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Rivalry time for Indians

Published on -10/11/2012, 10:16 AM

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When it comes to regular season games, it doesn't get much bigger than when the Hays High School football team plays Great Bend.

Hays High (5-1, 3-0 WAC), ranked No. 3 in Class 5A in the statewide media poll, will travel Friday to face Great Bend (5-1, 2-1 WAC) for the district opener in a game with multiple ramifications.

The winner will decide the Western Athletic Conference championship and will have a leg up in the state playoff hunt. Not only that, but it's also Hays High's biggest rival.

"There's no doubt this is a big game for us," said fourth-year Hays High coach Ryan Cornelsen. "We know it. They know it."

The Indians will play in the confines of Great Bend's Memorial Stadium, so Indian senior running back David Cardinal expects a raucous crowd.

"We are going to be in their house," Cardinal said. "It's going to be crazy. It's going to be packed, but this is why we work. We work to play in big games like this."

Hays High senior wide receiver and defensive back Adam Deterding said the rivalry ratchets up the level of play.

"Just being from Hays and living here my whole life, I've always had that around me," Deterding said. "I know they are always a good team. When they play us, they always play twice as well as they did the week before."

Offensively, Great Bend is similar to Hays High. The Panthers primarily attempt to establish the run and use the pass to provide balance to their offense.

The Panthers are second in the league in rushing yardage (1,522) behind the league's leading rushers, Hays High (2,016), and last in the league in passing yardage (610) also behind Hays High (900), who is second to last.

Cornelsen said Great Bend does everything it can to keep teams off balance.

"They can run the same schemes whether they are under center or under gun," Cornelsen said. "... They've been able to mix things up and hit people from all different angles with the power run game, and if you're playing Great Bend and Coach (Bo) Black is coaching, they are going to be able to pass effectively."

The Panthers use a two-QB system, splitting snaps between senior Matt Marshall and junior Bryce Beck. Neither one is used one dimensionally, but each player has his own strengths.

Marshall has thrown more so far, completing 33 of 53 passes for 408 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions, while Beck has been the better rusher, running for 289 yards and four TDs. However, Beck also passes, completing 13 of 27 passes for 197 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"You can't get a read on when or why they (use the different QBs)," Cornelsen said. "Both of them has their strengths, but it's not like when one comes in -- it's not a Tebow -- one isn't going to run every down and one isn't going to throw every down. They are pretty balanced with both of them."

Great Bend also heavily uses its running backs. Senior Josh Lopez has run for 479 yards and eight touchdowns this season, while junior Johny Allende has 387 yards and five touchdowns.

Defensively, Great Bend might be the best in the league, Cornelsen said.

The Panthers lead the league in points allowed (98) and are second in the WAC in yardage allowed (1,592).

"It's by far the best defense we've seen and probably one of the best in the state," Cornelsen said. "What makes them so good is that all 11 kids are very disciplined in their assignments. They all fly to the ball."

Hays High sophomore quarterback Alex Delton said the offense has spent extra time studying Great Bend's defense in preparation for the match up between Hays High, the league's leading offense (48 points per game), and Great Bend, the league's leading defense (16.3 points per game).

"They are just very disciplined," Delton said. "They don't make dumb plays."

Right now, Hays High leads the WAC, but Garden City and Great Bend are tied for second with one loss in the league. Garden City, who defeated Great Bend earlier, plays Dodge City in the final week of the season.

If Hays High wins, the Indians are outright champions. If Hays loses, it could force a three-way tie with Great Bend and Garden City, and if Garden City loses and Great Bend wins, Great Bend would be crowned outright champions by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker with Hays.

And with Salina South, 5-1 and ranked No. 2 in Class 5A, on the horizon, winning this game could be pivotal for Hays High's playoff hopes.

"To this point, it's the biggest game of the year, but after this game, each game will get bigger and bigger," Cardinal said.

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