Five passing touchdowns, 343 yards through the air, another 17 on the ground, a rushing touchdown, a 48-14 victory, three interceptions. These were the numbers for Tyler Proffitt in his first start as a Hillsboro High School quarterback; for the most part, the outing against Lyons went better than he would have hoped.
But when he walked off the field the number he was thinking about was the three picks. Head coach Lance Sawyer had preached throughout the game to not let up, to not get relaxed. The Trojans as a team took their foot off the gas in the second half with a 48-0 lead.
The first interception was thrown into double coverage on third down. The second was picked off by a linebacker who stepped in front of a route when Proffitt was under pressure. The Lyons defender nearly turned the turnover into a touchdown on the return. The third was tipped out of Proffitt’s hands in the Trojans’ final drive.
All of these plays were understandable, ultimately inconsequential, and unrepresentative of Proffitt’s game on Friday. However, he came away from the game wanting to make better reads, wanting to get rid of the ball more quickly, wanting to be a better player.
This is an example of the character Sawyer said is one of the hardest workers on the team and the most improved Trojan from last season.
Last year, Proffitt was the Trojans leading rusher as a running back. His toughness and running ability would not be questioned and he could have easily been an exclusive runner again. However, Proffitt wanted to be a quarterback from the beginning of the offseason, and to do that he needed to throw. He worked diligently on all of the different throws, at least three times a week. He would throw to high school teammates. He would throw to Tabor College students. He probably would have thrown to children if he could not find anyone else.
Just as important to Sawyer, Proffitt has been a consistent student in the film room, analyzing defenses to find the open receiver or the hole in a spread option run.
The hours throwing ball after ball and staring at a flickering screen paid off on Friday. Lyons decided to challenge Proffitt’s arm. They played man-to-man against the Hillsboro receivers, electing to stack the line of scrimmage to discourage runs from Tyrell Thiessen.
On the Trojans first series, Proffitt connected on a bomb to Shaq Thiessen, running wide open along the sideline for a 69-yard TD pass. The second drive was less dramatic. Proffitt hit Tyrell Thiessen on a dump off pass in the flat. Tyrell Thiessen broke a tackle and ran in for a 14-yard score.
Still in the first quarter, the Trojans began working the ball to tight end Josh Wiebe who caught a 20-yard line drive pass from Proffitt up the seam for a 60-yard touchdown. The 6-foot-2 receiver was then a target on a left corner fade in the end zone where he caught a ball over a 5-foot-7 defender. Wiebe ended the game with 80 yards receiving.
“He’s going to be a weapon for us,” Sawyer said of Wiebe.
With 1:28 left in the first quarter, Proffitt again connected with Shaq Thiessen on 64-yard pass up the right sideline for a touchdown. Shaq Thiessen had 167 yards receiving in the game. Among those yards was a 40-yard pass Thiessen caught with a defender draped over his back in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a competitor,” Sawyer said of Shaq Thiessen. “He’ll go up and get the ball.”
With the help of a swarming Hillsboro defense, which recorded seven tackles for a loss in the first half, Hillsboro opened up a 34-0 lead after one quarter.
Lyons plan to stop the run was easier schemed than executed. Tyrell Thiessen compiled 57 rushing yards, including an electrifying 30-yard run where he hurdled a defender. He picked up a 15-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. He also had 58 yards receiving, including a long wheel-route connection up the right sideline.
Sawyer said Tyrell Thiessen has come into the season in shape, pointing out that Thiessen did not require substitution on offense or defense. Listed at 275 pounds and quicker than that bulk would suggest, he proved to be extremely difficult to tackle on Friday.
“I’ve had to (tackle him) before,” Proffitt said. “It’s not fun.”
Proffitt praised his offensive line of Nathan Unruh at left tackle, Dylan Jirak at left guard, Josh Davidson at center, Tanner Jones at right guard, and Carter Pankratz at right tackle who picked up nearly all of the diverse Lions’ blitzes.
Add up all the elements, an explosive offense and a stout defense, Hillsboro has a team not to be taken for granted.
Proffitt did not win the starting quarterback job until this past week. He said he outperformed fellow senior Lucas Sinclair in weekend scrimmages to gain the advantage. Sawyer said he was not officially named the starter until Aug. 29.
When Sawyer told Proffitt he had won the job, he saw a glimmer of excitement hidden in his quarterback’s eyes, but Proffitt’s response was quiet, more measured. There was more work to be done.
After working this hard, Proffitt was not about to squander this opportunity.
The Trojans take on Sterling at 7 p.m. Friday at home.