HDN All-Area - Weigel shoulders load for HHS
By AUSTIN COLBERT
After breaking his tibia during the spring track and field season, Hays High School senior Preston Weigel spent the summer rehabbing. His first week back on his feet coincided with the start of football practice in the fall, where he was expected to be the starting running back for the Indians.
But coming off a significant injury, there were questions about whether or not Weigel would be able to do what was going to be asked of him.
"We kept it very light through probably the first month and throughout the whole year," Hays High football coach Ryan Cornelsen said. "His practices were very light just to prevent any soreness or any tendinitis in the knee area that seemed to keep hampering him some, even after rehabbing.
"But I thought it was very impressive what he was able to do coming off such an injury," Cornelsen added. "He never had any doubt and I never had any doubt that he was tough enough to do it. It was just a matter if his leg would hold up."
That question was answered in the season opener against Junction City, when Weigel rushed 20 times for 106 yards and a touchdown in a 27-22 win for the Indians.
After that, he only got stronger. Weigel rushed for 148 yards on 18 carries in a 37-23 win over McPherson in Week 2, and had 180 yards on 25 carries in a 52-38 win over Liberal in Week 3. He scored five touchdowns over the first three games of the season, making it clear that the Indians' success this season was going to be on Weigel's shoulders.
"I think if you watched the majority of our games, there were times he kind of took the game over," Cornelsen said. "We just felt like we had to get the ball in his hands as many times as we could and still keep him fresh. He was awfully tough to bring down. He always seemed to make positive yards and there was a chance he could break a big one any time he got the ball."
Weigel finished the year with 1,188 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He also had 10 catches for 75 yards and was the heart and soul of an Indian football team that finished the year 6-3.
For this reason, Weigel is the HDN's Offensive Area Player of the Year on the 30th annual All-Area Super 11.
Weigel ran for more than 100 yards seven times this season, and his 1,188 yards ranked him second in the WAC through nine games, first among running backs. Only Garden City quarterback Greyson Tempel, the WAC player of the year, rushed for more yards with 1,193. Weigel's 14 touchdowns were third in the WAC behind Tempel (18) and Liberal's Britton Abbot (15), also a quarterback.
"It went well," Weigel said about the season. "I would have liked to have played a lot more defense, but with my knee, we did what we had to and went with running back. But at the end everything worked out. It was pretty decent and I was happy with it."
Weigel started defensively as a sophomore, and played both ways as a junior. He was the starting fullback last season, helping lead current Pittsburg State Gorilla David Cardinal to his second-consecutive WAC player of the year honor.
Had his injury not hindered him, Cornelsen would have liked to start Weigel both ways again this season.
"But with the injury and the amount of practice he was able to do, we had to limit something," Cornelsen said. "I just didn't feel like we could get him through the season playing both ways every snap without that tendinitis and those things coming back."
With his football career concluded, Weigel is focusing on his final season as a high school wrestler. Weigel is the defending 195-pound champion in Class 5A, and was also the 170-pound champion as a sophomore.
He is being recruited by several schools for wrestling and football, anywhere from junior colleges to both Division I and Division II schools. Cornelsen said Weigel should have many options at the end of the year and whether or not he chooses football or wrestling is up to him.
"It goes fast," Weigel said about high school. "My dad always said to enjoy it because it goes fast and it just seemed like I was a freshman the other day."
Either way, Cornelsen believes Weigel has what it takes to be successful at the next level.
"He is what I would call an old school, tough football player and he is going to play hard. He looks for contact as a running back and tries to punish guys that tackle him," Cornelsen said. "I thought if things went well and he got healthy, he would have a great season, and he did. Just knowing what kind of speed and what kind of athlete he is in the weight room, I just knew if we could get him there and get him going he was going to have a big season."