By CAYDEN SANDERS
Photos by KERON WATSON
Tiger Media Network
For the Fort Hays State University football team, the victory was a long time coming — actually, more than 40 years in the making.
The Tigers knocked off nationally ranked Northwest Missouri State University 17-6 on Saturday night at Lewis Field Stadium, marking the first time since Sept. 24, 1977, the Tigers got the best of the Bearcats in Hays.
“There’s a lot of football left in this season, but these kids are great,” FHSU head coach Chris Brown said. “They played all four quarters, cheering for each other and fought really hard against a good team. This was a team victory. It was the offense, defense, special teams and even guys that aren’t starters coming out and getting the win at home.”
A week earlier against nationally ranked Pitt State, Fort Hays was a first-half team — holding a narrow lead at halftime. Saturday night was a different story and proved to be what the Tigers needed to break free of a 3-3 stalemate at halftime.
The winning combination for FHSU (2-1) came in the form of quarterback Jack Dawson and receiver Bryson Smith. The two connected for the first touchdown of the game with 11:54 to play in the third quarter.
Northwest Missouri (1-2) answered back late in the quarter after being stopped deep in FHSU territory. Noah Guastella’s field goal from 27 yards out pulled the Bearcats within 10-6 with just more than two minutes to play in the quarter.
The defensive battle continued into the final period until Dawson connected with Smith once again, this time from 33 yards to make it 17-6 with 5:30 remaining.
The FHSU defense, which struggled a bit in a 40-14 loss to Pitt State a week prior, clamped down the rest of the game and handed the Bearcats their second-straight defeat for the first time since 2017.
The Tigers had a target on the leading rusher in the MIAA, Jay Harris. In the first two weeks, Harris tallied more than 100 rushing yards per outing. He finished Saturday night’s game with 104, but the team was limited to 129 total on the ground.
FHSU’s defense also kept Bearcat QB Henry Martin uncomfortable in the pocket. Starting as a result of an injury to Mike Hohensee the week earlier against Emporia State, Henry completed 21 of 35 attempts for only 162 yards.
“We played well as a defensive unit, and we played all four quarters. That’s all you can ask for,” said defensive lineman Parrish Terry, who had seven total tackles, including three for a loss.
The redshirt freshman came into the game after an injury to starter Gaven Haselhorst. Terry also had 1.5 sacks and forced a crucial fumble of Harris deep in FHSU territory.
“I have Gaven and Myles (Menges) right in front of me, and I learn from them,” Terry said. “And they have taught me a lot. We always preach run to the ball, run to the ball, and on that fumble, I hit the ball right out.”
Smith finished with four catches for 109 yards and two TDs for FHSU, and Trevor Watts had a game-high 126 yards on seven catches. No NWMSU player had more than 33 yards receiving.
Smith also had a 57-yard passing completion on a trick play.
“I was pretty excited to be able to throw a pass in the game tonight,” Smith said. “We have been working all week to throw it into tonight’s game, and I am glad it worked. Most of the night it was one-on-one coverage, and so I just had to beat them with speed and catching the ball.”
Dawson finished 17 of 33 passing for 289 yards, two TDs and an interception.
The Tigers play at 6 p.m. Saturday against Missouri Western (2-1) in St. Joseph, Mo. The Griffons beat Central Oklahoma 34-31 last weekend.