By AUSTIN COLBERT
There was a time early in Friday's football game between Hays High School and Dodge City where both defenses were on point. The Red Demons held Indian senior quarterback Alex Delton to negative yardage on seven of his first 10 rush attempts, and the only first-quarter points scored by HHS came via a 30-yard blocked punt return by senior linebacker Ethan Deterding on the first possession.
But over the final three quarters, there was little resemblance of a defense on either side in Hays High's 64-50 win, one that clinched the Indians a WAC title for the first time since 2012.
"They came out with a defense we weren't very comfortable with. We didn't know they were going to come out with it. It affected us, but coach (Bo Black) worked around it and made some halftime adjustments," Delton said. "The offense started clicking, everything started going well. After that, the rest was history really. Coach Black made some huge, good halftime adjustments, which worked out perfect for us."
Hays High (6-0 overall, 4-0 WAC) tallied 519 yards of total offense, with Delton accounting for 404 yards of it (273 pass, 131 rush), to hold off Dodge City (4-2, 2-1) in both team's final game before beginning district play this week.
The Red Demons were no slouch, either, totaling 449 yards of offense against HHS, included 451 yards passing from junior quarterback Caden Walters on 29 of 52 attempts.
The difference in the final score was a result of three straight touchdowns by the Indians to open the third quarter after being tied 28-28 at halftime.
"That's one of the tough things, having to make adjustments. You really can't make one until halftime. We have so many kids that play both ways," Black said. "They loaded the box and we knew we had to throw it to loosen them up. Obviously Hayden (Kreutzer) and Alex made some big plays with that straight man coverage. Then the second half we made some simple adjustments and it's a testament to our kids of playing smart and executing in the second half."
Dodge City led 21-14 midway through the second quarter when the madness really began. Looking to keep the game close, Delton found Kreutzer for a 60-yard TD pass, the first of three scores between the duo. DC answered with a 65-yard TD pass from Walters to junior Tyler Trent, only to have Delton respond with a 70-yard TD run right before the half.
The third quarter belonged to Hays High, which began the half with a 65-yard TD strike from Delton to Kreutzer. A possession later, HHS scored on a 48-yard TD pass from Delton to Kreutzer to get the first two-possession lead of the game.
Junior running back Isaiah Blackmon made it 49-28 Hays High midway through the third quarter on his 41-yard TD run.
"Every play that went into this game was huge for us," said Kreutzer, who finished with four catches for 211 yards. "Everything from the little runs that set up the big throws -- with Alex running so good in the previous games and them stacking the box like that, it opens up the passing game so much."
Dodge City fought back, scoring on a 21-yard TD pass to end the third quarter and on a 38-yard TD pass with 2:47 to play in the fourth quarter to make it 49-43 Hays High after a successful 2-point conversion.
An onside kick gave Hays High the ball around midfield, and it took one play for Delton to run the 51 yards separating him from the end zone to make it 57-43 Indians with 2:33 to go.
The game was put on ice less than 30 seconds later when sophomore defensive end Shane Berens made an athletic one-handed interception of Walters deep in Dodge City territory and ran it in for the score. The Red Demons scored one final time, an 18-yard TD pass from Walters to Mark Adams, but would not touch the ball again as HHS ran out the final 1:28 of the clock.
"I thought our kids played really hard for four quarters. It was a crazy football game. Lots of stuff going on. But we were sure happy with how our kids played," Black said. "We just struggled covering their wide receivers. I think we had some blown assignments along the way. At the same time our hats go off to a really good Dodge City football team. I think they are a really good 6A team and a team that is going to continue to win a lot of football games."
With conference play wrapped up for Hays High, the Indians now turn their attention toward district play, which begins 7 p.m. Friday at the defending Class 4A state champions Buhler. The Crusaders are 5-1, their only loss a 41-20 season opening defeat at undefeated Class 4A, Division II Andale.
"It's pretty crazy. Through all the work we put into it this summer, we've earned the right to be here," Kreutzer said of winning the WAC title and being undefeated heading into district play. "We've never really had a chance to come out second half except for the first game and have a chance to hit another team and go back and forth like that because it's always been a big lead. We really stepped up today."
Hays High 64, Dodge City 50
Game in figures
First downs 20 8
Rushes-Yds 22-(-2) 38-246
Passing-Int 29-52-2 6-16-0
Passing Yds 451 273
Totals plays-Yds 74-449 54-519
Penalties-Yds 4-40 14-106
Fumbles-lost 1-0 5-2
Punts-avg 5-28 4-31.8
Dodge City (4-2) 7 21 7 15 -- 50
Hays High (6-0) 7 21 21 15 -- 64
H -- Deterding 30 punt block return (Leiker kick)
D -- Walters 2 run (Mejia kick)
H -- Blackmon 3 run (Leiker kick)
D -- Trent 11 run (Mejia kick)
D -- Walters 1 run (Mejia kick
H -- Kreutzer 60 pass from Delton (Leiker kick)
D -- Trent 65 pass from Walters (Mejia kick)
H -- Delton 70 run (Leiker kick)
H -- Kreutzer 65 pass from Delton (Leiker kick)
H -- Kreutzer 48 pass from Delton (kick blocked)
H -- Blackmon 41 run (Berens from Delton)
D -- Adams 21 pass from Walters (Mejia kick)
D -- Unruh 38 pass from Walters (Hatfield from Bartel)
H -- Delton 51 run (Kreutzer from Delton)
H -- Berens 18 interception return (Leiker kick)
D -- Adams 18 pass from Walters (Mejia kick)
D -- Trent 8-33, Walters 14-(-35)
H -- Delton 21-131, Blackmon 12-84, Rule 3-16, Betts 1-8, Kreutzer 1-7
D -- Walters 29-52-4, 451 yards
H -- Delton 6-16-3, 273 yards
D -- Trent 7-115, Adams 8-113, Reid 8-93, Unruh 3-73, McGroarty 3-57
H -- Kreutzer 4-211, Dryden 1-53, Winter 1-9