GOSHEN – The Hillsboro Indians put up a spirited fight but were victimized by three long first-half touchdown passes in a 49-26 non-league loss Friday at Goshen that was closer than the final score indicates.
Goshen, a 6-3 loser to Hamilton Ross last week, improved to 1-1, while Hillsboro fell to 0-2.
The Indians led 14-7 early in the second quarter and scored with just 24 seconds left before halftime to pull within 21-20, but then things unraveled a bit.
Still, they were in the game until last four minutes.
“They played their hearts out, they played their guts out,” Hillsboro coach Jack O’Rourke said. “They made some improvements. We made some mental mistakes in pass coverage and that was probably the difference.”
It didn’t look good for the visitors at the outset.
Hillsboro took the opening kickoff and went three plays and out, then Goshen took advantage of a short punt to drive 52 yards in 10 plays for the game’s first score. The drive was capped by a 15-yard TD pass to Logan Mantz and with 5:21 left in the first quarter the Warriors had a 7-0 lead.
But the Indians came alive quick.
On the second play of the ensuing drive Hillsboro’s Luke Gallimore broke through a pack of defenders at the line of scrimmage then outran the defense 79 yards for a touchdown. The snap on the PAT kick was high and it was blocked, leaving the score 7-6 with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
Goshen ran five plays and punted, then Hillsboro’s running game took over. Without a single pass in the drive, the Indians drove 74 yards in 10 plays to paydirt. The drive was capped when Gallimore broke through the right side of the line, shook off several defenders and ran 9 yards for the score. Sajoun Jones scored on a run around the left side for the two-point conversion and with 9:29 left before halftime Hillsboro had its first lead of the season, 14-7.
Four plays later Goshen scored on a 45-yard TD pass to Jacob Hopkins. The kick was good and it was 14-14 with 7:24 left in the second quarter.
The Indians went three plays and out on their next series, then Goshen marched 61 yards in eight plays to take a 21-14 lead with 2:48 left in the half.
But Hillsboro answered again. A long kickoff return by Josh Keets set the Indians up at the Goshen 48-yard line. Then the Indians ran 11 plays as time was running out, converting a fourth down play along with way to gow with a key tip-toe first down catch along the sidelines by Jones from QB Hunter Chain to keep the drive alive. Then on third down Chain faked right, rolled left and found Brian Smith in the back of the end zone for a TD. The kick missed and it was 21-20 with 24 second left in the half.
That’s when Goshen turned the tide.
A short kickoff set the Warriors up at midfield, then on the first play Goshen’s Deonte Bailey got behind the Hillsboro defense for a 39-yard reception. On the very next play Savian Eaton got behind the defense again and caught an 11-yard TD in the back left corner of the end zone. Jordan Ulrey’s kick was good again with 2 seconds left in the half Goshen had a 28-20 lead.
The Warriors took the second half kick and drove 65 yards in 11 plays to take a 35-20 lead, but again Hillsboro answered.
Relying solely on their running game again, the Indians went 63 yards on 13 plays. Deon Burns capped it with a two-yard burst up the middle. The try for the two-point conversion failed and with 1:25 left in the third quarter it was 35-26.
Hillsboro held the hosts to three plays and punt, then went on another impressive drive as the fourth quarter started. Starting on their own 21-yard line the Indians drove to the Goshen 33-yard line in 10 plays, but the drive stalled there after two incomplete passes.
Goshen came back with a six-play drive that included consecutive completions of 30 and 26 yards. The Warriors scored on Jimmy Strunk’s 2-yard run with 4:03 left in the game to take a 42-26 lead.
Then for some reason Goshen went for an onside kick and recovered it. The Warriors scored four plays later, with 50 seconds left in the game, to account for the game’s final score.
“Some things are better left unsaid,” O’Rourke responded when asked about the onside kick.
Next week Hillsboro hosts Clermont Northeastern in the Indians first home game of the season with a 7:30 p.m. start.
Goshen travels to Bethel-Tate.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.