Ohlde, Gallon key Tigers second win
Published on -10/19/2012, 10:26 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University junior running back Shaun Ohlde played eight-man football at Linn and lives a few miles outside of Palmer, a town fewer than 100 people.
"If you have got the right map, we are on it," Ohlde said. "Palmer is three miles from my house and Linn is four and a half."
Ohlde, known for his work ethic, was a walk-on four years ago and has contributed on special teams and as a reserve tailback.
Senior wide receiver Cornelius Gallon came from Tampa, Fla. Gallon first attended NCAA Division I University of Central Michigan where he never appeared in a game in three years and had some knee problems. Like many Tiger transfers, Gallon had a connection to FHSU wide receivers coach Al McCray, who used to coach in Florida.
Gallon arrived in Hays last fall.
"Really played good at spring ball (at Central)," Gallon said. "But I really got hurt at the wrong time."
Last Saturday, Ohlde and Gallon's different careers produced the same result. Each enjoyed their best college game in a 37-34 road overtime victory at Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University. Gallon hauled in nine catches for 155 yards and three scores, including an eight-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left in regulation that helped tie the contest.
"Everything just went right for us," Gallon said. "Just every time I caught the ball, I gained some yards."
After four injuries to starting running backs this season, Ohlde finally earned his opportunity and finished with 29 carries for 91 yards, all game-highs and career-bests.
"It means a lot," Ohlde said. "It's fun to get in there and finally get some reps at running back and just trying to prove what I can do out there."
On Saturday, Fort Hays (2-5, 2-5 MIAA) will play host to Lincoln (Mo.) University (1-6, 1-6 MIAA) in the Hall of Fame game at Lewis Field Stadium. Game time is 2:30 p.m. The contest is the MIAA TV Network Game of the Week.
Lincoln, winless in the MIAA last year, is an improved team and defeated University of Nebraska-Kearney 34-27 last week. The Blue Tigers, which rejoined the conference last year after a long hiatus, earned its first MIAA victory since 1989. Freshman Maurkice Savage had three interceptions to earn conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.
"They have got great speed on offense," second-year Tiger coach Chris Brown said. "Their O-line has really improved from last year. Their defense is fast and quick and makes a lot of plays. It's going to be a good battle."
Gallon went to Plant High School in Florida -- he sported a jacket with his high school's name in an interview Tuesday -- and helped his team win a Class 4A title. He redshirted the 2008 season, missed the '09 season because of injury and didn't participate in any contests in '10. Last season, Gallon played in all 11 games with six starts for Fort Hays. He ranked third on the team with 19 catches and fourth with 233 receiving yards.
"He has got some bad knees," Brown said. "He is an old man, that's what we call him. He does a good job of getting himself to treatment and getting himself healthy and getting himself ready to play. He has done an excellent job of knocking that rust off."
Gallon became the first FHSU player since former All-American O.J. Murdock in 2010 to catch three receiving scores. As well, Gallon was the first Tiger to exceed 100 receiving yards this year. After the long process, Gallon said it was "well worth it" to finally have a big game. He now leads Fort Hays with 20 catches for 302 yards and four scores.
"This was his standout game finally," Brown said. "He really came out and showed what he could do. Now we expect that out of him every game. He did an excellent job of making some tough plays and making some tough catches and making some yards after the catch."
Ohlde arrived in 2009 after he was an eight-man all-state player. He had offers to other schools, but came to Fort Hays mainly because of the agriculture program. He walked on to the football team and decided to work "as hard as I could" to earn a scholarship. He redshirted in 2009 and played in three games in '10. Last year, he appeared in 10 contests, collected five special teams tackles and had 18 rushes for 40 yards and a score. For the first time, Ohlde received scholarship money this year.
"It meant a lot to me that they obviously wanted me here," he said.
Still, it appeared Ohlde would be limited to backup duty and special teams (he has two tackles this fall). He played well in the spring but ranked third between senior Andre Smith and junior Edward Smith on the depth chart. Those two suffered season-ending injuries early this year. Then, true freshman Addie Brown took over. Redshirt freshman Treveon Albert switched to running back a few weeks ago and became the primary ball carrier. Ohlde, known more for his straight-ahead running rather than raw speed, kept getting passed over.
"It was actually real tough," he said. "I just always came to practice and kept working, hoping that I would get my chance. I guess everything happens for a reason."
Versus SBU, Brown (elbow) and Albert (IT band) went down early with injuries. Brown is expected to miss a couple weeks, while Albert could play Saturday.
Ohlde earned his opportunity and consistently helped Fort Hays move the chains. The Tigers collected 31 first downs and held the ball for 43 minutes and 20 seconds.
It marked the most first downs since FHSU tallied 30 versus Fort Lewis (Colo.) College on Oct. 9, 2004.
The Tigers ran 96 plays, the most in the MIAA this season and tied for 12th in Division II this year, according to NCAA statistics. Ohlde had just one run of negative yards.
"He is not going to break a 25-, 30-yard run or a 60-yard touchdown, but he is going to get you his positive yards on every down, he is not going to lose many yards at all," Brown said. "He is just going to get you four or five yards a carry and that's a tough kid, and he is just going to keep bearing his nose in there until the final whistle blows. It doesn't matter how many times he is going to carry the ball. He is going to give you all he has got."