COLUMBUS — Hillsboro’s playoff battle with the Eastmoor Academy Warriors on Friday turned on two plays early in the second half. The Indians forced two turnovers deep in Eastmoor territory but were unable to convert on the short field either time and their season came to a screeching halt as they fell to the Warriors 34-14.
“We let them have some big plays, missed some tackles and so on. Then we didn’t take advantage of our own turnovers that we caused. They came to play the second half and we didn’t come to play as well,” said Hillsboro Head Coach Jack O’Rourke.
With the loss the Indians are now 0-7 all time in playoff games.
For much of the first quarter of play neither team was able to get anything going offensively as the Indians’ and Warriors’ defenses made one big stop after another.
Eastmoor forced a turnover on downs when the Indians went for it on fourth and four at the Warriors’ 36 yards line and Deon Burns was only able to gain one yard as the Eastmoor defense converged en masse for the stop.
Hillsboro’s defense held strong on the Warriors’ first possession and they forced a punt on fourth down that was downed inside the Hillsboro 20 yard line.
Eastmoor was able to stifle the Indians’ run game and Hillsboro’s Reece Bloomfield dropped a Mason Swayne pass in space on third in nine that would have given the Indians a first down.
Instead the Warriors were able to hold and force the Indians to punt and on Eastmoor’s first offensive play following the punt they handed the ball to their halfback and he scampered 79 yards for the touchdown. Eastmoor was unable to convert the point after to provide a 6-0 Warriors’ lead with 2:05 to play in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged punts to start the second quarter before the Indians finally found their groove on offense and senior running back Josh Keets had back to back rushing plays that went for 12 and 14 yards respectfully and gave Hillsboro a first and goal at the Eastmoor two yard line.
Three plays later senior Deon Burns capped the drive with a four yard run into the end zone then, Mason Swayne converted the two point try to give the Indians an 8-6 lead that they would hold through halftime.
The Warriors came out ready to play in the second half as they returned the opening kickoff to the Hillsboro 32 and scored from 35 yards out two plays later, the kick was good for Eastmoor as they reclaimed the lead at 13-8 with less than a minute elapsed in the third quarter.
Eastmoor was able to correct one of their mistakes in the third quarter following a forced fumble by Keets that gave the Indians possession at the Warriors’ 13.
On fourth and 13 from the Eastmoor 17 Swaynes pass was intercepted and returned the Warriors’ 30 yard line.
Eastmoor promptly used their quickness at the running back position to set up a 65 yard run to the Hillsboro 15 and the Warriors scored two plays later on a six yard run and converted the extra point for a 19-8 lead.
The Warriors added another score with 1:04 to play in the third and converted the extra point to take a 27-8 lead into the fourth quarter of play.
The fourth quarter saw Eastmoor add another touchdown on a 47 yard catch and run with 5:38 to play and converted the extra point for a 34-8 lead.
Hillsboro refused to go quietly however as they turned to the passing game and recorded two consecutive completions to Mark Gallimore for 25 and Burns before Swayne got to the edge and ran 33 yards for the final score of the game with 2:17 to play.
O’Rourke shared what he said to the players following the loss, “We came further than anybody thought we would. I didn’t think we would come this far and I was very proud of them. I am very proud of the effort they gave throughout the entire year, it was a spectacular season for us.”
Ryan Applegate is the sports editor for The Times-Gazette. Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.