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Hays fans' purple passion unwavering

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

It was a great season. Just not a great final game.

The Kansas State University football team finished 11-2 after a 35-17 loss to Oregon in Thursday night's Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

"Finish 11-2, that wasn't too bad," said Dean Haselhorst, who made the trip to watch the Wildcats play.

"You got to think how many teams went to a BCS bowl," Haselhorst said in a phone interview. "We were fortunate enough to get to go and experience it.

"We didn't get the outcome we wanted, but at least we were here."

Oregon returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Mark Watts looked on from the Golden Q, 809 Ash. His son, Marcus, played for coach Bill Snyder; his final season was in 2007.

Mark Watts, who was wearing a jersey with his son's No. 2 on it, had a little gallows humor after watching the Wildcats fall behind 8-0 just seconds into the game against the Ducks, who are known for their high-powered offense.

"At least we're holding them out from running their offense, I guess," Watts said with a laugh.

Watts, an assistant boys' basketball coach at Hays High School, would have liked to have been at the game.

But the Indians travel to Liberal for a game today.

Watts still was hopeful after the kickoff return.

"K-State, don't give up on them," he said. "Kickoff return doesn't mean anything."

Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler was out of his usual uniform, and was instead clad in purple while watching the game at the Golden Q. He has been a KSU supporter ever since he was a kid in Bennington.

"I grew up in a town about 60 miles outside Manhattan," said Scheibler, who has season tickets. "My dad graduated from K-State. I've always been a K-State fan.

"As a kid growing up, (Kansas State) wasn't always the best team, but I still enjoyed going to ball games with my dad. Now that they're successful, they're a lot more fun, that's for sure."

Haselhorst and his wife, Julie, flew to Arizona on Tuesday. Before the game, they tailgated with approximately 20,000 to 25,000 fans, about 90 percent of them rooting for the Wildcats.

The Haselhorsts also attended a pep rally Wednesday that attracted approximately 23,000 Wildcat fans. Haselhorst saw several Ellis County fans at the pep rally. That included Wes Alstatt, who was there with members of his family, including son Brett, who went to Kansas State on a football scholarship after a standout prep career at Hays High.

"You can't imagine all the Ellis County people down here," Haselhorst said.

Coach Bill Snyder exhibited his usual calm demeanor, even when he spoke at the pep rally.

"You just can't imagine," Haselhorst said of the pep rally. "The electricity in that stadium, especially when Snyder came out. Ol' Snyder, you know how mellow he is, he never changed his voice.

"Being in that pep rally, it was very electrifying. The stuff they were saying, almost brought tears to your eyes. It was really cool."

Snyder is Kansas State football -- someone to emulate, he said.

"Get back to the basics: It's hard work, dedication and belief in his program," Scheibler said of Snyder's success. "He takes care of his people, and they're getting better every day.

"The same thing we try to do with the police department -- get a little better every day."

But Oregon was the better team Thursday night. Kansas State got to within 15-10 late in the first half, but missed a field goal. Oregon used less than a minute to score another touchdown to lead 22-10 at halftime.

Haselhorst, who has season tickets, saw the Wildcats play in person several times this year. He was surprised by what he saw Thursday night.

"From watching those games all year long, I was surprised that we never threw any long passes to (speedy wide receiver Tyler) Lockett. Just nothing downfield to see if Lockett could outrun those guys."

Oregon never was threatened seriously in the second half in improving to 12-1.

"I was just surprised," Haselhorst said. "I don't know how it looked on TV, but it sure looked tough here."

Still, if you were a K-State fan, you had to watch the game. Scheibler said he didn't have any trouble making out a patrol schedule for Thursday night.

"Got all the KU fans working the streets," he said with a laugh.