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Black kicks things off at Hays High

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The road connecting the Hays High School weight room and the football team's practice field is the same as it was a season ago under former head coach Ryan Cornelsen. But at the end of the road now is Bo Black, his white sun hat just the beginning of all that is new for the Indians this season.

"Honestly, any time you walk this dirt road and get on that field it feels the same," senior quarterback Alex Delton said. "But it's definitely a more intense practice out there. ... For us seniors, it's a lot different, obviously, because we are used to coach Cornelsen's style. But with coach Black's style, you love it and he gets us excited about everything we do. We play for each other, which I think is something Hays High struggled with in the past. But that's something we are really building on this year."

Monday marked the first official day of fall practice for teams around the state, and also signaled the start of the Black era at Hays High. Black was named the school's head coach back in February after Cornelsen resigned after five seasons to take the same position at Hutchinson High School.

Black, 41, spent the previous 13 years as the head coach at Great Bend High School, where we was 83-47 with eight WAC championships under his belt.

"I thought our kids came out and did a really good job," Black said of Monday's practices, which began with a 6 a.m. session. "I'm feeling like we're right where we need to be and stepping back into it, it had been close to a month since we'd been able to do anything with the kids. So it was kind of a slow process. But just getting back to the basics of football, our kids were excited to be here and I thought we had a great first day."

Black now has less than three weeks to get the Indians ready for their Sept. 5 season opener at Olathe Northwest. While there are plenty of holes to fill, including that of reigning Hays Daily News Offensive Player of the Year Preston Weigel at running back, Hays High returns many starters from last year's 6-3 team.

The most notable returner is Delton at quarterback, a Kansas State University football commit considered to be one of the state's best players. Defensively, seniors Ethan Deterding and Brandon Hardwick, among others, should lead a fairly veteran group.

"The offensive linemen know how to block, and wide receivers know how to catch. Quarterbacks know how to throw, and tackle defensively," Black said of having a veteran squad.

"We want to really solidify who we have at what positions and where we need to adjust depth charts at and create some depth in different spots (by Saturday)," Black added. "Then really have your base defense in and 90 percent of your base offense in. Then there are still some little things within the offense and you just know some of that stuff will be week five or six or seven before you get into it."

Black said he was just shy of 70 players, including freshmen, that came out for the team this season, putting him right on par with previous years. The team will continue with two-a-days through Thursday and plans to begin game planning for their first opponent next week.

Until then, it's all about having the players adjust to all the newness that comes with a new coach, new style and new playbook.

"Every day is fun and exciting because you don't know what to expect," Delton said. "Obviously, for seniors it's our last shot at state. Seniors have such a huge role this year. We think about that almost every day. There is definitely more emotion put into the game this year, just going that extra yard, going that extra play."