The winningest senior class in the program's NCAA Division II history went out with a bang on Saturday (Nov. 16) as Fort Hays State posted a record-setting 91-7 win at Northeastern State to close out the season. FHSU broke both its single-game and season scoring records, finishing at 8-3 overall.
The 91 points shatters the single-game mark of 66 set earlier this season in a win at Lincoln. The Tigers finish the year with 455 points in just 11 games, going past the mark of 446 set by the 1995 team in 12 games. The Tigers also finish the year averaging 41.4 points per game, and that breaks the 1995 team's scoring average record of 37.2 per game. **Note: FHSU had a team in 1913 score 125 points against the Salina All-Stars, which was not a college, so this is a new record against a collegiate opponent.**
It didn't look like a complete runaway early as FHSU scored just 13 points in the first quarter, but a landslide of points befell NSU in the second quarter, 42 to be exact, and FHSU led 55-7 at halftime. Two consecutive Voshon Waiters rushing touchdowns in the third quarter pushed the Tigers past the single-game scoring record to a 69-7 lead. Te'Corey Tutson added another rushing touchdown late in the third to push the advantage to 76-7.
Senior Kyler Kinnamon picked up his first touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard pass from Trey McJunkin. Adrian Soto also scored his first collegiate touchdown in the fourth, a 65-yard sprint to the endzone untouched. The senior La Crosse, Kansas duo of Andrew Jay and Sheldon Schmidt connected on a 2-point conversion play that pushed the final tally for the Tigers to 91.
The Tigers had a very senior-themed touchdown scoring compilation in the first half. Harley Hazlett started the scoring on a 19-yard pass from Chance Fuller. Charles Tigner and D.J. Hickman each followed with touchdown plunges from a yard out. Matt Wendelberger joined the scoring act next on a 9-yard pass from Fuller. Tigner added another one-yard touchdown run before Layne Bieberle snagged a 1-yard touchdown pass from Fuller. A defensive touchdown by Sterling Swopes on a 48-yard fumble recovery interrupted the senior scoring streak, but Tigner followed again with a 2-yard pass from Fuller.
With the four passing touchdowns by halftime, Fuller found himself on top of the single-season passing touchdowns list with 35 this season. That topped the school record of 34 thrown by Shawn Behr in 1995. He finished the year with 3,344 passing yards, the fourth most in a single-season in FHSU and his 258 completions for the season are second most.
When the dust settled, Fort Hays State finished with 734 yards of total offense. It was still a little shy of the school record 761 yards produced by the 1970 team against Southern Colorado.
The Tiger defense nearly had a shutout with just one defensive breakdown on a 73-yard touchdown pass by the RiverHawks in the second quarter. The Tigers were rock solid outside of that mistake, allowing just 123 total yards for the game. It was the fewest yards allowed to an opponent since a 15-0 win over Adams State on September 15, 2001. Tanner Hoekman led the Tigers with seven tackles to finish with 294 in his career, tying Layton Hickel for sixth on the career tackles list in the NCAA era.
Bieberle finished second on the all-time receiving yards list at FHSU with 2,625 by adding 68 to his overall total on Saturday. Bieberle was the seventh Tiger to pass the 2,000-yard receiving mark earlier this season and Hazlett joined that fraternity on Saturday as the eighth, now with 2,038 after a 58-yard receiving effort. Hazlett holds the all-time receptions record at FHSU with 184 and Bieberle joins old record holder Eric Busenbark in a tie for second with 168.
Dante Brown finished the year with 109 kicking points (19 field goals and 52 PATs). The 2018 Don Hansen Division II Special Teams Player of the Year put up 232 points over two seasons. He is the only kicker in program history to break the 100 mark, and did it two consecutive years.
Fort Hays State reached eight wins in a season for the fifth straight year and the senior class went out with a record of 36-11. The Tigers also produced their seventh consecutive winning season, which dates back to 2013.