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HHS' Cardinal, Mitchell ink letters for football

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High School senior David Cardinal adorned himself in crimson and gold, as he signed his letter of intent to play football at Pittsburg State University on Wednesday in the HHS cafeteria.

Cardinal, who said he also was recruited by Fort Hays State University, Emporia State University and all the junior colleges in Kansas, said he's gotten some flack from Hays residents about his decision to go to Pitt State instead of FHSU, but he said it just was time for him to experience new things.

"To me, it is a fresh start," Cardinal said. "New people. New team. New offense. ... I'm real excited to get down there, meet everybody, learn the town, get in that playbook and get that offense down. I'm just ready to get back on the field."

It won't be completely new. Pitt State recruited him to play running back -- a position he shined in at Hays High.

Cardinal, a two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, put up solid numbers as an Indian, rushing for 1,464 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2011 and 1,055 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012.

"I'll be running the rock when I get down to Pitt State," Cardinal said. "They recruited me as a running back, and they said I was the No. 1 running back on their list."

With Cardinal leading the way, Hays High made the school's first back-to-back state playoff appearances.

"He's allowed our offense to be a power run game, mixed in with some misdirection and those things," said Hays High football coach Ryan Cornelsen. "He's been a big part of what we've done offensively, and he's really grown as a running back and came through big in some big games with some big plays."

Cardinal had to make a trip shortly after his signing to see a doctor in Salina. He was in the hospital until 4 a.m. Wednesday after having his throat drained due to an abscess.

However, the doctors cleared him to be at his signing.

"I had to be here. It was something I couldn't miss."

Cardinal even played in the varsity boys' basketball game Tuesday despite having the abscess.

"I'm good," Cardinal said. "Can't hold me down. I'm all right."

Mitchell hopes to get to KU

For Hays High senior Emilio Mitchell, it's been a long journey to get to this point, but he took another significant step Wednesday when he signed his letter of intent to play football at Hutchinson Community College.

Mitchell, who bounced around schools in Oakland, Calif., before moving to Hays, played some football and rugby in California, but Cornelsen said Mitchell's first full year of organized football was when he played in 2011 at Hays.

Cornelsen said Mitchell is one of the most talented players he's coached in his four years at Hays High.

"Raw talent, he's got a lot of it," Cornelsen said. "He just started picking up playing the game of football as far as organized football and the way we do things. As far as upside, he's got a big ceiling."

That might be why he got the attention of junior colleges throughout Kansas as well as the University of Kansas.

Mitchell, who is thinking about majoring in criminal justice, said his ultimate goal is to get to KU. However, he has to get academically eligible so he plans to take summer classes and stay 18 months at HCC in order to maintain three years of eligibility and transfer to KU.

Mitchell said he likely will play outside linebacker or safety at HCC. He said he liked everything about HCC.

"Just the family tradition," Mitchell said, listing some things he liked about HCC. "The teams. The uniforms. The coaches."

It was a bit of culture shock moving to Hays, but Mitchell said it was a good experience.

"It was a smaller town, so I had to get adjusted," he said. "It was pretty fun, though. We have some good memories."