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First half pushes Beloit past Hillsboro

Second-half rally falls short in 32-27 heartbreaker

Staff writer

Hillsboro football coach Demetrius Cox was fully aware of what it what it would take for the Trojans to clinch a ticket to the semifinals of the Class 2A state football playoffs.

To match the success of a Hillsboro team that made the Final Four 15 years ago, the Trojans would have to survive a dose of “bullyball” from another batch of Trojans in the sectional round Friday in Beloit.

There’s nothing perplexing about Beloit’s attack, but being able to withstand the punishing ground game is easier said than done. 

Let Benson Berndt get on track in Beloit’s backfield and games have a tendency of unraveling on opponents, with the 5-9 and 170-pound junior racking up 1,400 yards before Friday’s contest. 

The Cimarron Bluejays found out last week what happens when Berndt gets rolling. He gashed the Bluejays for five touchdowns and 212 yards in a 51-6 blowout. 

It was a 275-yard, four-touchdown performance by Garden Plain’s Logan Dold that sabotaged Hillsboro’s bid of playing for its first-ever state championship in football 15 years ago, with the Owls hanging on for a 32-26 win. 

Berndt joined Dold on the list of Hillsboro’s postseason saboteurs Friday night, burning the Trojans for a sinister 241 yards on 44 carries and all four Beloit touchdowns.

Hillsboro’s season ends at 9-2 despite staging a second-half rally for 20 unanswered points. Beloit’s 32-7 first-half explosion was too much to overcome. 

The Trojans ended up one point better than the 2006 team with a 32-27 loss. 

Everything that could have gone wrong for the Trojans did in the first half with Berndt putting Beloit in front 16-0 on its first two possessions with six- and seven-yard scores. 

Hillsboro couldn’t get any traction, driving backwards on six out of its first eight plays while going without a first down until the second quarter. 

Matt Potucek’s final game as a Trojan was a memorable one. He went long for Jaxon Hanschu on a 44-yard reception. That set up a nine-yard score by Potucek to get Hillsboro on the scoreboard with 6:37 left in the first half. 

Hanschu hauled in four catches for a game-high 103 yards in his final go-round. 

Half of Beloit’s touchdowns came courtesy of a short field. 

Beloit kept the ball in Berndt’s hands. He carried 29 times in the first half for 205 yards with only one of the 29 rushes going in reverse. 

Cox, Potucek and Jamari Harris wouldn’t let the Trojans go quietly, though. 

Potucek hit Duncan Duell for a 17-yard touchdown, sparking Hillsboro’s 20-0 run with 2:50 left in the third quarter to pull to 32-13. 

Hillsboro’s defense stepped up to the challenge, too, making a goal-line stand at the 1, and holding Berndt to 39 yards the second half. 

Potucek threw for 235 yards on 9-of-15 passing, but 92 of his total came with 5:36 left in the game and Hillsboro facing a fourth-and-three at its own 7. 

Nick Smith caught a tipped pass and scampered the rest of the way for the score. Potucek kept the ball for a two-point conversion, bringing Hillsboro to 32-21. 

Third downs killed Hillsboro, going two-for-seven, but Potucek fired to Hanschu again on third and 11 for the Hillsboro’s final points of season with 54 seconds left. 

A two-point attempt was broken up, and Berndt recovered an onside kick to preserve Beloit’s win. 

Hillsboro actually outgained Beloit, 319-300, but two turnovers, 47 yards in penalties, and time did Hillsboro in. 

Potucek closed out his high school career as arguably one of Hillsboro’s best with 259 total yards and 10 carries for 24 yards and one score. 

Harris paced the Trojan ground attack, which accounted for 84 yards, with 12 carries for 60. 

Other seniors who lent a hand to Hillsboro’s best season in eight were Frank Wichert, Tristan Rathbone, Fillow Cruz, Eli Dalke, Corbin Marple, Brody Rader, and Garrett Helmer. 

Last modified Nov. 17, 2021

 

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