on the way to ground and deemed the play an incomplete pass.
On the next play, Dedering connected with Pihl again, although this time it was a 55-yard touchdown pass on a post on the right side of the field.
The Trojans did receive some luck when the Vikings attempted a fake field goal. The Smoky Valley holder attempted a pass, which Moore intercepted in the end zone. Hillsboro held a one-point lead, 21-20.
The Trojans picked up one first down on the next possession, a 6-yard hitch pass to Shaq Thiessen, but the Trojans were stalled on the next series after two runs and an incomplete pass.
With 5:08 left, Smokey Valley took over. After picking up one first down on a fourth-and-1 run Smoky and faced fourth-and-10. The Vikings completed a pass to Kelly Pihl on a hitch over the middle that was ruled a first down.
However, Heinrichs argued bitterly that the spot was wrong.
“I don’t want to blame the game on the referees,” Heinrichs said. “It’s all opinion; those guys have a tough job.”
The Trojans continued to battle, and a tackle-for-loss by Tyrell Thiessen forced the Vikings to attempt a third-and-13 pass with a 1:01 left in the game.
Dederding completed an out-route pass to Curtis Carlson along the right sideline, and Carlson ran the ball in for a Viking touchdown.
With a missed two-point conversion, the Trojans were left with 53.9 seconds. The game ended on a deep interception on a pass attempt intended for Kelsey.
“It’s just a game; it’s done,” Heinrichs said. “I’ll have tape of Southeast of Saline broken down by 6 a.m. tomorrow.”
It was still a good night for quarterback Moore. He scored the first Trojan touchdown on a 3-yard sweep run to the right and he passed for the Trojans second touchdown.
On a third-and-12 play from about 20 yards out, Moore looked to Shaq Thiessen for the entire play. The Trojan wide receiver ran a fade route into the end zone. Moore lofted the ball up over the Smoky Valley defender. Seeing the ball was going long, Thiessen reached out, caught the ball one-handed with his right hand, and corralled the pass to his body while rolling out of the back of the end zone.
“Unbelievable,” Heinrichs said. “He catches ones like that all over the place in practice, and I was wondering when I might see that in a game.”
The Trojans play Southeast of Saline on Friday at home for the first round of district play.