HILLSBORO — The Hillsboro Indians guaranteed themselves a spot in the state playoffs, according to several reports, with a 14-13 victory Friday over the Miami Trace Panthers in a Frontier Athletic Conference football contest at Richards Memorial Field.
Miami Trace received the opening kickoff and a nice return set the Panthers up near midfield. A couple solid gains from senior running back Asher LeBeau eventually got Miami Trace inside the Hillsboro 25. A few plays later, the Panthers were stopped on fourth-and-two by the Indians and turned it over on downs.
Hillsboro quickly found themselves in the red zone, but an errant toss by the Indians quarterback resulted in a fumble that the Panthers recovered.
Two plays later, Miami Trace fumbled the ball right back to the Indians. On the very next play, Indian quarterback Mason Dumpert raced 30 yards into the end zone for the first touchdown of the evening. The extra point was good, giving Hillsboro a 7-0 lead with 4:25 left in the opening quarter.
Both teams traded three-and-outs, and then the Panthers put together a drive that had them at the Hillsboro 44 when the first quarter ended, but they ultimately punted the ball away.
Hillsboro moved the ball down the field in chunks on the next drive that ended with a field goal attempt that was blocked by Cooper Enochs of Miami Trace.
After a three-and-out from the Panthers, Hillsboro once again found themselves deep in Miami Trace territory. After converting a fourth down to get inside the red zone, the Indians faced another fourth down inside the 15-yard line. Hillsboro elected to pass and it was intercepted by Brice Perkins to end the drive.
The Panthers quickly got into Indians territory thanks to completions from Trey Robinette to Garrett Guess and Enochs, but the drive ended when a deep pass intended for Cody Gibbs was intercepted by Nic Burns of Hillsboro with under a minute remaining in the half.
Hillsboro intended to run out the clock and head to halftime, but a long run got them to the Panther 40 with 9 seconds left, prompting a timeout from the Indians. The next play was a deep pass inside the 15 that was completed with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Indians used another timeout and elected to take a shot to the end zone on the last play of the half. The pass attempt was incomplete, leaving the halftime score 7-0 in favor of the Indians.
Hillsboro was backed up inside its own 5-yard line after an illegal blindside block on the opening kickoff of the third quarter. Moments later, a huge gain by Dumpert got the ball inside the Panther 35. Two offensive penalties and two tackles for loss by Evan Mollett had Hillsboro looking at a fourth-and-27 and they elected to punt.
A big catch by Gibbs followed by a long run from LeBeau that ended with a late hit penalty on Hillsboro had the Panthers in the red zone on the next drive. The drive ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Guess to Robinette. On the extra point try, there was an issue with the exchange from long snapper to holder which resulted in the holder picking the ball up and trying to convert a two-point play. A pass attempt fell incomplete, leaving the score 7-6 in favor of Hillsboro.
Panther kicker Ian Mavis squibbed the ensuing kickoff down the right sideline and the ball was recovered by Janson Smith to give the ball right back to Miami Trace, inside Hillsboro territory.
On the second play of the drive, Robinette faked a hand off and broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run. The Panthers elected for a PAT try and it was successful to make it 13-7 with 4:57 left in the third quarter.
Both teams traded punts to send it to the final quarter.
Hillsboro started the fourth quarter with a long run from Dumpert to get inside the 35, and a personal foul on the Panthers after the play put the ball inside the red zone. Later in the drive, Dumpert scored on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line. The PAT was successful to make it 14-13 with 8:58 to go in the game.
Miami Trace found itself driving on the next possessions after several runs and a long catch and run by LeBeau. A negative run play followed by an intentional grounding call put the Panthers at third-and-21. A deep heave into the end zone was incomplete, and the Panthers elected to punt the ball back to Hillsboro with 4:42 remaining in the contest.
The Panther defense forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with 2:42 remaining. The first play was a swing pass to LeBeau that got the ball inside the Hillsboro 40. The next play was a 6-yard completion to Guess, followed by a deep incomplete pass to Guess. The Panthers were stopped for no gain on third down, and a fourth-down pass intended for Guess fell incomplete, turning the ball over to the Indians with 1:59 remaining.
Hillsboro was able to burn over 90 seconds off of the clock before having to punt the ball away with 20.8 seconds left in the game. The punt was blocked by Enochs and Miami Trace took over at the Indians 27-yard line with 13.8 seconds left in the game.
Back-to-back completions to Enochs and Mollett had the Panthers at the Hillsboro 18-yard line with 5.9 seconds left. They elected for a game-winning 35-yard field goal attempt, but the kick was just short of clearing the crossbar as Hillsboro held on for a 14-13 victory.
Miami Trace head coach Jerry Williams spoke after the loss.
“The second half was a different ball game for us. I was just extremely proud of what our defense accomplished tonight,” Miami Trace coach Jerry Williams said. “They did a great job of keeping us in the game. Offensively, we finally started getting in a rhythm in the second half after being completely flat in the first half. I really felt good about our situation and where we were, and it’s unfortunate for the boys that they had to lose this one tonight.”
He went through the final play of the game for the Panthers.
“With 5.9 seconds left in the game, I didn’t have any timeouts. I wanted to run another play into the boundary and get it out of bounds, but we knew what our kicker’s limit was and we were right at his limit. You second-guess yourself and you want to go back one more play but anything could happen and you might not even get a shot at it. I wish I could have ran one more play to get three or four yards closer, but they made some changes defensively that I recognized so I decided to send out the field goal team. If we would have gotten one more yard, that ball would have went through.”
Hillsboro improved to 2-2 in the FAC and 5-4 overall with the win. The Indians will visit Greenfield on Friday to battle the McClain Tigers in the annual Rotary Bowl game.
Miami Trace fell to 2-2 in the FAC and 5-4 overall. The Panthers host Washington (5-4, 2-2) Friday.