The Hays High football team clinched a share of the Western Athletic Conference title with Friday night’s 28-7 win at Garden City. But Indian coach Tony Crough wants more for his team.
"We want it outright," Crough said. "I don’t think you get to put any signs up or hang any banners for sharing a title. We’d like to get it outright. It’s nice to know we’ve got a share of it."
Hays High (4-0 overall, 3-0 WAC) last won the conference title in 2014. The Indians are off to their best start since going 6-0, also in the 2014 season. The fast start has been fueled by a stout defense and an offense that can either pound opponents into submission or strike quick for six points.
The Indian attack was led Friday night by Jordan Dale and Dylan Dreiling, who alternated between quarterback and halfback. Dreiling started out the year at QB but missed Week 2’s win over Great Bend with an illness. Dale took over and had a big game, and now Hays High likely has defensive coordinators staying up late into the night trying to figure out how to slow the Indians’ attack.
On Friday, Dale rushed for 115 yards and two TDS and threw for 83, while Dreiling added 74 yards on the ground and two scores.
"It’s difficult (for defenses) when you’ve got two guys back there who can throw it," Crough said. "You don’t know who’s going to do what with the football."
Hays High got the ball to start the game and marched 91 yards for the score, with Carson Kieffer’s 51-yard pass from Dale setting up Dreiling’s 4-yard TD run with 8:07 left in the first quarter. Dreiling took the snap at QB in a shotgun formation, with a pair of defensive linemen lined up in front of him as blocking backs in a package called "Diesel." Nose tackle Carson Spray and defensive end Gaven Haselhorst served as the blocking backs.
"We let them smack some people, so it’s pretty fun," Crough said. "We have an inside play and an outside play. We don’t have much to it, yet. I’m sure every week we’ll add a little wrinkle to it, have some fun with it."
After the HHS defense stopped the Buffaloes on their first drive, the Indians scored on the first play of the ensuing possession. Dale, playing quarterback, read the defense keying on Dreiling at halfback on the option and dashed 40 yards into the end zone to make it 14-0 with 6:26 left in the first quarter. Crough said Dale made the correct read on the play then did what he does best.
"He just pulled it out, scampered like he does, evaded a few guys, stiff-armed a guy," Crough said. "He’s pretty dang dangerous when he does that."
Hays High used 12 plays to travel 59 yards for another score with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter. Dale scored from 2 yards out in the "Diesel" formation to make it 21-0.
After a special teams miscue by HHS, Garden City (1-3, 1-1) benefited from a short field to score with 4:01 left in the first half on a 10-yard QB keeper by Caleb Wiese.
That was it as far offense for the Buffs. Hays High held Garden City to 59 yards of total offense.
"Our defense keeps getting better every week," Crough said. "It was just a lights-out performance by our defense."
After a scoreless third period, HHS put the game away in the fourth quarter on another TD in the "Diesel" look. Dreiling powered his way into the end zone from the 4-yard line to make it 28-7 with 8:34 left in the game.
Hays High finished with 332 yards of total offense, 249 on the ground. Halfback Roy Moroni, who hurt a hamstring in last week’s win over Liberal, played and added 59 yards rushing. Speedy wide receiver Jaren Kanak also was in the lineup after missing last week’s game. He hurt his ankle early in the Week 2 matchup at Great Bend. Kanak caught five passes for 32 yards.
"We probably wouldn’t have played either one of them had it not been a conference opponent," Crough said. "Our goal is to be WAC champs. It was important to our team that they play, it was important to those two that they play."
Hays High now hopes to just be able to play next week. Abilene, a nonconference opponent scheduled for homecoming, has suspended all activities next week due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the school district. HHS officials are seeking a substitute team.
"We’re still looking," Crough said. "We’re going to look through the weekend still, try to find a home opponent. Right now, games open up every day, see what pops up."