Banged-up Hillsboro tunes up for district play, topping Vikings, 28-14
Heading into district play, Trojan football coach Max Heinrichs can’t be more pleased with his team than he already is — outside of staying healthy, as Hillsboro has had a rash of injuries.
They Trojans have slowly come to life at the time of the season when it matters most.
They did it Friday in Hillsboro, winning their second consecutive game, dispatching perennial pest Smoky Valley, 28-14, to square their record at 3-3.
“We played hard; I do like the way our kids played the second half,” Heinrichs said. “We carried out a game plan. We started to run the ball inside more after we stretched them out. I’m pretty happy with our team going into districts.”
Few teams have had their way with Hillsboro this decade as the Vikings have outside of Wichita Collegiate and Hesston.
That was then, and this year, the Vikings aren’t the Vikings of old, posting just seven seniors and three players over 200 pounds, and standing four games under .500 at 1-5.
Hillsboro took advantage of that, using a short field on three of its four scoring drives with the three starting no further than the Trojan 41.
That’s where the Trojans started their first drive, storming 59 yards in 10 plays before Chance Reece took it in for a 6-yard gain.
Ben Gardner scored the PAT to open a 7-0 lead nearly four minutes into the game.
Reece had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game, carrying 21 times for a game-high 141 yards and two touchdowns as Hillsboro rolled up 263 total yards.
Caleb Hilliard pushed the lead to 14-0 to start the second quarter, scampering 49 yards on a punt return, 14 seconds in the quarter.
The Vikings didn’t stay down, though, with Nick Deterding lighting out on a 52-yard run down the Trojans sideline to pull Smoky to 14-6.
Deterding found Cody Bowers on the 2-point conversion, erasing the lead to 14-8 with 10:12 left in the first half.
The game became interesting, with teams exchanging turnovers — lineman Nathan Unruh hauling in a bobbled catch and a slew of penalties for Hillsboro.
The trading began with Dylan Delk scooping up a fumbled pitchout at the Viking 23.
On the ensuing play, Luke Moore was picked by Deterding, who hauled in the ball intended for Ben Bebermeyer in the end zone.
The Vikings turned the ball over right away with Hilliard intercepting Deterding, setting the Trojans up at the Smoky 31 after a holding call.
Reece pushed the lead to 21-8, scoring with a 31-yard run down the Viking sideline on the second play with 5:09 still to go in the first half.
The Trojans final score came courtesy of another short field with a short Viking punt giving them first-and-10 at the Smoky 31.
Facing a third down, Moore fired to Aaron Klassen for a 10-yard touchdown 25 seconds before the break.
Hillsboro had several chances to add to its commanding lead in the second half, but a blocked field goal and a pair of other drives, which stalled deep inside the Viking territory, thwarted that.
The Vikings made for a final bid with 1:03 left in the game behind backup quarterback Wayd Thomas.
Thomas directed an 11-play, 82-yard drive, capped by Deterding hitting Bowers on a 3-yard touchdown.
The two-point conversion was incomplete in the 28-14 final.
The Vikings played a balanced game, rushing for 109 yards on 33 carries and completing 50 percent of their passes for 118 yards.
“We want to be a little bit of everything,” Heinrichs said. “We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves going into districts. We’re running the ball well, we’re throwing it well, and we’re feeling pretty good right now.”
Hillsboro opens district play Friday night, traveling to a nemesis of Heinrichs — the Southeast of Saline Trojans — in Gypsum.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.