HHS travels to Dodge City
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Hays High School junior quarterback Alex Delton didn't particularly enjoy the last week. A torn groin muscle kept him out of practice and out of last Friday's game at Wichita South, something he hopes to never have to do again.
"I've never been so anxious to practice ... the longest week of my life was last week sitting out of practice and not playing," Delton said. "Just watching, it hurt inside knowing I couldn't do anything. I couldn't make plays or anything. That's the first time I've sat out a football game in my entire life."
Delton returned to practice this week and will be a game-time decision Friday. Hays High (4-1) will make a trip to Dodge City (3-2) for a 7 p.m. contest in a pivotal WAC matchup.
The Indians managed without Delton a week ago in a 31-6 win over Wichita South (0-5), but Dodge City will provide a much stiffer test and Delton's presence could be a deciding factor.
"He has taken probably half the reps this week. Reality is we probably won't know until Friday," Hays High coach Ryan Cornelsen said of Delton. "It's one of those things where you hate to play him too early, but you hate to keep a kid from playing if he's ready to play. It he feels like he can go, he will go."
The Dodge City game is also an important one for the psyche of the team. The Indians were impressive during their 3-0 start with wins over three quality opponents. Then came a 35-0 loss to Garden City and last week's lackluster win over Wichita South.
This has left Hays High fighting to get back to where it was at the beginning of the season.
"It's a big game for us because we don't feel we have played very well the last two weeks," Cornelsen said. "It's been two games since we played the quality of football that we feel is good enough for us. It's important we play well going into districts next week. You want to make sure you are clicking on all cylinders."
Hays High opens district play next week against Great Bend, which is also its final WAC game. But before their attention is turned to districts, the Indians still have a goal of winning the WAC for a third consecutive season.
Garden City sits atop the WAC at 2-1 in conference play, its lone loss coming in Week 3 to Great Bend, 28-25. The Buffaloes finish out WAC play against Dodge City in Week 9.
Hays High, Great Bend and Dodge City are currently 1-1 in WAC play, with Liberal at 1-2.
"Any time it's in your conference it is important to us," Cornelsen said of Friday's game against Dodge City. "Our first goal is to win one game at a time. Our second goal is to win WAC and this is a big game in the WAC. We want to make sure we are ready to play."
Dodge City opened the season with a 44-6 win over Wichita Southeast and a 33-7 win over Wichita Northwest. The Red Demons' two losses came against Wichita Heights (32-3) and Liberal (40-27). Dodge City is coming off a 47-13 win over Great Bend.
For Hays High to stay in the WAC race, a win over Dodge City on Friday is a must. But more importantly, the Indians are hoping to get back to playing good, fundamental football, something it has lacked the last two weeks.
"The reality is we just got to decide how good we really want to be," Cornelsen said. "We've played pretty lackadaisical football with turnovers and missed assignments. We have to decide if we want to be one of the better teams around. We have to start playing hard."
Schedule, districts set for next two seasons
District assignments by the KSHSAA have been announced for Hays High, which is moving to Class 4A, Division I for football the next two seasons. The Indians will play in District 8 with McPherson, Abilene and Buhler.
It will be among the toughest districts in Class 4A. Abilene went 10-2 as recently as 2011, McPherson won 10 games a season ago, and Buhler has long been a state championship contender in Class 4A and is 5-0 this season.
"We probably got two of the top four teams in 4A in Buhler and McPherson," Cornelsen said. "It's as tough as it gets as far as a schedule but hopefully each game makes us better and gives us a chance to be a pretty good team."
Outside of district and WAC games, Hays High will continue its series with Wichita South the next two seasons, with South coming to Hays in 2014. The final opponent will be Class 6A Olathe Northwest, which Hays High will open the season against the next two years.
"Tough one, no doubt," Cornelsen said of the schedule. "Obviously as a coach there are times you wish you had a little easier schedule, but I think it's good for our program, good for our kids. They know they are going to get to play some big games."
Delton gets major combine invite
Delton received his biggest combine invitation to date this week, being selected as one of 250 class of 2015 players to attend the Under Armour Recruiting Combine in St. Petersburg, Fla., in January.
"To be in that entitlement of the top 250 is a pretty big honor," Delton said. "Just being around kids that are probably very good across the nation will be great for me. It's something I look forward to."
The combine is used as an evaluation of players, most of which are currently in the middle of a long recruiting process. The top 100 players will be selected to play in the 2015 Under Armour All-American football game.