Right now, the Hays High School boys’ soccer team is riding a wave of momentum it doesn’t want to see come to a halt.
Instead, the Indians are hoping that momentum crashes into their opponents like it has the last few weeks.
On Thursday afternoon at the HHS field, the Indians were riding high after a 4-0 shutout against Liberal.
More importantly, after a few down years, Hays High is relevant once again in the soccer-strong Western Athletic Conference.
“That’s what we were going for originally in the beginning,” said HHS senior Erik Kreutzer. “In the past, we’ve been kind of the cellar-dwellers, and we were trying to get back up there with Dodge and all those big other teams. And look at us now.”
Indeed, the Indians (9-3, 3-3) have something to be proud of after notching their fifth-straight win Thursday. It also marked the first time in several tries that HHS was able to shut out the Redskins.
“The guys definitely are doing a good job making a name for themselves,” said HHS head coach Silas Hibbs. “It’s exciting for Coach Markovits, Coach Kelly and I to watch and see one-by-one, they believe. It’s really cool to see them buying into the system.”
That system has been key the last few weeks, and it was evident once again Thursday against a scrappy Liberal squad.
After neither team could capitalize in the first few minutes — Liberal’s drought being fueled by the solid goalie play of junior Connor Teget — Hays High finally found the back of the net.
Senior Zachary Wagner broke open the scoreless game in the 20th minute off an assist from senior teammate Ethan Nunnery — who would finish with two assists in the game. The play was set up when junior Jacob Maska let the ball roll through, faking out the Liberal defender on him and setting up Wagner for the open shot.
It proved to be the spark the Indians needed once again, and similar to Wagner’s goal Saturday against Garden City that then fueled a scoring streak.
Junior Tradgon McCrae finished a pass from Nunnery in the 33rd minute, giving HHS a 2-0 advantage.
“It feels amazing,” Kreutzer said. “We’ve been doing well and pushing really hard. Basically, it’s turning out well for us.”
Then Kreutzer made it 3-0 in the 35th minute with a header off a pass from sophomore Matthew Goodale.
“My teammates are giving me great balls, honestly,” Kreutzer said. “I can’t take all the credit. Basically, when I see the opportunity, I go for it. If not, if someone is in front of me, I like to look for my teammates.”
That goal had the Liberal coaches switching out their starting goalie for the backup a few minutes later.
Meanwhile at the other end, Teget was busy stopping every Liberal opportunity the Redskins had.
He’d keep it up in the second half as well to earn the clean sheet.
Kreutzer tallied his second goal of the game in the 64th minute off an assist from McCrae, giving Hays High a comfortable 4-0 cushion.
“Erik has a nose for the goal,” Hibbs said. “He kind of plays a different stryker role than most. Obviously with Ethan and Zach playing behind him, he’s kind of a pivot man. I think he’s trying to send a message to all the coaching staff saying, ‘You should have put me up there sooner instead of in the back.’ He’s played well.”
The Redskins had no answer in the waning minutes, being stuffed by Teget each time they threatened. Liberal also had two players issued yellow cards.
“It is where we want to be,” Hibbs said. “We’re not where we want to be yet, and we have a long way to go. But this next Tuesday, we’ll be able to see how far we’ve come. But it’s great to see them progress throughout the season and them get more confidence. To keep this momentum going is pretty cool.”
Next up for the Indians will be Dodge City, the defending Class 6A state champs who haven’t lost a game since 2015. The Red Demons beat Garden City on Thursday, 2-1.
“Definitely pleased,” Hibbs said. “It was a good team win. We had another shutout against a good team. That’s awesome. A lot of time we can talk about the goals going in for us and forget about the defense and how many we kept out. I’m pleased. It was an all-around team win. It was a good game for us as we prepare for Dodge City.”