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Defense carries Hays High in opener

Randy Gonzalez
Hays Daily News

Hays High football coach Tony Crough expected his team to make mistakes in Thursday night’s season opener at Goddard-Eisenhower. After all, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had been several months since his players recently started football activities.

“That was the first time our kids tackled since last November,” Crough said. “That was the first time we had been tackled, since last November. That was the first time we had any live action.”

HHS committed penalties and made errors. However, one of those mistakes against the Tigers led to a big play for the Indians, helping Hays High claim a 19-10 victory in a rematch of schools that met in the playoffs last fall.

Hays High was leading 6-2 in the second quarter when Indian junior quarterback Dylan Dreiling turned a broken play into six points. Dreiling scooped the ball off the turf after a bad snap from center, faded back to pass and hit junior wideout Jaren Kanak for a 47-yard score.

“It was an amazing play by Dylan Dreiling,” Crough said. “He ran up, got the ball, backed up and still threw it 40 yards downfield right on the money.

“That’s what our quarterback can do,” he added. “He’s a special athlete. This is only his 11th game playing quarterback, ever.”

After the home team got a safety for a 2-0 lead, HHS scored on a 6-yard run by junior Roy Moroni. Jack Fields missed the extra point, but Hays High led 6-2 with 1:35 left in the first quarter. Dreiling’s hookup with Kanak gave the Indians a 13-2 halftime lead after Fields’ PAT.

Kanak had a 35-yard TD run called back by a penalty in the third quarter, and Goddard-Eisenhower took advantage. Senior QB Nick Hogan threw a 5-yard TD pass then ran in the 2-point conversion to get the Tigers within 13-10 with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.

Hays High got a touchdown with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter to make it a two-score game. On fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Dreiling rolled out and hit Kanak for the score. Fields missed the PAT kick, but the Indians led 19-10.

“I remember thinking we needed to get Dylan out of the pocket,” Crough said. “We’re getting better at getting Dylan out in space, where he’s more comfortable.”

Dreiling finished the night 11-of-23 passing for 106 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Kanak caught five balls for 73 yards and Moroni rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries.

Hogan completed 22-of-51 passes for 280 yards, with one TD and one interception, for the Tigers. Crough, who had looked at last year’s game tape on the Tigers, did not expect Goddard-Eisenhower to air it out.

“They started out trying to run,” Crough said. “They figured out real quick that they were going to have a lot more success if they started throwing it on us.”

Crough said his secondary was up to the task.

“I thought they did great,” Crough said. “A team that throws the ball 50 times, gives up one score, you’ll take that all night long.”

Crough said Thursday night’s season opener was special after an uncertain offseason and preseason due to the coronavirus.

“It feels like we’re in football season now,” Crough said. “It’s the new normal. I think our kids are ready to adjust, play some more ball.”

Hays High opens Western Athletic Conference play on Friday at Great Bend. The Panthers lost their season opener 56-0 at Maize South.