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SPOTLIGHT
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Hays High trounces Liberal

Published on -9/16/2012, 7:12 PM

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By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Through the first two games of the season, the Indians relied on their running attack, carrying the ball a combined 96 times and throwing 14 passes.

In Friday night's game against Liberal, the Hays High School football team used its running game to take the lead, allowing sophomore quarterback Alex Delton to work on the passing game.

Delton completed 7-of-13 passes for 201 yards -- including a 76-yard TD strike -- and Hays High cruised to a 51-34 WAC win at Lewis Field Stadium, in a game nowhere near as close the final score would indicate.

"We felt like we could run the ball if we wanted to; we kind of proved we could," said Hays High coach Ryan Cornelsen. "We wanted to spread the ball, try to get a more balanced attack, because it's not always going to be that way.

"We always felt like if we had to, we could go back to running our normal stuff right at them."

Senior running back David Cardinal gashed Liberal's defense with huge chunks of yards running off-tackle. He finished with 194 yards on 16 carries and scored four TDs -- including a 64-yard gallop into the end zone in the second quarter.

"With a back like David, David's just an animal running the ball," Delton said. "When he gets the ball, you know something special is going to happen. He's going to make something happen."

Delton added 98 yards on 15 carries, with one touchdown.

Hays High rushed for 418 yards, while Liberal ran for 130.

Liberal (1-2 overall, 0-1 WAC) got most of its yards through the air in its spread option attack. Junior quarterback Britton Abbott completed 29 of 54 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns. Two of his TD passes came in the game's final minutes to make the score look respectable.

The Redskins capitalized on an Indian fumble to take the early lead. Abbott threw a 26-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Trenton Hammond for a 7-0 lead with 9:27 left in the first quarter. Hammond finished with 11 catches for 121 yards.

"We knew the Hammond kid was awfully talented," Cornelsen said. "We put our best cover guy on him, and the kid made some plays."

Hays High (2-1, 1-0) responded with Cardinal's 14-yard TD run, but the Indians missed the extra point to trail 7-6 with 6:49 remaining in the first quarter.

Cardinal scored again with 1:55 left in the first, this time from 5 yards out, then ran in the 2-point conversion for a 14-7 lead.

A 30-yard field goal by Liberal senior Cesar Saquic cut Hays High's lead to 14-10 with 8-17 left in the second quarter. HHS made it 21-10 just 51 seconds later. Delton completed a 56-yard pass to senior Jake Sedbrook, then senior Chance Pitcock dashed into the end zone on a reverse, from 13 yards out.

Cardinal then broke several tackles on a run up the middle, and outraced a Liberal defender into the end zone for a 64-yard score with 6:50 left in the first half. The Redskins got another field goal from Saquic, this one from 25 yards with 3:14 left, to make it 28-13.

HHS took a 34-13 halftime lead when Cardinal scored from a yard out with 1:00 remaining.

The Indians exploited the Liberal secondary for Delton's 76-yard bomb to senior Adam Deterding to make it 41-13 with 3:37 left in the third quarter. Delton stood in the pocket, taking a hit as he released a high-arcing spiral into Deterding's arms just past midfield, and he outran the defensive back down the sideline and into the end zone.

"That safety was playing up, so we decided to give it a shot -- money ball," Delton said.

Abbott connected with junior Nolan Larkin for an 11-yard TD with 1:36 remaining in the third to get within 41-20.

HHS countered with Delton's 2-yard TD run 11 seconds into the fourth quarter. Clark's 37-yard field goal with 4:55 left made it 51-20.

Abbott threw scoring passes covering 16 and 26 yards to senior J.J. Lewis in the final 2:28 to account for the final margin.

Delton accounted for 299 yards of total offense in his third varsity start.

"I think he looks like a veteran," Cornelsen said. "If you watch him, he manages the game really well, he keeps his composure.

"I'm extremely happy with what he's doing at this point."

Delton said he is starting to feel more comfortable running the offense.

"Oh yes, I'm starting to get more of a feel for varsity game speed," he said. "Getting the feel; got some corrections to make."

Hays High is on the road again Friday, at Garden City. But for now, Delton is savoring his first home game.

"All week, that's all I could think about: It's our first home game," Delton said. "I was very excited."

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