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K-State falls short of upset bid against No. 3 Arizona -11/26/2014, 9:17 AM

Tiger women move to 4-1 -11/26/2014, 9:17 AM

Tiger men grind out win -11/26/2014, 9:17 AM

Top seven spots remain unchanged in latest College Football Playoff rankings -11/26/2014, 9:16 AM

Ravens pull away in second half for 34-27 victory over Saints -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

Wildcats prep for Jayhawks -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

KSU beats Purdue in Maui, No. 3 Arizona next -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

Tigers earn all-region honors -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

Berry out with possible cancer -11/25/2014, 10:21 AM

No. 11 Kansas returns to form in 87-60 win -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Lehman named MIAA Player of the Week -11/24/2014, 11:09 AM

Romo rallies Cowboys past Giants for 31-28 win -11/24/2014, 10:33 AM

Dolphins collapse, lose to Broncos -11/24/2014, 10:33 AM

Wichita State routs Newman, now 3-0 -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

TCU closing in on program's first Big 12 title -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

KSU's Weber has strong ties with Purdue, Painter -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

Tigers' Page wins at UNK Open -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

FHSU soccer falls in quarterfinals -11/24/2014, 10:32 AM

Tigers move on to Elite Eight -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Tiger men pick up second win -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Tigers search for new coaches -11/23/2014, 7:43 PM

Phillipsburg drops a heartbreaker to end season -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

KVA all-state volleyball teams -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

Tiger women roll to second straight win -11/23/2014, 7:42 PM

Knights claim state title -11/22/2014, 10:46 AM

Tigers' Paraguay soccer connection -11/21/2014, 10:56 AM

One last go for Knights' seniors -11/21/2014, 5:00 PM

Phillipsburg one step away -11/21/2014, 10:47 AM

McPherson standout signs with FHSU -11/20/2014, 2:35 PM

Wildcats look to bounce back at Morgantown -11/20/2014, 10:29 AM

Tiger women roll to record win -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

FHSU men pick up first win -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

Cavs fumble chance to beat Spurs -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

A's officially sign Butler -11/20/2014, 10:20 AM

Two Tigers named to MIAA vb team -11/19/2014, 11:13 AM

Sports Scores

Tuesday

Prep basketball

Boys

Atwood 76, St. Francis 65

Dighton 62, Oberlin 47

Hillsboro 50, Goodland 47

Lakeside 42, Lincoln 32

Minneapolis 68, Russell 35

Rock Hills 42, Natoma 37

Salina Central 62, Andover 58

Salina South 62, Sacred Heart 47

Sharon Springs 75, Leoti 38

St. John's Beloit-Tipton 57, Osborne 34

Sylvan-Lucas 61, Thunder Ridge 48

Girls

Dighton 44, Atwood 11

Dodge City 71, Hays High 28

Hesston 51, Goodland 18

Hoisington 60, Victoria 46

Hoxie 65, St. Francis 13

Lincoln 33, Lakeside 26

Minneapolis 47, Otis-Bison 24

Osborne 59, Wilson 34

Sharon Springs 63, Oberlin 42

Sylvan-Lucas 43, Natoma 41 (ot)

Tescott 41, Rock Hills 33

Trego 56, Leoti 27

Thunder Ridge 33, St. John's Beloit-Tipton 30

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SPOTLIGHT
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Tiger football wraps season on a positive note

Published on -11/13/2012, 10:17 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Fort Hays State University football started 0-4 against a difficult schedule that featured Emporia State University, Washburn University, Northwest Missouri State University and Missouri Western State University. Missouri Western eventually won the conference, while Northwest took second and Emporia third. Washburn won seven contests.

It was the third time since 1974, and second since the program switched to the MIAA seven years ago, that FHSU opened 0-4. In 2006, Fort Hays started 0-4 in the MIAA, its first season in the new conference, and eventually finished 1-10.

That didn't happen this year. In Week 4, Fort Hays lost 21-3 to Missouri Western, currently 10-1 and ranked No. 9 in NCAA Division II. It tied for the lowest points of the season for Western. Second-year coach Chris Brown complimented his team's physical play.

Afterward, FHSU finished 5-2 and enjoyed a 5-6, 4-6 MIAA season. It was the second-best overall record in the program's MIAA tenure and highest winning percentage in conference play.

"I am just so proud of the guys, so proud of the underclassmen for buying in, keep fighting," said senior bandit backer Layton Hickel, the team's leading tackler with 101 stops. "I knew the seniors were going to fight, because we put in so much time. We want wins bad, and we are not going to lay down for anything. We are going to keep fighting every week. It's been a ride. It was a rough stretch there at the beginning, but we have definitely improved and continued to improve. We will just build off of that."

The finish helped turn the season into a positive -- and yielded a one-win improvement from last season's 4-7, 3-6 MIAA finish under Brown.

The Tigers had their top four starting tailbacks suffer injuries and had no rusher with more than 422 yards. However, a veteran offensive line opened holes for 174.2 rushing yards and 4.6 yards per carry, the second-best rushing numbers in the program's MIAA tenure. Freshman Shaquille Cooper moved from defensive back to tailback in the last several weeks and finished with 47 carries for 356 yards and four scores. He led the team with 7.6 yards per rush and finished second with four rushing scores.

The top five tailbacks are expected to return, but Brown still will recruit tailbacks. Cooper is expected to move back to defense to provide more athleticism, but could play some offense.

"We will recruit again no matter what," Brown said. "We will always recruit a tailback. I like to recruit tailbacks, because I feel at tailback, if you get the right of size of kid, he can play safety for you, he can play outside linebacker for you, could play corner."

For the second straight season, Fort Hays played more than one quarterback -- and had trouble in the passing game. Junior quarterback Tarean Austin and senior Anthony Sheppard combined for 173.8 passing yards a contest and a 108.4 passing efficiency. The Tigers finished 13th in the 15-team MIAA in passing yards per contest.

Still, Fort Hays' defense, under first-year defensive coordinator Cooper Harris, showed improvement, led the league in red zone defense and allowed 29.3 points per contest.

"There is no question in my mind we are in a way different place than we were before then," Hickel said of Brown and the coaching staff.

"Just being around the building, around the guys, the expectations are here now that you didn't see before. The chemistry with the guys is so much better than it has been before. Just this coaching staff is just unbelievable. They bring a fire everyday, and you can tell they want to win, and it translates to the players wanting to win."

Fort Hays enjoyed its best special teams play in years. FHSU had four defensive/special teams scores -- the first for the Tigers since 2009.

Fort Hays blocked seven kicks, the most since 1995. Freshman Drew O'Brien, from Thomas More Prep-Marian and in his second year of kicking a football in his life, took over the duties after two-year starter Tyler Kimbrough suffered a hip injury in the preseason. Kimbrough didn't play this year and his status is still uncertain. However, Brown said O'Brien is the kicker of the future. He finished 12 of 17 on field goals, 25 of 29 extra points and also punted effectively in Week 11. He missed just one kick inside 40 yards; Kimbrough had missed seven field goals within 40 yards the last two seasons.

"To me, Drew is going to be our guy," Brown said. "He has done a very good job. He has gotten very consistent with his kicks. We have asked him to kick some very long ones. ... His progression as a kicker has really impressed me."

O'Brien tied for 30th nationally in field goals per game, fifth-best among freshmen.

"His kickoffs are great," Brown said. "He has got a lot of power on his kickoffs. He is able to start placing the ball a little bit better than he had when he first got here. His field goals are tremendous. He has got great timing now and great form and he has proved to me that he is worthy of the job."

Brown has continually seen improvement in his team, especially with playing more aggressive -- a style that he had when he was an All-American safety at Pittsburg State University and has preached since he came to Fort Hays.

"I think our success is showing that our kids are improving each week and have done a great job," Brown said.

In Week 10, Fort Hays lost 14-12 to University of Central Missouri, but sophomore safety Michael Jordan led the team with 13 tackles.

Afterward, Brown pointed out Jordan's play and said it was the way he wants Fort Hays to play all the time. Jordan said the performance was the most fun he had ever had on the football team.

"When you play the game like that, it's fun, it's enjoyable," Brown said. "When you physically beat somebody, that's feels good."

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