What’s better than a rivalry game in the Western Athletic Conference between Hays High School and Great Bend?
Simple — a rivalry game that’s decided in overtime.
After a 29-8 loss to Scott City last week, the Indians looked to bounce back against foe Great Bend, and did just that with a 21-20 win, scoring the winning point in OT to grab their first win.
“Our kids had a lot of perseverance and played hard all throughout the night. We faced some adversity and stepped up and overcame it,” said HHS coach Randall Rath.
An early defensive struggle turned into an explosion of offense late, then overtime, where HHS senior kicker Logan Clark split the uprights with a game-winning extra point, giving the Indians their first victory over the Panthers since 2014.
The key to the big win for the Indians, according to junior running back and linebacker Keaton Markley, who had a huge game on both sides, was to be persistent.
“Keep running hard. They hit us, we hit back,” Markley said. “We exchanged a couple of touchdowns at the end, but you’ve gotta keep doing what you gotta do and keep coming back”
Senior quarterback Hunter Brown, who accounted in one way or another for all three of the Indians’ touchdowns, stressed the importance of fighting all the way through the game.
“The last two years we’ve played Great Bend, we fought hard in the first half and they came out and got us in the second half,” Brown said. “We told each other in the locker room, we have to come back out after half and fight all the way through the game. I am very proud of our guys we fought down for down, play for play. I couldn’t be happier.”
The win was just what the doctor ordered for Hays High, coming off a disappointing showing at home in Week 1.
“It’s been hard the last couple of years going 0-2, 0-3 the first couple of games, this is really going to carry us into next week,” Brown said. “We know what a loss feels like, we know what a win feels like and this is really going to carry us next week going into Liberal.”
To begin the game, both teams had some success moving the ball. On Great Bend’s second possession, the Panthers started at their own 23, and were able to drive the ball down to the Indian red-zone, in large part due to the effort of Dalton Miller and Gage Fritz. Great Bend had a third-and-1 at the HHS 9-yard line, but a false start penalty pushed the Panthers back. When they finally got the play off, Indian junior linebacker Mason Ibarra came up with a huge tackle for loss that put the Panthers in a fourth-and-8 they elected to go for — unsuccessfully. HHS was able to cover some ground, due to an 11-yard run by Markley to the 39, but the drive eventually stalled out after a block in the back penalty, and the Indians were content to go into half in a scoreless game.
The Panthers opened the second half from their own 20. On first down, Miller broke off a 15-yard run, but that’s all the Indians would give up as the defense held strong and forced a quick punt from quarterback Koy Brack. The Indians were unable to get anything going on offense and were forced to punt it away. The Panthers returned it to midfield, where the Indians forced a fumble that was recovered by Chase Brous. The Indians looked to capitalize on the fumble recovery and good field position. Hunter Brown gained significant yardage on a couple of quarterback keepers, but the Indians found themselves in fourth-and-1. They trusted Brown to keep the drive alive with a quarterback sneak that picked up 3 yards. However, the Indians quickly found themselves in another fourth-down situation after a false start. On fourth-and-13, Brown was able to step up in the pocket, despite heavy pressure, and deliver a spot-on throw to Markley in the end-zone for the first score with 5:45 left in the third.
Penalties proved costly for the Indians, aiding Great Bend’s ability to tie it back up. After help from a personal foul and a fourth-down conversion, the Panthers found themselves with some momentum. On third-and-7 from the Hays 39, the Indians had a late hit on the quarterback. Then HHS had an unsportsmanlike call on the sideline. Three plays and yet another penalty later, the Panthers found the end-zone for the first time on a sneak from Brack.
HHS wasted no time responding with an 80-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 17-yard touchdown scramble by Hunter Brown, who was determined to find the end-zone. Brown and Markley both had big gains along the way and the Indians were also aided by an offsides penalty against the Panthers on fourth-and-4. Trailing 14-7, the Panthers fumbled, and the Indians came up with another recovery. However, they would turn it right back over after Dalton Miller grabbed an interception and added a short return to the 48. Great Bend was able to take advantage of the turnover as they made their way to the end-zone to tie the game at 14 with 1:55 remaining.
The Indians were unable to move the ball after starting deep in their own territory due to a personal foul penalty on the kickoff return, and they were forced to punt from their own 9 with 55 seconds remaining. Clark was unable to get a good kick off, and the ball rolled out of bounds at the Hays 33. After a gain of four, Brack scramble for no gain on second, Great Bend elected to attempt a go-ahead 32-yard field goal on third down. The kick had the distance, but was left of the upright and the attempt was no good. Hays then took a knee and sent the game to overtime.
Hays High won the toss and elected to go on defense first. It took Great Bend only two plays to find the end-zone. However, Dani Franco’s kick missed just to the right of the goal post this time, leaving Hays High an opportunity for the win. Brown took the Indians first snap of overtime from the 10 and was able to pick up 7. The Panthers stuffed the Indians for no gain on second. Brown took the third snap and faked the handoff, then dashed around the left side of the offensive line. Brown wrestled his way into the end-zone to tie it up. Logan Clark then made his way onto the field.
“Even before the snap, I was just like this is what we do in practice, this is what we practice for, so I was prepared for it,” Clark said. “Everybody on the sideline was cheering for me, so I was just being calm.”
Despite the Panthers’ attempt at icing him with a timeout, he drilled the extra point, right down the middle and his teammates proceeded to surround him, as they celebrated the win over their WAC rival.