HILLSBORO, MO. — Hillsboro High freshman Jaxin Patterson crashed the party.
The 14-year-old running back was a workhorse for the Hawks offense as he carried 42 times for 238 yards in the Hawks' 27-12 win over De Soto on Friday night.
The Dragons were looking to clinch their third conference title in school history and their first in nearly 50 years with a win.
But Patterson and the rest of the Hillsboro ground game – which amassed 394 total yards – wasn’t having it.
Instead, Hillsboro (3-4, 3-1) claimed the Mississippi Conference championship.
“He’s a tough kid,” Hillsboro coach Lee Freeman said of Patterson. “He does all of the leg work for us right now and he’s got a good offensive line in front of him and a great fullback in front of him in John Bennett.”
Hillsboro’s opening drive was vintage Hawks. The offensive line dominated and Hillsboro marched 74 yards in 15 plays, all on the ground, eating up more than 7 minutes and 30 seconds of the opening quarter.
Patterson, on his 12th carry of the drive, fittingly found the end zone on a 4-yard run and Tyler Watson’s run on the two-point try gave the Hawks an 8-0 lead with 2:52 left in the first quarter.
“That’s something that’s been possible and is still possible all year,” Freeman said. “We’re a young team and we have growing pains and we have misfires. Sometimes the external noise is so loud that you can’t hear yourself inside the practice facility. A lot of people that have negative opinions about us and what we do and how we do it and these kids have been able to ignore it. This is a great group to coach.”
Hillsboro marched 59 yards, all on the ground, on its second drive. A 36-yard Patterson run set up a 15-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper by Austin Perez to help give Hillsboro a 16-6 lead early in the second.
While Hillsboro ate up chunks of time with its running game, De Soto’s offense ripped off chunks of big plays with its passing attack.
Briar Fischer found his younger brother Levi Fischer for a 24-yard touchdown and John Whited for a 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter to keep the Dragons within a score, despite possessing the ball for 7:47 second of the first 24 minutes of the game.
Hillsboro received big runs from Patterson and Watson as the seconds ticked off the clock late in the second quarter. Those chunk plays set up a 33-yard field goal by Mark Moore to give the Hawks a 19-12 lead at halftime.
Patterson racked up 148 yards on 28 carries in the first half. As a team, Hillsboro ran the ball 35 times for 212 yards in the first two quarters.
“If it wasn’t for (the offensive line) I couldn’t have made it through 200 yards,” Patterson said.
Hillsboro held the ball for almost eight minutes to begin the third quarter, but the drive stalled deep in De Soto territory and a field goal attempt went wide right.
But the Hawks’ defense gave them the ball again just two plays later with a fumble recovery. Patterson finished that drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 15.
Hillsboro’s offense held the ball for almost 11 minutes in the third quarter. The Hawks held the ball 37:25 for the game.
When De Soto (4-3, 3-1) had the ball, Hillsboro’s defense was up to the task. Zach McNees had a pair of sacks and Hunter Yaeger and Aaron Brody recovered fumbles in the second half.
“Our coaches put us in the best position possible and we just executed what our coaches told us to do with the best effort we could,” McNees said.