Hays High set for Carroll
Published on -11/1/2012, 10:42 AM
By KLINT SPILLER
Hays High School football coach Ryan Cornelsen didn't ask for an easy road in the playoffs. He just wanted a road.
Unfortunately for Hays High (7-2), that road the past two seasons has had two of the largest boulders in the state blocking its path.
Last season, it was Hutchinson, a perennial football powerhouse and eventual state champion. Hays High won its district and lost 27-21 to the Salthawks in the first round.
This year, it's undefeated Wichita-Bishop Carroll on Friday in Wichita, the No. 1 ranked team in the state according to the statewide media poll.
Hays High's luck couldn't get much worse for a first-round match-up.
"You play who you play, and that's who is on our schedule," Cornelsen said. "If our goal is to win a state title, it doesn't matter what order the teams come in. You've just got to beat them."
Class 5A is seeded. So if Hays High would have beaten Junction City in overtime in the first game of the season, played and won against another Class 5A team, or defeated Salina South to win the district, then the Indians wouldn't have to play Bishop Carroll (9-0) in the first round.
But it's a moot point, sophomore quarterback Alex Delton said.
"Our goal is to win a state championship," Delton said. "We are going to have to play the best of the best, so why not start off with them early rather than wait till the third round of the playoffs?"
This is Hays High's first back-to-back trip to the playoffs. The Indians have made six playoff appearances in school history.
Bishop Carroll has the No. 1 ranked offense and No. 1 ranked defense in the state, scoring 52.9 points per game and allowing 8.2 per game.
However, the Golden Eagles' schedule has been one of the easiest, ranked No. 29 out of 32 teams in Class 5A according to preppowerindex.com. Bishop Carroll plays most of its games against City League teams that routinely struggle at the state level.
Bishop Carroll head coach Alan Schuckman said he's not concerned about his team's schedule and said if the coaches have done their jobs appropriately, their players should be prepared for playoff games.
The Golden Eagles also have experience.
Bishop Carroll defeated Hutchinson in district play last season but then lost to them in the sub-state championship game, and in 2010, Bishop Carroll lost in the state championship game to Stilwell-Blue Valley.
"A lot of them played last year and played in big games," Schuckman said. "... They are used to playing in big games against big teams."
Bishop Carroll senior quarterback Zeke Palmer orchestrates the Golden Eagles' complex spread offense. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound signal caller has put up tremendous numbers this season despite playing in blowouts.
He's completed 68.9 percent of his passes, thrown for 1,524 yards and compiled a 13-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio. He's also rushed 45 times for 245 yards and eight touchdowns.
"He's awfully good," Cornelsen said. "He can throw it right in there and give his receivers a chance to make plays. ... He can also tuck the ball away and run right over top of you. He's a big kid."
Senior Jalen Hernandez, junior Tory Smith and sophomore Denzel Goolsby lead the Golden Eagles' rushing attack.
Smith leads the team with 666 yards and 14 touchdowns. Hernandez has 583 yards and 11 TDs, and Goolsby has ran for 272 yards and eight touchdowns.
"They are not one- or two-kid dominant," Cornelsen said. "They've got a good team offensively and defensively. We don't feel like they have any weaknesses. You are just going to have to line up and beat them."
Schuckman said Hays High should present a challenge for his squad.
"I think we are playing a football team that could win a state championship," Schuckman said.
Like Bishop Carroll, Hays High also has a productive offense. The Indians rank No. 3 in Class 5A in points scored, averaging 37.8 points per game, but Hays High has been slowed in recent weeks, losing 35-6 to Salina South and defeating Salina Central, 15-9.
Cornelsen attributed the offense's struggles to strong opposing defenses and a lack of execution.
"Hopefully, each one one of those games we've learned something and gotten better from it," he said.
Delton said the team's preparation has been different since losing to Salina South.
"It definitely is just extra focus," Delton said. "The whole mentality toward this week, at least for me, has been completely different. Last week also, but if you don't win, you're out. Just thinking of that makes you go that extra step in practice."
Delton said he's ready to play Bishop Carroll.
"I'm honestly so excited for the Bishop game just because the hype behind it is going to be crazy and the environment and all that."