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Football 2012: Indians have a different look this season

Published on -8/30/2012, 10:50 AM

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The Hays High School football team returns several familiar faces, but make no mistake about it, this Indians squad is not going to look like previous Ryan Cornelsen-coached teams.

Hays High graduated nine all-Western Athletic Conference players and return just three starters on offense and four on defense. The offensive and defensive lines are going to be smaller, and the schemes are going to be different.

However, that doesn't mean the team's expectations are lessened.

"There's no hiding the fact that we graduated a lot of key players and a lot of guys who were three-year starters and really big players for us," said fourth-year head coach Ryan Cornelsen. "But we work year around to make sure that when those kids graduate that we fill in with the next kid."

The Indians have gone 7-2, 7-2 and 8-2 in Cornelsen's first three years, and last season, Hays High made the Class 5A state playoffs for the first time since 1995 before losing 27-21 to Hutchinson in the first round. It was the closest game the Salthawks played on their way to the Class 5A state championship.

In that time, Hays High deployed a run-dominated offense. In 2011, the Indians accumulated 4,125 yards of offense and 84.5 percent of that (3,485 yards) came from rushing.

This season, the offensive line returns just one player from 2011 -- all-WAC first-teamer senior Cade Sharp.

Because of that turnover and sophomore quarterback Alex Delton's ability to pass, Hays High is going to transition to more of a balanced offense.

The Indians still will use an offset I-formation, but there will be more two- and three-receiver sets, contrasting from 2011 when the team would use more power formations.

"We try to base our offense around the talents that we have as far as athletes," Cornelsen said. "Instead of beating our heads against the wall doing things the way we've always done it, we adapt and change and try to run offenses that fit kids we have."

That doesn't mean the Indians won't run. After all, they return the WAC Player of the Year -- senior running back David Cardinal, who rushed for 1,465 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.

Cardinal gave credit to his offensive line for his past success and said this season will depend on them as well.

"It's really not up to me," Cardinal said. "It's up to Cade and that line to see what kind of season I'm going to have. ... I can't do my job unless they do their job. It goes hand in hand like that."

The Indians also bring back running backs Emilio Mitchell, senior, and Preston Weigel, junior, who saw significant action. Weigel will start at fullback.

Senior wide receivers Jake Sedbrook and Adam Deterding return after they were all-WAC honorable mention selections last season.

On defense, Cornelsen said the Indians will be smaller than past seasons. In the past, Hays High would out muscle teams at the line and simply read blocks to make tackles.

This year, they won't be able to do that.

"We are going to be very undersized," Cornelsen said. "Our biggest kid that will be out there is Cade Sharp. Last year, you couldn't tell him apart. If anything, he was probably smaller than our other three down linemen."

Hays High will stick with its 4-3 defense, but it will be different.

"We are going to have to do more movement with our front line and try to loosen them up," Cornelsen said. "... There will be a lot more slanting and twisting."

The Indians return their top tackler, senior linebacker Kyler Meyers -- an all-WAC first-team selection -- who finished with 100 tackles in 2011.

Sharp also will anchor the defensive line at defensive tackle.

Other returners on defense include defensive backs Sedbrook and Deterding and linebackers Cardinal and Mitchell.

Despite the team's turnover, Hays High still is considered a favorite by many in Class 5A. With former 5A powerhouses McPherson (4A), Hutchinson (6A) and Gardner-Edgerton (6A) in new classifications, the door has been left open for a new champion to be crowned.

However, Deterding said he's not buying that Class 5A will be a cakewalk this season, especially for Hays High whose district includes Great Bend, Salina South and Salina Central.

"Obviously, there's a few teams gone, but there's just as many teams that have come back up," Deterding said. "Our district is probably the toughest in the state."

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