Members of Fort Hays State's senior class helped take Tiger football to another level throughout their careers, and FHSU coach Chris Brown wants the group to get the recognition it deserves.
Brown is hoping for a huge turnout as Fort Hays (7-2) plays host to Northwest Missouri State (8-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium.
“It’s Senior Day and these seniors have done a lot for this program,” Brown said. “I want to pack the house for them. This should be the winningest group of seniors in school history.
“They make this thing go. They’ve been great leaders. They work their tails off in the weight room. In the classroom, every one of those guys should graduate with a degree from college; that’s probably the most exciting thing about it."
The Tigers have handed Northwest Missouri one-point losses in each of the last two seasons. FHSU linebacker Kolt Trachsel pointed to a 13-12 road victory over the Bearcats in 2017 as a turning point for the program.
“Ever since then, we know we can beat anybody; we can beat these high-caliber teams now,” Trachsel said. “We are one of those high-caliber teams in this conference. I think it really gave us a confidence boost.”
A win on Saturday would go a long way to bolster the Tigers' playoff case. FHSU sits No. 10 in the region rankings while Northwest is No. 7. The Bearcats' only loss was a 24-17 setback at Nebraska-Kearney on Oct. 19.
“Any time you get to play another championship-caliber team with championship caliber players, you love that,” FHSU offensive lineman Nathan Hale said. “If you’re a championship-caliber team, which I think we are, these are the games that you live for."
The Tigers will be recognizing 17 seniors — Trachsel, Hale, running backs D.J. Hickman and Charles Tigner, receivers Layne Bieberle, Harley Hazlett, Dandre Reed, Andrew Jay and Kyler Kinnamon, defensive backs Tanner Hoekman, Hayden Kreutzer, tight end Matt Wendelberger, kicker Dante Brown, offensive lineman Ramon Coral, defensive linemen Chris Flowers, Sheldon Schmidt and Kiel Simas.
“It’s in the back of our heads, all of the seniors, just knowing that this is may be the last time playing here at Fort Hays,” Trachsel said.
Hazlett became the latest Tiger to set a program record. With six catches in the 66-6 win against Lincoln, Hazlett has 173 career receptions, surpassing the mark of 168 set by Eric Busenbark.
“There’s been a lot of things that have been broken over the years,” Brown said. “It still comes down to a team effort. You can’t do it without the guys that are around you. If you didn’t have those guys, then those things wouldn’t happen.
“A lot of it is individual effort as well, but you still have to have your quarterback to get that record. You still have to have your linemen to protect your quarterback, and you still got to run your route and catch the ball.
“But I’m proud of all those guys that break records. It’s kind of leaving your legacy behind and what you’ve done here in the program."
Brown said Tuesday afternoon the Tigers were still in the process of determining Saturday's playing status for Hazlett, who left the Lincoln game with an injury.
“We’re kind of playing it by ear,” Brown said. “Hopefully it just turns out to be something minor. We’re being very precautionary right now to make sure we’re taking all the right steps and measures to make sure he’s healthy.”