Hays High clinches WAC title, district win
Published on -10/14/2012, 8:14 PM
By KLINT SPILLER
GREAT BEND -- Hays High School senior running back David Cardinal described Friday's atmosphere like the setting of a movie.
The scene was shrouded in mist with two rival, budding contenders battling it out on the soaked turf.
The winner would earn league champions, and the result could decide who continues playing in the postseason.
The story had a perfect ending for Cardinal and the Indians, as they defeated Great Bend, clad in black, 31-13.
With the victory, the Indians (6-1, 4-0 WAC), ranked No. 3 in Class 5A in the statewide media poll, became the undisputed Western Athletic Conference champions and moved to 1-0 in district play.
Great Bend dropped to 5-2 and 2-2 in the league.
"This is huge. This is what we've worked for," Cardinal said. "Coming out here, we played a great game. Great Bend is a great team. We worked hard and played hard. There were great blocks. Everybody worked together, came together and we got the W."
If there was a protagonist in this film, it was Cardinal.
With the mist, Hays High went away from its game plan of passing and using its quarterback and fullback heavily in the run.
Instead, the Indians relied on Cardinal, and time after time, he made big plays, obtaining 13 of his team's 19 first downs and scoring three of Hays High's five touchdowns.
Cardinal finished with 169 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries, and caught two passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
"David had an excellent game," sophomore quarterback Alex Delton said. "We needed him today just like we needed all the other 10 people on the field."
Delton had a strong game as well. All his completions went for touchdowns, but the rain grounded Hays High's air attack for the most part. Delton completed 3 of 6 passes for 132 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 73 yards.
"It kind of threw us off our game plan, and nothing we did was very crisp," Hays High head coach Ryan Cornelsen said. "To me, it was all ugly. We just had to keep grinding to find a way to win. That's what's important -- finding a way to win."
Facing the top-ranked defense in the WAC, Hays High accumulated 277 yards on the ground, but the Indians didn't have a single run of 20 or more yards. Its average of 4.78 yards per carry was its lowest of the season.
"We were hoping to throw the ball more and try to get our quarterback outside and hit Preston underneath, but it just didn't work that way," Cornelsen said. "The inside run to David was working, so that's what we went with."
Though Great Bend's defense is top 10 in Class 5A, it was Hays High's defense that had the better day. The Indians contained Great Bend to 13 points and 291 total yards.
"I told our kids that this game would be won on defense," Cornelsen said. "Their defense was good, and if our defense would step up, our offense would find a way to score enough to win."
Hays High's good fortune started early. Great Bend senior Bryce Hofmeister took the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but it was called back for holding. So instead, Great Bend started at its own 38 and went three-and-out.
The Indians then responded with a nine-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard Emilio Mitchell touchdown run.
Hays High started the second quarter with another score, as senior wide receiver Adam Deterding beat the defense and caught a 33-yard pass in the middle of the end zone from Delton to go up 12-0.
Great Bend responded later in the second quarter, taking advantage of an interception thrown by Delton.
The Panthers took just three plays to go 48 yards and scored on a 3-yard run by junior running back Jonathan Allende.
However, Hays High answered, marching up the field with a heavy dose of Cardinal.
The Indians found themselves at Great Bend's 40-yard line with 19 seconds remaining when Delton found Cardinal in the flat. Cardinal ran down field along the sideline, cut back to the middle of the field, juked a defender, and scored with just 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
"You can't think about the clock. You've just got to think about winning," Cardinal said. "Instincts kicked in, I saw a cutback. ... Coach is always saying big-time players have got to make big-time plays, so I do my best to make something happen for my team."
Hays High went into the half leading 18-7.
The Indians started strong in the third quarter, marching their opening possession 92 yards on 11 plays. Hays High capped the drive with a 55-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Cardinal.
On the Panthers' next drive, they took just three plays to score. Senior running back Joshua Lopez broke a 44-yard run to set up the scoring play, as junior quarterback Bryce Beck faked a hand off and ran left for a 21-yard touchdown with 5:21 left in the third quarter.
Cardinal posted the final touchdown of the game, scoring on an 18-yard run with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter.
Lopez led Great Bend with 135 yards on 13 carries. Panther senior Matt Marshall took the majority of the snaps at quarterback and completed 9 of 22 passes for 90 yards.
"This game was our Super Bowl basically for this week," Delton said. "We knew they were going to be tough. They were going to get their calls, and it was going to be a tough game. Fortunately, we came out with the win, and we needed that."