It took only 15 seconds for the Hays High School boys’ soccer team to show how they were going to play in Monday’s Class 4-1A regional tournament game.
Even though the shot was stopped by the Towanda-Circle keeper, it was a harbinger of things to come.
Hays High pelted the Thunderbird keeper with numerous shots in the first half, then did more of the same in a 8-0 rout to advance to the south-central regional final game.
“When you have the wind at your back, you take a lot of outside shots,” junior Jacob Maska said. “Their keeper, hat’s off to him. He made a lot of brilliant saves. I know we got frustrated a little bit, but we worked through it and found a goal. We found out we play better going into the wind than with the wind.”
The Indians (11-6) did have the strong northwest wind at their backs in the first 40 minutes, and that made Circle (8-8-1) try to pack things in defensively as HHS junior keeper Connor Teget was never tested in the first half.
After just missing multiple attempts, junior Tradgon McCrae scored the first goal when Circle failed to clear the ball off an HHS corner kick.
Two other HHS players had a chance at the goal, but it finally came off McCrae’s right foot as it bounced around inside the box.
During the next 26 minutes, Hays High had multiple chances to increase the lead. But each time, the Circle keeper either stopped the shot or it went just wide of the net.
Senior Ethan Nunnery, who had several attempts inside the box earlier, finally got one by the keeper in the 30th minute, making it 2-0.
It was the start of three goals in a span of six minutes for the Indians.
Freshman Brian Cisneros scored off an assist from Maska in the 32nd minute, and senior Zachary Wagner found the foot of Maska in the 36th, setting the halftime margin at 4-0.
“Their goalie made some fantastic saves. Hat’s off to him for sure,” said HHS coach Silas Hibbs. “But credit to our guys for staying with it. I know they were frustrated the shots weren’t falling. We had a nice lead at halftime and were able to finish it.”
Once the Indians headed into the wind in the second half, things didn’t change. McCrae got his second of three goals only 23 seconds into the half, increasing the lead to 5-0.
Wagner followed in the 48th off a pass from Maska for a 6-0 advantage.
“It holds up a little bit, but we’re also able to find feet more,” Maska said about the team being strong playing into the wind. “We possess and work the W’s, as coach has stressed all season.”
Maska got his brace in the 55th minute off an assist from McCrae, who got his hat trick in the 73rd off a pass from Nunnery to cap the scoring.
“They played very unselfishly, which is awesome,” Hibbs said. “They had goals and assists. There were times where guys were probably a little too unselfish. But I’m pleased with what we did as a team.”
Maska finished with two goals and two assists, McCrae had three goals and an assist, and Nunnery and Wagner each had a goal and an assist.
“It’s nice,” Maska said. “We work well as a team. Coach expected us to win, and he always does, and we just came out on top. We did what we do and took care of business.”
It’s the second win in a row for Hays High after a three-game losing streak.
“We all believe now,” Maska said. “We doubted ourselves at the beginning of the season. Coach just built us up to believe in ourselves, and there’s nothing better than everyone on our team having each other’s back.”
Hays High will play at Wichita-Trinity Academy at 7 p.m. Friday against either Trinity or TMP-Marian, which was a 10-0 winner over Mulvane in other regional action Monday. The Monarchs (7-9) and Trinity (11-5) play at 7 p.m. Tuesday.