It was a loud night in Hillsboro Ohio Friday as no doubt cheers could be heard across town as the Hillsboro Indians pulled off a down to the wire victory over Miami Trace with a final score of 35-30.
The game all came down to one play. With Trace down 35-30 and five minutes left to go, the Indians knew that they would have to make some big stops to keep the Panthers from taking back the lead and ultimately winning the ball game.
It wasn’t looking good as the clock wound down as Miami Trace kept chipping off yards every play and was able to run their way down to Hillsboro’s 27 yard line. Thanks to the stifling defense that had been on point in clutch situations all night, the Panthers were looking at a fourth and seven yards to go from the 27 with just around a minutes left to play. Miami Trace’s quarterback took to the air with a deep pass to one of his receivers and Hillsboro’s Britton Hanies lept into the air and batted the pass down for a game saving defnesive stop. After that it was Hillsboro’s ball and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Panthers were the first team on the scoreboard on Friday night after Larry Jackson ran in three yards on a series that started after a Hillsboro punt.
The Indians, as they did all night against the Panthers, took the punch and gave one right back in return.
The drive started with a great return to set the Hillsboro boys up on their own 41 yard line.
Heith Brown took the first run and gained nine yard and Hunter Chain took the ball himself for a QB sneak for four yards on the play after that. Chain and Brown combined for 59 yards on the ground in the series which ended in a one yard run by Chain to make it 7-6. The extra point snap was fumbled and the score stayed 7-6.
Hillsboro set up to kick off and the return man for Miami Trace got some great blocks and got the ball all the way to the Indian’s 33 yard line where Hillsborr forced a fumble that was recovered by Josh Keets. It was all for not however, as the Indians were forced to punt after gaining just one first down on a reverse play that saw Ryan Hagan pick up 17 yards.
On the Panthers next series, it looked like the Indians would get the ball back rather quickly as Miami Trace was unable to pick up any big plays until Larry Jackson caught a pass and ran for 61 yards for another touchdown to make it 14-6 after the extra point with just enough time for one more drive for the Indians.
They made the best of that drive.
The Indians started at their own 15 yard line and on the first play went to the air which fell incomplete but was called for pass interference and the Indians marched down the field an extra 15 yards. On first and second down, Hillsboro went back to the ground game to pick up five yards with Brown and another seven from Chain. On third down, the Indians went to the air again and this time found a wide open Hagan for a 33 yard pick up that took them into Panther territory on the 25 yard line.
After several muscle plays on the ground the Indians found themselves on the one-yard line on third down with just second to go before the half. Hunter Chain faked the handoff and kept the ball for a one yard TD run and a pass to Brian Smith made it 14-14 all going into the half.
Miami Trace scored on their first drive to open the half to make it 21-14 after a 11 yard run in by Devin Bainter, but the Indians came right back on their first drive of the second half and even the score with a two yard run by Lane Hester.
The Indian defense stepped it up once again forcing the Panthers to punt on their next drive but the punk fell on the two yard line which is where the Indians had to start. After a no gain, an illegal procedure, and an incomplete pass, the Indians were backed up to their one with no room to breath. The next play Chain threw a pass that was called intentional grounding which is an automatic safety from your own endzone so the Panthers gained two points and received the ball.
On the first play of that drive, Miami Trace fumbled the ball which was recovered by Heith Brown to put Hillsboro on the 48 yard line.
The Indians implemented some trickery and Smith ended up with the ball in his hands and threw it down the field to Ryan Hagan for a 52 yard pick up and a touchdown. The Indians went for two and got it making it 29-23.
Miami Trace’s final score came at the beginning of the fourth after a 58 yard catch and run was called back but the Panthers followed that up with a 20 yard run by Larry Jackson to go up one 30-29.
With too much time on the clock, the Indians were forced to try and get a touchdown as a field goal might not be enough.
A combination of ground work by Chain and Brown, and two huge passes to Ryan Hagan for a total of 46 yards took the Indians back down to the 10 yard line. One more throw to Hagan in the endzone was caught for the touchdown to make it 35-30. The Indians went for a two point conversion that failed but the Indians played defense in clutch situations on the next series to take home the win 35-30.
“We answered tonight,” said Hillsboro coach Matt Hodge after the big win for his Indians. “[Miami Trace] punched and we counter-punched. We came up with a big stop at the end and I don’t think I can say enough about my kids’ heart tonight. I’m not sure we can say that we could have done this earlier in the year. If this game happens early in the season, I’m not sure we win this football game. But our kids have worked hard and we have become a real resilient football team, and every time the punched us, we got right back up and went on the attack.
Heith Brown for the Indians had another 100+ rushing game for the night which set up several touchdowns for the Indians along with a big fumble recovery in the third quarter.
“[Heith] is our workhorse back there,” Hodge said. “We kind of go as he goes at times. He just runs his tail off and he works so hard everyday in practice. I can’t say enough about all my seniors. They just work everyday and then come out tonight and play that way. They’ve been leaders for us these past four or five weeks and got rewarded for it tonight. They deserved that win.”
The Indians are now 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the South Central Ohio League and will travel to Greenfield next Friday to take on their rivals the McClain Tigers in the rotary bowl.
“We know that’s going to be a dog fight,” Hodge said about next week’s match up with McClain. “I know Coach Andrews is doing a good job over there. They’re going to be a hungry football team. We’re going to have our hands full next week.”
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.