HHS picks up big road win
By NICK McQUEEN
DODGE CITY -- Hays High School senior defensive back Clayton Riedel was the first to admit he wanted to take it to the house.
But after nabbing the game-sealing interception at the goal line in a turnover-filled Friday night at Memorial Stadium, that might not have been the smart thing to do.
Instead, after slipping underneath Dodge City wide receiver Jace Larson at the goal line, and nabbing the Indians' third pick of the night, Riedel took it back to the Indians' sideline at midfield and took a seat with mere seconds left on the clock.
"I was seriously thinking about (returning it)," Riedel said. "Then I heard all the coaches screaming at me to just sit down. It was instinct, though, to just keep running."
The play brought about eruption from the Hays High bench and its fans in a 35-28 win in which fifth-year coach Ryan Cornelsen said his team finally got back to playing with some emotion.
That's what gave his Indians the best shot to win. That and putting the ball in the hands of senior tailback Preston Weigel, who essentially put the Hays High offense on his back to help improve the Indians to 5-1, 2-1 in WAC play. Dodge City dropped to 3-3, 1-2. It also clinched HHS's fifth straight winning season.
"We were hoping to balance it out just a little bit more, but reality is, he's our horse. You have to feed him when he's going," Cornelsen said of Weigel, who racked up 200 rushing yards on 38 carries, helping keep Dodge City's prolific spread passing attack, led by senior quarterback Kelan Newton, off the field.
"That was our best chance to win the game after seeing the first couple of series," Cornelsen said. "So we put it in his hands, and the offensive line did a good job of getting push and letting him go."
In the first quarter, neither offense could get anything going and ended in a scoreless tie. The biggest threats came when Indian junior quarterback Brenden Ibarra, one of two backups to the still-injured junior Alex Delton (groin), found Weigel down the middle for 21 yards -- twice. The second one set up a career-long 48-yard field goal by Indian senior Lane Clark at the start of the second quarter and a 3-0 Hays High lead.
It was short-lived. Newton found junior tailback Blaik Middleton in the flat, a play the Red Demons used often Friday, and he broke three tackles to go 30 yards for a 7-3 Dodge City lead. That came after Newton found sophomore Bryce Unruh for 34 yards. In the first quarter, Newton had three wide open receivers behind the Indian defense, but over or undershot them.
"We just weren't staying with what we were taught," Riedel said of the early-game miscues. "We were pulling off our guys. (Newton) was scrambling and we were just pulling up. He was getting free guys back there."
Hays High took back the lead when a 3-yard dive by Weigel, his first of three rushing scores, capped a 69-yard drive, highlighted by a one-handed grab for sophomore Connor Rule, who was filling in at fullback for the injured Ty Whittington. Rule nabbed Ibarra's pass and went 15 yards to help set up the go-ahead. Dodge City had things going its way, though, until Indian junior Hayden Kreutzer stepped in front of a Dodge City receiver and collected his first interception. It led to a 28-yard field goal by Clark and a 13-7 Indian lead. Newton brought his team back down the field again, though, with pass plays of 13, 12 and 32 yards, and capped it with a 1-yard run to take the lead back in a wild second quarter. That came with under a minute left, but Hays High wasn't done. Junior Adam Klaus found a seam on the ensuing kickoff and rumbled 75 yards down the middle to put Hays High back on top at the break.
Hays High's defense improved in the second half, but still gave up chunks of yardage, but Cornelsen said his team was playing with a fire they hadn't shown the last two games, a 35-0 beating at the hands of Garden City and a 31-6 win last week at Wichita South.
"I felt like tonight, we finally got back to playing with some emotion, and trying to find a way to win," he said. "It was sloppy and we made some mistakes, but we played with heart, and when you do that, you're going to have a chance to win."
Dodge City took the lead back 21-20 near the end of the third quarter. Ibarra threw an interception near midfield, and Dodge City capitalized. Middleton went 30 yards on another catch in the flat, and Newton found Larson from five yards after a fumbled shotgun snap.
In the fourth quarter, though, Hays High stuck with the ground game and a heavy dose of Weigel, who had 16 touches in the final quarter alone. Midway though, the Indians caught a break when Rule nabbed a tipped ball out of the air inside the Red Demon's 20-yard line, then took it to the 4. Two plays and Weigel was in the end zone for the 26-21 Hays High lead, and Weigel punched in the 2-point conversion.
"It makes it easy for all of us," Riedel said of Weigel's monster game. "If he's blocked for, he goes out there and gets the job done. Makes it easy for us. We just have to keep blocking for him."
But again, Middleton to Dodge City's rescue. On Dodge City's first play of the next possession, he took a short pass from Newton and went 56 yards for the score to tie things up.
"He's a very athletic player," Riedel said of Middleton, who had eight receptions for 149 yards. "Very good."
Weigel, though, had the answer. He got six carries on the Indians' next possession, including a 53-yard run down the home sideline to set the Indians up with his go-ahead 1-yard TD run. Dodge City drove the length of the field, and had third-and-9 from the 13 when Riedel intercepted Newton's pass to seal the Indians' win.
Coming in, Newton had just one interception, but was picked off three times and the Red Demons had two fumbles. Hays High had two turnovers with the two Ibarra interceptions.
"It's not easy to go in there in an environment like that," Cornelsen said. "We worked Delton a lot this week, and just decided he wasn't ready to go. Brenden did a good job running the offense. He had some mistakes, but that could happen to anybody."
Sophomore Marcus Altman made the start, but Ibarra came in on the Indians' third series. He finished 4-of-10 for 75 yards. Rule had six carries for 24 yards for the Indians, filling in for Whittington. Whittington played on defense, but with a bruised rib, and did not play an offensive snap. Newton finished 21 of 38 for 324 yards.