On Friday night, the Hays High School football team looked to usher in the 2017 season with a win over Scott City for the second straight year after a 31-21 win last year.
However, the young Indians struggled to match the physicality of the Beavers. Despite a second-half spark, the Indians came up short, 29-8.
The Indians had early success with a few big plays on their first drive. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Hunter Brown came up with an 11-yard run that moved the chains for a first down. Soon after that, Brown would find Keaton Markley for a 17-yard completion.
Unfortunately, the drive would stall after a blown play on third down, as it appeared Brown wasn’t ready for the snap.
Scott City set up shop for the first time at their own 20-yard line after a Logan Clark touchback. The Beavers put together an impressive 16-play drive, converting three third downs and one fourth down along the way. After some help from a personal foul penalty against Hays, the Beavers found themselves on the Hays 11-yard line. Thanks to some tough defense, Scott City was forced to kick a field goal and take a 3-0 lead to begin the second quarter.
It didn’t take the Beavers long on their next possession to find the end zone. Although their first touchdown got called back due to a holding penalty, they made up for it the next play as quarterback Parker Gooden dumped off a swing pass for a 49 yard score. The extra point was no good, leaving the score at 9-0.
Hays would go three and out their next drive and punt the ball away. The Beavers took over at their own 38 after a 20-yard return by Jarret Jurgens. The Beavers converted one third down that drive, but the Hays defense came up with a big stop on third-and-long to force a punt.
The Beavers punt would be downed inside of the Hays 2-yard line, as the Indians found themselves with little room to work with. In fact, the Indians (0-1) struggled to find good field position all night. They did manage to find some breathing room as Brown completed a play-action pass for a gain of 12 yards on third down.
It looked as though there might have been momentum with the Indians after the third-down conversion, but a low snap a few plays later would deflate the Indians' hopes.
Scott City got the ball back with good field position at the Hays 46. After picking up a first down on the first play of the drive, the Hays defense was able to get to Gooden for a sack. The next play, the Beavers went deep with the ball, but Brown, who also is a standout defensive back, read the play perfectly and was able to step in front of his man and snag the ball for an interception at the Hays 3-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
It appeared as though Hays was going to run out the clock, as the Indians kept the ball on the ground the first two plays in which they gained little to no yardage. But on third down, HHS decided to try its luck through the air.
Brown took the snap and immediately faced pressure in his own end zone. The throw came up short of finding the intended receiver and instead was intercepted by Scott City’s Marshall Faurot, who returned it 30 yards for the score as time expired. Moses Hinojos would add the extra point, bringing the halftime score to 16-0.
Scott City would begin the second half at their own 20 after another touchback. The first play from scrimmage resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Hays’ Palmer Hutchinson. The Indian offense took the field at the Beaver 25-yard line.
After a short run by Brown on first down, the Indians used a little trickery as Brown took the snap and handed the ball off to Will Sennett, the backup quarterback, who then found a wide-open Markley in the end zone. The Indians converted the two-point conversion, closing the deficit to eight points.
The defense came out strong, forcing the Beavers to a three-and-out their next possession. However, during the next offensive possession, a holding penalty on first down would be too much for the Indians to overcome as they went three-and-out. The next play would prove to be the true turning point of the game as Jurgens returned the Indians' punt 70 yards, which led to another Beaver touchdown, extending the lead to 22-8.
Hays was unable to answer the rest of the game, and Scott City found the end zone again late in the fourth quarter.
The biggest takeaway for Hays High coach Randall Rath after the game was that his team needs to find things they do well.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” Rath said. “Offensively, it’s going to take some time.”
Although Hays did have some success in moving the ball against Scott City, that success came early in both halves.
Brown acknowledged that they did in fact start really well to begin the game, but he knew it was just a matter of continuing that momentum.
“We just have to continue to play hard throughout the entire game,” he said. “There were certain points where we broke down, and they broke a big play. We just have to eliminate the big plays. Every person has a job, and we just have to work as a team and do our job.”
The Indians offensive line is young, returning only one starter from last year. Rath knew that would be a weak spot for his team.
“Their strength is up front,” he said. “We were out-manned, but while we were both fresh, we executed some things. Their strength as soon as we got fatigued took over.”