Hillsboro survives SES scare, 38-27
Even before he made his return to the Hillsboro Trojans sideline, another team of Trojans — Southeast of Saline — had been a fly in the ointment for Hillsboro coach Max Heinrichs. Heinrichs isn’t likely to forget the grief SES caused him, dating back to his days at Minneapolis.
That’s why he’s happy any time he has a team that defeats the other Trojans, especially in a hard-fought contest.
The Hillsboro Trojans did just that Friday night in Gypsum, fighting off a rally from Southeast in the district opener for a 38-27 win. Hillsboro improves to 4-3 on the year and 1-0 in district action.
Just when it looked as if Hillsboro was going to have smooth sailing, racing to a 20-0 early lead, Southeast got three unanswered touchdowns.
The Trojans cashed in on a pair of SES turnovers after Chance Reece scored on an 11-yard run with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
Looking for his third consecutive game of running for 100 yards, Reece fell one yard short on 19 carries with SES limiting the Trojans to just 198 total yards.
Field position was instrumental for both teams with SES enduring unfavorable starting spots for much of the first half.
That cost the purple Trojans after Dylan Delk recovered a fumble in the SES end zone to give Hillsboro a 14-0 lead after two successful PAT tries from Ben Gardner, closing out the first quarter.
Luke Moore stretched the deficit to 20-0, scoring on a 1-yard quarterback keeper on a third-and-short with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Hillsboro again struggled with the PAT attempts with Gardner finishing 2-for-6, not to mention struggling to stop the SES offense.
Southeast’s Nathan Peterson broke up the shutout with 32 seconds left before halftime, hitting Cole Brightbill for a 7-yard touchdown and the first half ended at 20-7.
Southeast picked up where it left off the first half.
Brock Long picked off Moore’s pass intended for Ben Bebermeyer and Southeast pulled to within 7, 20-14, on a 2-yard touchdown by Long with 5:21 left in the third quarter.
Southeast was able to use a short field on the game-tying drive with Peterson finding John Balthazor for a 20-yard TD.
Hillsboro blocked the extra-point attempt, but Southeast had the game tied up with just over a minute to go in the third quarter.
Reece kept the Trojans from losing the lead, taking advantage of a short field, and breaking free for a 41-yard touchdown.
Southeast gave the Trojans more help, fumbling on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Gardner scooped it up and scampered 35 yards to give Hillsboro a 32-20 lead after SES picked off the two-point conversion attempt.
Southeast didn’t go away with Peterson setting up the Trojans with a great scoring chance at the Hillsboro 17 with a 28-yard run.
The senior SES quarterback was stellar the second half, completing 11-of-17 passes for 119 yards. He was 15-of-29 for the game with 179 yards.
Peterson aired it out for Brightbill again, tightening the lead to 32-27, with an 18-yard touchdown with 8:08 left in the game.
Southeast stayed hot on the Trojans tail late in the game, but had to drive 94 yards. Long ripped off a 42-yard gain to get SES into Trojan territory at the 47. That opportunity fizzled out when Bebermeyer intercepted Peterson’s pass with just over 2:20 left in the game.
Hillsboro did nothing on the drive except run time off the clock, but Reece’s punt left SES having to drive 98 yards with no timeouts in 1:12.
The final 19 seconds could sting Southeast for a while — Caleb Hilliard intercepted Peterson with 10 seconds left at the SES 40.
In district play, the margin of points is a big factor with 13 being the maximum in case of a tie, which is why Heinrichs opted to go for a touchdown instead of running out the clock.
Moore made the final score, going long for Bebermeyer on a 40-yard touchdown — Moore’s first and only completion of the second half — to beat the clock.
The Trojans still needed a two-point conversion to match the 13 points, but that, along with the game, ended on an illegal procedure penalty.
Hillsboro faces a tough test Friday, hosting a good Remington Broncos team in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Joel H. Wiens stadium.