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Riedel making an impact for Hays High

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Hays High School senior Clayton Riedel recorded his first tackle as an Indian on Junction City's first offensive play last week in the team's 27-22 season-opening win.

Three plays later, he recorded his first interception.

"I was honestly shaking I was so nervous," Riedel said about his Indian debut. "But after the first play I settled down and got everything under control. I had goals set, but I didn't expect to get two interceptions in one game."

Riedel's second interception came in the third quarter, the first offensive play for the Blue Jays after they had taken their first lead at 15-14 following a safety.

It would have been a two-point lead if it weren't for Riedel blocking the extra point after the Blue Jays' touchdown a couple minutes earlier.

"He made some really big plays -- two picks and a blocked extra point," Hays High football coach Ryan Cornelsen said of Riedel. "He's just got to catch up to the speed of the 5A game and I thought he showed he's getting close."

Riedel played eight-man football for Trego Community High School in WaKeeney his first three years. But the 6-foot-5, 195-pound athlete dreams of playing collegiately, and didn't think he would get much attention at the eight-man level.

After sitting down with his parents and meeting with Cornelsen, Riedel decided to attend Hays High his senior season.

"We definitely talked it over for a good month before we made the decision," Riedel said. "I was wanting to get my name out in sports, and academic-wise there was a lot more options in the classroom over there, too."

Riedel played mostly tight end for Trego, but will take most of his snaps this season at wide receiver and cornerback. He only recorded one catch for four yards against Junction City, but the impact he had on the field, especially on defense, was impossible not to notice.

It certainly got the attention of his teammates.

"I was really impressed by his performance coming in with two interceptions," senior defensive end Ty Whittington said. "It was huge for him."

The Indian defense replaced nearly every starter from last year's unit, and was impacted most heavily in the secondary, which doesn't have a single returning starter.

The inexperience showed at times against Junction City, which amassed 373 yards of total offense, compared to 287 yards for Hays High. But the Indians made up for it by forcing five turnovers -- including both of Riedel's interceptions -- and made a couple of key stops on fourth down.

Considering it was Riedel's first 11-man football game in high school, expectations are likely to rise going forward. But seeing how he wants to continue playing sports after high school, Riedel is ready for the spotlight.

"One of my biggest goals is to play sports at K-State," Riedel said. "But if I don't get anything from there I'll keep working to get offers from any other school. Even if it's as a walk-on, it would be amazing to get on the roster at K-State and play football."

Field position key for Indians

There were certainly miscues by the Hays High special teams against Junction City last week. Lane Clark missed a 43-yard field goal wide right in the first quarter despite having more than enough leg behind it, and long snapper Connor Rule sailed a ball over the head of punter Kiowa Higdon, resulting in a safety and a lead for the Blue Jays.

But there was also a lot of good. Riedel's blocked extra point in the third quarter kept the Indians on top at 14-13, and even more importantly the Indians controlled the field position most of the night thanks to Clark and Higdon.

"Punters don't really get a lot of glamor and they don't get a lot of the yards or anything, but I'd say it's pretty crucial for the specials teams," Higdon said.

Higdon is a senior and former soccer player, and his leg made a big difference for the Indians last Friday.

After the Indian offense stalled on their first possession, Higdon's punt was downed at the Blue Jay 10-yard line, presenting them with a long field to work with.

Higdon did something similar with a punt that was downed at the Blue Jay 9-yard line in the third quarter. Running back Adam Klaus even contributed when his first-quarter quick kick, which was downed at the Blue Jay 6-yard line.

Clark was key as well, getting four touchbacks on kickoffs.

"Our entire special teams has a lot of new faces, and our kickers pinned them deep," Cornelsen said. "All those things combined allowed us to play field position football and make them drive the field. It gave us a little room for errors."