Hays High jumps out early, outlasts McPherson
By NICK McQUEEN
In the first half of Friday night's game at Lewis Field Stadium, it seemed the McPherson High School football team was going to do little to stop Hays High junior quarterback Alex Delton, no matter how hobbled he might have been.
Showing few signs of a groin injury suffered last week, Delton engineered two first-half scoring drives through the air and on the ground.
In the second half, though, Delton started to tighten up and McPherson had some momentum going. That was until Indian senior running back Preston Weigel took control in the fourth quarter. Hays High went on to a 37-23 win against the Bullpups for the 2-0 start, the fourth in five seasons under head coach Ryan Cornelsen.
"We've worked hard for this," said Weigel, whose 60-yard touchdown run around the right end silenced a Bullpup second-half rally. "Everyone blocked good tonight and played hard. It was a good win."
The game had the makings of a blowout in the first quarter.
Hays High's first drive stalled at the McPherson 49, but its second, which started at the 45, ended up in points. Delton rushed for 10 yards and found junior tight end Brady Werth for 19, and Weigel punched in the game's first score from 6 yards out.
On McPherson's first play on the next possession, Indian senior Clayton Riedel grabbed a tipped pass from Bullpup junior Kyler Kinnamon and took it into the end zone for the Pick 6.
A 38-yard field goal by senior Lane Clark on the next series, and Hays High led 17-0 after one quarter.
Delton rushed for 18 yards in the first, and connected four times for 60 yards to three different receivers.
"He's bruised. He's got it pretty good," Cornelsen said of Delton's injury. "He looked good in the first half, and I think it tightened up on him a bit in the second half."
McPherson, a Class 4A playoff qualifier last season, wasn't going quietly. The Bullpups got the run game going with junior Ty Hart, and McPherson went 75 yards on 11 plays, capped by a 10-yard run for Hart. On the ensuing kickoff, Hays High had trouble fielding a short high kick, and McPherson fell on it, and found the end zone on its second play, a 24-yard keeper by Kinnamon to cut the lead to 17-14.
The Indians and Delton answered, though. He had a 30-yard run and found Werth for 20 yards, then junior Hayden Kreutzer for a 21-yard score.
"(Delton) did good, coming off that injury," said Weigel, who is playing after suffering a broken tibia last spring. "That first week, going out on it, at first you're a little humble about it, and don't know how hard you want to push it.
"Once you go through the game. ... I turned it up better, and I was ready to go."
By halftime, Delton had 116 passing yards and 91 rushing yards. He had a 37-yard run from mid-field on fourth-and-1 that set up a 36-yard field goal by Clark.
Then, in the second half, McPherson sustained two long drives and put the Hays High defense at the goal line twice.
"That's where we got exposed," Cornelsen said. "We didn't play very sound and we didn't play disciplined football.
"But, we'll get better at that. We've got to tackle better. But, when they got down several times on the goal line, they got goal line stances, and got out with three points or no points."
On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Riedel broke up a pass in the end zone. On the Bullpups' next possession, they opted for the field goal to cut the lead to 27-17.
Then Weigel broke loose for his long TD run to start the fourth quarter. He had a 40-yard run later that set up Clark's third field goal to set the final margin.
"The outside was open, so we tried that," Weigel said. "We didn't really run anything outside in the first half, so it worked -- got me the touchdown."
Clark was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and was 4-for-4 on PATs.
McPherson racked up 447 yards of total offense, compared to Hays High's 399, but punted three times, and Kinnamon was picked off twice. He finished 19 of 38 for 204 yards. Delton was 12 of 21 for 133 yards. Weigel rushed for 148 yards on 18 carries, and Delton finished with 109 rushing yards.
Hays High travels to Liberal on Friday to open up Western Athletic Conference play. The Redskins are coming off a 56-0 drubbing of Guymon, Okla. Liberal quarterback Britton Abbott passed for 254 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 65 yards and three scores in the Liberal victory.
"They're a potent offense, and just a good team," Cornelsen said of Liberal, adding the Indians' defense has to get better. "Coming into the season, we knew Week 3 was going to be a heck of a game."