The football future for Plainville’s Hayden Friend comes on the offensive side of the ball, but he’s spending the week leading up to Saturday’s Kansas Shrine Bowl in El Dorado or the other side.
Friend signed with Fort Hays State University on National Signing Day. The plan is to use him as a slot receiver after he earned the HDN’s Offensive Player of the Year award as a dual-threat quarterback in his senior season.
During Tuesday’s West team practice at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Friend split reps between corner and safety.
While that prevents Friend from working with Great Bend quarterback Jacob Murray — another FHSU signee on the West squad — he’s happy where he’s at.
“It feels good. The coverages are a little different than what we ran in high school, so that’s been hard to get adjusted to, but I’m kinda getting adjusted,” Friend said Tuesday. “It feels a lot better than what it was the first couple days. I like being on the defensive side.”
It helps he has a familiar face to ask questions to, as Cardinal head coach Grant Stephenson is in charge of the West squad’s defensive backs this week.
“If I need help, I’ll go up to his room during the week, and he’ll help me out and tell me what I need to do,” Friend said. “That helps a lot.”
Friend spent much of his senior year as the Cardinals’ free safety. This week, he’s spending more of his time at corner. Despite having a week to pick up the difference, his coach said he’s off to a good start.
“There’s a lot of similarities.He’s picked it up fast. It’s been pretty easy for him,” Stephenson said Thursday.
“He’s going to be fine.”
The duo helped the Cardinals advance to the Class 2A state championship game last fall and seem to be enjoying their Shrine Bowl experience.
While Friend has enjoyed lounging around the dorms during downtime and getting to know some of his teammates, including some future Tigers, Stephenson has taken the time to pick the brain of some of his fellow coaches.
“It’s been all around been good. The week has went by fast. The kids have been good,” Stephenson said. “It’s been good to meet other coaches on your side of state.”
Both looked forward to meeting the kids from the Shriner Hospital before Saturday’s game at Butler County Community College.
Friend got an idea of what was to come from his grandfather, Larry, who coached the West squad to a 42-20 win in 1986.
“He told me that it would be a really life-changing experience and that it would be a great week to meet great people, great athletes across the state,” Friend said.
“He’s been right so far.”
Saturday’s game will cap a decorated prep career for Plainville’s three-sport standout. After a second-place finish in football, Friend was a leading guard on the Cardinal basketball team in the winter. His most successful campaign came in the spring.
Friend took gold in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes and added a third as the anchor leg of the winning 400-relay team. That helped the Cardinals win the 2A team title by more than 20 points.
Now, he just wants to help a West defense in hopes of matching his grandfather’s 1-0 record.
“We’re putting in work in 100-degree-plus temperatures, working hard. Our main goal right now is to get a West side victory,” Friend said. “That’s what we’re going for.”