The Hays High football team will head to Dodge City on Friday at 7 p.m. with a 2-0 record away from Lewis Field Stadium, but making it 3-0 will be quite the challenge for the Indians, especially on defense.
Through five games, Dodge City (3-2) appears to have one of the best offenses in the state. The Red Demons enter Week 6 averaging north of 52 points per game. Even in its two losses, Dodge City has scored at least 41 points.
Looking towards Friday’s game, Hays High coach Randall Rath sees a Dodge City squad full of experience and talent.
“They’re very skilled, and their skill players have all be two- and three-year starters,” Rath said. “Their whole team is pretty senior oriented. They’ve been getting better and better. So, it’s one of those things… They have experience and they’re hot right now.”
What makes Dodge City’s offense so deadly is the combination of a strong grasp of the spread principles it utilizes and a host of explosive athletes at the skill positions. The key for the Indians defense will be winning the one-on-one battles in space and making timely open-field tackles.
Quarterback Caden Walters leads the Red Demons offense. Walters has already scored 24 touchdowns on the season, 14 through the air and 10 on the ground. As the numbers suggest, the senior quarterback can hurt defenses with his arm or his legs.
“(He’s) a dual threat kid,” Rath said. “Very accurate, very confident player, and they have a really good running back so you can’t key on him (Walters).”
Tyler Trent is the running back that takes some pressure of Walters. Last week, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior rushed for two touchdowns, one of which went for 86 yards, and caught two touchdown passes from Walters.
Rath added that the Red Demons have three of the top five leaders in receiving yardage in the Western Athletic Conference.
Defending the spread isn’t a new assignment for the Hays High defense, but Dodge City’s take on the popular offensive philosophy may be the most dynamic.
“I think we’ve seen the schemes a little bit, but probably not as efficient,” Rath said.
As they have to this point in the season, the Indians will look to play defense with their offense. Hays High’s best chance of success seems to be extended scoring drives that keep the Red Demons off the field and out of rhythm for as long as possible.
Keeping Walters and company off the field will come down to the success of the Indians’ offensive line.
“We’ve got to be consistent with our blocking scheme,” Rath said. “The scheme is the same, but we have to be consistent following through with it. We missed a whole lot of blocks last week and we’ve got to be more consistent.”
While it wouldn’t surprise Rath to see 10 Dodge City defenders in the box, he said his offensive line is capable of performing at the necessary level.
In 2014, Hays High got the best of Dodge City in a shootout, winning 64-50.