By AUSTIN COLBERT
Hays High School football coach Bo Black understands the situation. He knows what has to happen this week for the Indians to make the Class 4A Division I state playoffs. And the reality is some of it is out of their hands and worrying about the possibilities won't do any good.
"It's really tough not to change anything up, but we sure didn't. The bottom line is there is not a whole lot we can do about it," Black said. "So we've just talked all week and worked all week on what are the things we can control. We can control playing to the best of our abilities; we can control the things we talked about all year -- having great execution, playing with great effort, playing with great enthusiasm. Those are all things we can control."
With only one week remaining in the regular season, Friday's 7 p.m. District 8 games will decide everything. All four teams remain eligible for a postseason berth, all with their own criteria to make that happen.
Hays High (7-1 overall, 1-1 district) is fortunate as it has its fate in its own hands, however difficult the task may be. One thing that is certain is the Indians must win their game at McPherson High School (6-2, 2-0) on Friday to have a chance. If that win is by at least 17 points, say hello to the playoffs, regardless the result of the other game.
Win by less than 17, and HHS will need a loss from Buhler (6-2, 1-1) against host Abilene (6-2, 0-2) to advance.
A HHS loss ends its season and hands the district title to the Bullpups.
"After looking at all the scenarios this week, if we go out and play very well and find a way to win and we are 8-1, we are going to be disappointed (if we don't make the playoffs)," Black said of a very real possibility if the Indians can't win by 17 and Abilene can't beat Buhler. "We played really, really good for eight games. We had one game where we were disappointed with how we played. I think we can sit back and say hell of a year at 8-1. But that's obviously not what we are shooting for and not what we want."
Hays High was 6-0 entering district play two weeks ago until a 55-21 loss at Buhler derailed a perfect season. The Indians followed with a dramatic 34-33 win over Abilene on senior night last week, while Buhler was a surprising 44-42 loser at McPherson, which beat Abilene 17-6 to open district play.
Hays High can still win the district if it gets the 17-point win coupled with a Buhler loss. Abilene needs to beat Buhler by at least 16 points plus a HHS loss to make the surprising leap from 0-2 to the playoffs. Buhler simply needs to win and hope HHS doesn't reach its 17-point mark.
And for Hays High to do that, it's going to need to see major improvement from a once stout defense, a unit that has allowed 46 points per game over its last three games. The HHS defense allowed only 16 ppg over its first five.
Key to controlling McPherson will be stopping senior quarterback Kyler Kinnamon, who had six total touchdowns, including one defensive, against Buhler last week.
"We are trying not to put pressure on them, but we just haven't played very good defense the last month," Black said. "We got a very senior laden group. Everybody understands the situation. It just puts a weird spin on it when people want to throw the points involved. We just try to throw the points part of it out all week just because we can't control that. Just worrying about things we can control. And one thing we can control is getting better defensively this week."