For the second straight week, the Hays High football team was unable to utilize the strengths that carried the Indians to a WAC championship and 5-0 start.
The result was a season-ending 33-12 loss to Maize South in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs on Thursday at Lewis Field Stadium.
Hays High struggled to gain offensive traction, falling behind 23-0 by halftime.
The No. 6-seeded Indians were unable to get anything going on the ground in the first half, often finding themselves in third and longs. Before the Indians finally started to have some success in the passing game, they were down 30-0 in the third quarter.
"They did a good job of bottling up our strengths and forcing us into our weaknesses," Hays High coach Tony Crough said. "Really took the run away from us early. They made us get into some of our passing game stuff that they knew we aren’t the best at.
"It was just a combination of us not being able to get first downs and move the ball, and them doing a good job of converting when they got it."
The Mavericks had success in the air, with Jake Johnson hauling in two touchdown passes from Maize South quarterback Colin Shields, including a 71-yarder that made it 23-0 in the second quarter.
"That’s a tough matchup for our secondary," Crough said. "Problem is we have to play over the top of him, and when we do that, we lose a guy in the box to stop the run. That kid’s a really good player and Shields does a good job of getting it to them."
HHS was held to 45 yards of offense in the first half. Crough said the quick possessions for Hays High offense made it tough on the defense.
"Usually great defenses have an offense that can stay on the field and give them a chance to rest, and the last couple of games, we haven’t been able to do that, and so our defense has been put in a lot of tough spots. For two years now we’ve had a really great defense. A lot of times it hasn’t looked as good on the scoreboard because our offense has struggled. Definitely don’t want to take anything away from our defense because they had a great, great year."
Hays High (5-3) ended the season on a three-game losing skid, including a 21-20 loss at Maize South two weeks ago. The Indians fell 24-6 to Wichita Kapaun last week.
Maize South (5-3), which beat Hays in the playoffs for the second straight season, will move on to the second round to face the winner of Maize and Liberal.
After the teams traded defensive stops early, Maize South pinned Hays at 1 and the Mavericks tackled the Indians in the end zone for a safety.
Maize South later went up 9-0 with a 4-yard touchdown run by Evan Cantu.
Johnson then caught 19-yard and 71-yard TD passes to make it 23-0.
The Indians’ longest play of the night went 44 yards on a pass to Carson Kieffer down to the Maize South 4, however, Kieffer lost a fumble on the play. But Hays High got it back two plays later when Carson Spray recovered a fumble at the 3.
Jaren Kanak then scored a 3-yard run to make it 30-6. The Mavericks scored their last points of the night on a Sam Park field goal.
Kieffer caught a slant for a 12-yard TD with 1:48 left. Gavin Meyers recovered the onside kick for Hays, but Jordan Dale’s pass was intercepted and Maize South ran out the clock.
Check hdnews.net and Sunday’s print edition for a recap of the Indians’ season.