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HHS defense faces another tough test

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Garden City High School senior quarterback Greyson Tempel is a dynamic athlete. He has thrown for 739 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions, while running for another 349 yards and five touchdowns during the Buffaloes' 1-2 start.

On one side, this should terrify a Hays High School defense shredded for 463 yards against Liberal last week, the bulk coming from quarterback Britton Abbott. The week before in a win over McPherson, Bullpup quarterback Kyler Kinnamon helped the team rack up 447 yards of offense against the Hays High defense.

But having played such effective quarterbacks the last two weeks, Tempel and the Garden City offense shouldn't be as intimidating because of what the Indians have already had to face.

"This guy is a little faster than what we've seen," Hays High football coach Ryan Cornelsen said. "We are going to have to make sure we can contain him; make sure we can tackle him. I think we've seen some good quarterbacks and hopefully that helps us contain him and his abilities."

Containing Tempel will be key when Hays High (3-0, 1-0 WAC) hosts Garden City (1-2, 0-1 WAC) at 7 p.m. Friday for homecoming at Lewis Field Stadium.

The Buffaloes are coming off a 28-25 loss to WAC opponent Great Bend a week ago.

The two teams tend to make for a close matchup. Hays High won 29-21 last year, and lost 24-21 the year before, the only regular-season loss for the Indians in 2011.

"They are big up front, both offensively and defensively," Cornelsen said. "We are usually outsized and their depth is a lot deeper than ours because of the size of the school. We really got to be ready to turn it up to be in the game."

With the Indian offense averaging nearly 39 points a game, there isn't much concern about being able to keep up with Garden City. But there is growing concern about an Indian defense that has given up nearly 28 points per game, including 38 a week ago to Liberal.

Hays High found little answers against either the run or the pass last week, and couldn't get Liberal off the field on third or fourth downs. This led to a nearly 2-to-1 advantage in plays called, favoring Liberal.

"I think on first and second down we stopped them pretty easy. Then we all thought we could just take a break and we took it for granted," Hays High junior Ethan Deterding said. "It's not like we are getting tired. It was just that we were letting it get to our heads."

Cornelsen doesn't see any glaring weaknesses -- or strengths -- on the Indian defense. But tackling was a concern against Liberal, and he wants to see the team be more consistent in its play.

The Indian defense will have to play fundamentally sound to keep the speedy Tempel at bay. Fortunately for Cornelsen, the players have taken this to heart and are ready for the challenge.

"I feel like we do need to make a lot of improvements on defense," Deterding said. "There are some people that are starting to pick it up. We still have a long ways to go but we are really working on it."

On the positive side, the Indian defense also has made plays when needed.

In the season opener against Junction City, it was a key fourth-down stop late in the fourth quarter that preserved the 27-22 win. An interception returned for a touchdown by senior cornerback Clayton Riedel was key in the Indians' win over McPherson two weeks ago, and it was two more fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter that allowed them to hold on against Liberal.

It's for this reason the morale remains high around the Hays High defense going into Week 4.

"We've made enough plays to win the game and that's the important part," Cornelsen said. "We don't feel like we've played real well defensively yet. We've had some pretty good individual performances and made some good plays at times. But as a whole we know we got to get better."

NOTES -- Hays High entered the state-wide media poll this week at No. 5 in Class 5A. .... Indian senior running back Preston Weigel will be a game-time decision on Friday because of a turf toe injury. Junior Adam Klaus and senior Seth Junk would split carries in his absence. ... Indian sophomore backup quarterback Marcus Altman will undergo an MRI on Thursday to check for a tear in his shoulder. Should he be unavailable, junior Brenden Ibarra would be next in line after starter Alex Delton.