HILLSBORO — The Halstead High School football team's defense taketh against the rival Hillsboro Trojans Thursday night in the district finale at Joel Wiens Stadium in Hillsboro.
The Dragons offense also gaveth at times.
Halstead was able to overcome its turnovers to claim a 49-28 win to qualify for the Class 3A playoffs.
Halstead finishes the regular season 5-4, 2-1 in district play. Hillsboro finishes 3-6, 0-3 in district play. Halstead advances to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
"That was a major goal for us," Halstead coach Mark Svaty said. "We have a very young team. With us being able to finish our season with a winning record, and going to the playoffs and play in November, it's a huge deal for us. We're very proud of ourselves, but we know we have a tough task ahead to be able to continue our season."
Halstead quarterback Blake Beckett, a sophomore, rushed for 180 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Dragons.
"We knew they were going to put up points," Beckett said. "The way they played against Moundridge, they put up points. With a passing team like that, they are going to make some long plays. We stuck to what we were going to do. We followed our game plan. We did what we do best. Turnovers are part of the game. We just have to keep our heads up after one and keep playing."
Hillsboro was led by quarterback Jesse Brown, who passed 200 yards and three touchdowns.
"Turnovers were a big factor," Svaty said. "We had two turnovers that led to scores immediately. The same thing happened to them. We were able to capitalize. They had momentum in drives. We came up with big plays, whether it was a sack or an interception to get them off the field. Their offense is potent."
Halstead got off to a strong start, taking advantage of a Hillsboro turnover to score on a Christian Morris 27-yard run. After a Dragon stop on defense, Halstead fumbled it right back to set up a 13-yard pass from Brown to Preston Nelson.
A long kickoff return set up a five-yard Beckett run. After a defensive stop, Joseph Myers scored on a 10-yard run.
Things went wrong for the Dragons early in the second quarter. What appeared to be a defensive stop for Halstead wound up as a pass interference penalty, setting up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Cody Delk. A Jesse Meier interception set up a three-yard scoring pass from Brown to Jordan Faul, tying the game on the PAT kick.
Halstead got stopped again, but Elijah McKee picked off Brown and ran it back 40 yards for the score. A Halstead defensive stop set up a 72-yard drive that ended with a five-yard Beckett run.
It took Hillsboro just 12 seconds in the second half to get back in the game when David Dick picked off a pass and returned it 27 yards for a score. Halstead came back with a 43-yard drive that ended with a four-yard Beckett run.
Halstead stopped a long Hillsboro drive with a Layke Heimerman interception early in the fourth quarter. The Dragons went 89 yards in 11 plays, using more than five minutes on the clock and scoring on a 37-yard Beckett run.
"We were trying to kill the clock from the second quarter on," Svaty said. "We were delaying our plays. We know for them to have success, they need as many possessions as possible. We needed to counter that to win the game."
Halstead will open the playoffs at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kingman. The Eagles downed Garden Plain 32-22 to finish 6-2 and win their district. Kingman beat Halstead 28-21 in Central Kansas League cross division play earlier in the season.
"We played them week six," Svaty said. "They are a senior dominated ballclub. They are very physical up front. They have a senior offensive line. It's going to be a very good game. We told our kids last time it was going to be a four-score game that would be decided in the fourth quarter. That's exactly what it was. We have to come up with something in the next four or five says to counteract that and have the opposite ourcome."
Halstead 21 14 7 7 —49
Hillsboro 7 14 7 0 —28
1q. Hal. Morris 27-yd. run (Ekroll kick) 11:13
1q. Hil. Nelson 13-yd. pass from Brown (Sontag kick) 8:39
1q. Hal. Beckett 5-yd. run (Ekroll kick) 5:56
1q. Hal. Myers 10-yd. run (Ekroll kick) 1:43
2q. Hil. Delk 12-yd. pass from Brown (Sontag kick) 11:06
2q. Hil. Faul 3-yd. pass from Brown (Sontag kick) 8:59
2q. Hal. McKee 40-yd. interception return (pass failed) 7:15
2q. Hal. Beckett 4-yd. run (Beckett run) :53.5
3q. Hil. Dick 27-yd. interception return (Sontag kick) 11:48
3q. Hal. Beckett 2-yd. run (Ekroll kick) 5:40
4q. Hal. Beckett 37-yd. run (Ekroll kick) 5:16
First downs 18 16
Rushing-yards 55-295 15-10
Passing yards 41 200
Comp-att-int 3-8-2 21-42-4
Punts-avg. 3-35.3 3-33.7
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 6-42 5-33
RUSHING — Halstead: Beckett 32-180, Myers 12-64, Morris 3-35, Wright 2-10, Heimerman 2-8, team 3-0, Stovall 1-(-2). Hillsboro: Hilliard 2-7, Brown 10-4, Hanschu 2-1, Nelson 1-(-2).
PASSING — Halstead: Beckett 3-8-2, 41 yards. Hillsboro: Brown 21-42-4, 200 yards.
RECEIVING — Halstead: Standifer 1-29, McKee 1-12, Stovall 1-0. Hillsboro: Ollenberger 8-84, Faul 4-43, Delk 3-36, Nelson 4-30, Hilliard 2-7.
Missed field goals — none.