BY CAYDEN SANDERS
PHOTO COURTESY KADEN DINKLE (HAYS HIGH)
The Hays High football team has a new look this season. In years past, the Indians had players like Jaren Kanak (Oklahoma), Gavin Meyers (Kansas State), Gaven Haselhorst (Transfer at Fort Hays), and Roy Moroni (Fort Hays). This year the team might not have the “star” names that they used to have, but the program got a big win versus an I-70 foe in Junction City this past Friday night. Hays rolled past the Bluejays 33-2.
“This group of kids was already celebrating in the locker room before our coaches got in. After a game one, you don’t want to have celebrations, but everyone said this team can’t win with the guys we lost this past offseason,” Indians Head Coach Tony Crough said.
Trailing 21-7 with 1:40 left in the first half, Hays put together a 71-yard scoring drive just before halftime, finding the endzone with 12 seconds to go in the period to pull withing seven, 21-14.
The Indians continued to find ways to score as junior Malik Bah ran over three Bluejays to score on a 57-yard run. The Indians did miss the extra point conversion and trailed Junction City 21-20 with 9:20 to go in the third quarter.
On Hays High’s next drive, Bah found the endzone again after a botched play, putting the Indians up 27-21 with 3:12 left in the third quarter. At the end of the game, Bah found the endzone one more time for his third score of the night.
“Going into the halftime, we knew we had to feed the beast and that was Malik [Bah] and then [Kyreese ] Groen did his thing and it got us to the win,” Crough said.
The Indians’ offense ended the night with 544 offensive yards, as Bah earned 273 yards by the ground. Groen had 154 with his legs and 105 with his arm. Hays shut out the Bluejays 19-0 in the second half.
Crough had another busy offseason as the team did not have a quarterback coming back. Two years ago, the Indians had baseball star Dylan Dreiling as their quarterback during the 2020 season. Dreiling did not return for the 2021 season, so the team had Jaren Kanak step into the quarterback position. This season was the same; the Indians have senior Groen under center this year.
Last season Groen was a wide receiver, but he gave the Indians the same scheme they had last season as the team uses the quarterback as a threat to run the ball, but Groen can throw the ball as well.
While Moroni was a pivotal piece to the offense, the Indians did not have to worry about replacing him as the team used junior Bah last season. As a sophomore, he helped lead the Indians’ offense to a semifinal finish in the 5A state tournament, which has only been done a handful of times by any Hays High football teams.
“This game is really big; a lot of it is a belief factor. I know our kids and our coaches believe; I just don’t know anyone outside of the program believes in us because we have players playing all levels of college football,” Crough said.
The Indians move to 1-0 on the season and travel to rival Great Bend this Friday. Gametime between the Indians and the Panthers is set for 7 p.m.