There was no situation too dire for the Hillsboro High School football team’s defense Friday in the Trojans’ 20-0 victory over Smoky Valley. It was an effort, filled with big plays, worthy of the Trojans’ first shutout of the season.
The Vikings picked up three first downs on their opening drive, running effectively to land first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Scott Brazil came up with the first tackle on a run left. Tyrell Thiessen made the second tackle for no gain. Thiessen, Dylan Jirak, and Josh Wiebe all flew up the middle of the field to blow up a Smoky Valley run attempt to bring up fourth-and-goal at the 6-yard line. The Vikings went for the touchdown, but the pass to Cole Norberg fell harmlessly to the end-zone turf with good coverage from Hillsboro’s secondary.
To Thiessen the goal-line stand had a vampiric quality — it drained the energy from Smoky Valley and transferred it to Hillsboro. He said it was a play that pumped the team up, everyone was playing harder.
“It definitely makes the guys up front block a whole lot harder,” Thiessen said.
From that first drive on, the Trojans’ defense dominated. Hillsboro only allowed one more Viking first down in the first half. Facing third-and-25, the Vikings elected to quick kick instead of attempt a first down in the second quarter.
The Trojans did not have much going on offense themselves until Tyler Proffitt connected on a deep play-action fade to Shaq Thiessen for 74-yards with 2:29 remaining in the half. It was the only time a Hillsboro drive resulted in a touchdown without significant field-position assistance.
Smoky Valley picked up a first down on the ensuing drive. A punishing hit by Evan Ollenburger on an edge run resulted with a no gain. With an incomplete pass and a false start, the Vikings faced third-and-15. Shaq Thiessen took advantage of an errant throw intended for a receiver running a post. He jumped the route, caught the ball in stride, and raced to the end zone. He eluded one would-be tackler before he was tackled at the 1-yard line. Proffitt ran the ball in on a quarterback sneak to put the Trojans up two touchdowns with 1:06 left in the first half.
“Shaq’s pick turned the entire momentum,” head coach Lance Sawyer said.
The Trojans were forced to make a key stop to start the third quarter as well. Hillsboro started the half with the ball, but Proffitt threw an interception to defensive end Holden Hendricks on a scramble. He made the tackle, but Smoky Valley had prime field position at the 13-yard line.
On the next play, the Vikings attempted a quick connection on a right-side slant. Safety Jesse Brown read the play perfectly. He stepped in front of the receiver, deflected the pass, and then caught the ball off his shoelaces.
It was one of three interceptions for Brown in the game. He intercepted his second ball on a post pattern on a third-and-8 throw that he tipped above his head and caught. His third interception was less dramatic, getting both hands on a third-and-9 throw over the middle of the field. He nearly had a fourth interception a series later.
For his key plays, Brown pointed to the coaching that put him in the right spot to make those interceptions. Sawyer said the onus was on his player to make the right read on those plays. It was a win-win situation
Brown had not been a regular playmaker for the Trojans’ defense this season, but his unlikely performance exemplified the team effort necessary for the shut out — nearly every player stepped up with big plays.
In the first half, it was Tyrell Thiessen and Ollenburger who set the physical tone for Hillsboro with big hits. Ollenburger also recorded an interception later in the game.
“That’s Hillsboro High School football,” Tyrell Thiessen said. “That’s how we roll.”
The Trojans scored their third touchdown of the game on a Josh Wiebe fumble recovery in the third quarter.
Nathan Unruh and Cody Delk recorded multiple tackles for loss. Scott Brazil and Josh Davidson had sacks.
On a fourth-and-1 play, the Vikings ran the traditional quarterback option to the right side of the field. Linebacker Lucas Sinclair wrapped up Ethan Loder in the backfield before the Viking quarterback could even think about pitching the ball. The game was Sinclair’s best game of the season on defense.
The victory moved the Trojans’ record to 5-0. Brown said the game against Smoky Valley was a potential trap after hard fought wins against Nickerson and Hesston the previous weeks and homecoming still a week away. The Trojans maintained their focus and intensity in practice, Sawyer said. The team is not about to let the hard work submitted this season be wasted.
Sawyer added that it will only be a matter of time before the offense and defense click in the same game.