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Indians fall in nailbiter to open season

Published on -9/1/2012, 12:19 PM

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JUNCTION CITY -- Silence enveloped the Hays High School football team as it trudged off Junction City's field following its heartbreaking loss Friday evening.

The Indians surrendered a three-score, first-quarter lead and lost 44-43 in overtime to Junction City (1-0).

It was a night of highs and lows for Hays High (0-1).

The Indians, who returned just three starters on offense and four on defense, demonstrated moments of pure brilliance on the field, and at other moments, their inexperience shown through.

"There were times we saw glimpses of what we were capable of doing if we put it together," Hays High coach Ryan Cornelsen said.

After Hays High built a 22-0 lead in the first quarter, Junction City battled back and tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

Hays High did its part, putting up 7 points in overtime, but Junction City one-upped the Indians by scoring and converting its 2-point conversion to win it.

Hays High was nearly perfect in the first quarter, scoring on all three of its possessions and forcing two Junction City three-and-outs and an interception.

In the second quarter, the momentum shifted. Hays High committed five penalties and struggled to get out of the holes it dug for itself.

This pattern repeated itself throughout the game, and in the end, Hays High committed 16 penalties for 107 yards -- nearly a third of what the Indians put up offensively.

"If you take out the mistakes, we win the game," said Cade Sharp, Hays High center and defensive tackle. "I don't know the official stats, but I guarantee we had over 100 yards of penalties."

Many of Hays High's penalties were false starts.

In fact, the Indians had three false starts in a row with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Instead of moving the chains and wasting the clock to seal a 7-point victory, the Indians got backed up and had to punt, providing Junction City with a short field. The Blue Jays took advantage and added the tying score with 1:42 remaining.

"As soon as we got set, (Junction City's players) would start saying words that were very similar to our snap count," Cornelsen said. "It was pulling us off. That's not the kids' fault. That's my fault. We've got to work that stuff in practice. I tried to do as much as I could to get our young kids ready, and I'll be honest. It didn't even dawn on me to work on that."

Hays High sophomore quarterback Alex Delton had a terrific debut, despite ending the night with a loss.

Delton, a first-year starter, led his team in rushing, carrying the ball 19 times for 102 yards and four touchdowns and completing 3-of-6 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Senior running back David Cardinal had 18 rushes for 81 yards and a touchdown, and junior fullback Preston Weigel had 10 carries for 51 yards.

Senior wide receiver Adam Deterding made two huge grabs -- one for a 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter and one for 10 yards in overtime.

"Anytime you score the amount of points we scored with young kids running the show, it says they are stepping up," Cornelsen said. "I know there were a lot of mistakes and miscues that we hopefully can get corrected next week."

Defensively, several Indians made big plays.

Sharp had a sack and a blocked punt, which led to the team's first score. Senior defensive backs Chance Pitcock and Derek Bixenman each picked off Junction City quarterback Cody Tevin in the first half.

As a whole, the Indians' defense was strong at first, stopping Junction City on its first five possessions, but seemed to wear down over time. The Blue Jays took advantage of good field position and scored points on all but one possession in the second half.

Junction City produced 212 yards rushing. Senior running back Jovan Toles led the Blue Jays with 124 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think we looked good early, but we can't lose our intensity," Cornelsen said. "We've got to do better on defense. They had some good backs, but we gave them some easy yards."

Sharp said the team got tired and was pushed around by Junction City's line.

"We've just got to get tougher," Sharp said.

In overtime, Hays High got the ball first and started the period with a false start. The Indians got a couple of 2-yard rushes, and on third-and-11, Hays High went for the end zone.

Delton lobbed a pass for Deterding to jump up and grab. Deterding came down with it, but he was short of the end zone by a yard. Delton then scored on a fourth-down dive.

Following the extra point, Junction City needed 7 points to stay in it. Toles easily scored following two 5-yard runs, and Toles sealed the victory for Junction City by running into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.

"Anytime you win or lose, there are things we can learn from it," Cornelsen said. "If you're not going to play any better defense than that, then you can't win in the end. We've got to figure out how to do that better. But there's no doubt it hurt those kids. We'll bounce back and get after it."

Cornelsen said he's confident his players will be able to turn it around after the defeat.

"We've got to turn the pain of defeat into a desire to win and come out and practice harder," he said. "The coaches are going to do a good job of making sure we get the most out of them. But when you play like that, I think there is some good to take from it. With film, we can make a lot of corrections, and we'll be better next week in a lot of areas."

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