STORY BY CAYDEN SANDERS
PHOTOS BY CAYDEN SANDERS AND JAYCEE DALE
Hays High entered the week with the magical feel of “There’s no place like homecoming” for this year’s homecoming theme based on The Wizard of Oz. This year’s Indian royalty were seniors Landri Dotts, Jordan Dale, Kamree Leiker, Aiden Debey, Madelyn Martin, Jaren Kanak, Sydney Wittkorn, Tyler Solida, Samantha Vesper, and Ryan Schuckman.
This years’ winners were Landri Dotts and Aiden Debey.
Students at Hays High experienced the normal homecoming week having royalty competitions, class competitions, a bonfire, a Friday afternoon showcase for the candidates in front of students and alumni of the school, while also having a parade leading up to the Homecoming football game.
This homecoming game was not like any the Indians have competed in recent years. Last year the school was going to play Abilene who canceled due to COVID, so HHS moved it back to Dodge City to win the undisputed league championship in 2020. In 2019 the Indians had Garden City on their plate and lost the game.
This season was different for the Indians, and was more than just personal – the Indians had revenge on their minds taking on Maize South – who was 3-0 over HHS in the last 17 months.
This was the game that the players and coaches were waiting for as HHS lost to them twice last season. Hays High and Maize South went back and forth in this game but the depleted Indians defense found a way to keep Maize South out to the end zone to win 47-43.
Jaren Kanak opened up the Indians’ scoring on the first drive getting in on a 4th and goal situation. Maize South’s first drive of the game ended on the first offensive play with an interception as Gaven Meyers caught the ball thrown right to him. Hays High did not take long to take advantage of the field position as Kanak capitalized with a pass to wide receiver Kyreese Groen. Hays High scored one more time in the first quarter by a Malik Bah run leading the Mavs 20-0.
“Malik is a good changeup, fom Roy and Jaren and he is just a little jitterbug. They are just a great one-two-three punch.” Head Coach Tony Crough said.
Maize South opened up the second quarter with an Evan Cantu run up the middle to close the lead 20-7. Kanak and the Indians answered right back to the Mavs. Then the game came to a scary turn of events as Maize South’s kick returner muffed the catch and an unblocked Remy Stull laid a huge hit on him as the returner moved his head in the way of the hit.
Maize South pushed the ball down the field with Evan Cantu scoring, and the Indians led 26-14 at halftime.
The Mavericks opened up the half with an Evan Cantu touchdown, closing the Indians’ lead to five. The Indians Evan Lind picked off the Mavs to give the Indians another chance on offense.
“Coming out of halftime we knew that Maize South was going to come back and make this a game. You just aren’t going to run away from a good quality program like that.” Crough said.
Both teams opened up the 4th quarter with a running touchdown. The Indians retook the lead at 32-29. Maize South scored again, airing it out to Dresie. Kanak answered back to the Mavericks. Maize South scored again on the same play they used to get a huge gain of yards as Maize South led Hays High 43-40.
“This is what a 5A west playoff game is supposed to go, that’s the atmosphere it is supposed to feel like,” Crough said.
On the Indians’ last offensive drive HHS gave the ball to Maroni and he scored as the Indians led the Mavericks 47-43 with over a minute left in the game.
On the final play of the game, the Mavericks were on the 2-yard line and they decided to pull the same mistake the Seattle Seahawks made in the 2015 NFL SuperBowl game, as Evan Cantu shredded through the Indians defense like Marshawn Lynch did in the Patriots. The Mavericks coaching staff called a pass play that went to the back to the endzone and was incomplete.
The Indians finally won over the Mavericks and beat the streak, along with getting the homecoming win. The Indians stay at the top of the 5A west division and become a big threat as they now look ahead at their final regular-season game against the 5A runner up from a season ago in Wichita Northwest, who is looking to be in a better position when the brackets come out next Saturday morning. The week nine games could affect Hays High’s seedlings going from 1st seed to the 8th seed in one game from a win or loss and point differential.
“I think that we finally locked up a week nine home game, and we think that that is huge for this community locking up a playoff home game, and that is just a huge program win for us,” Crough said.