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October 22nd, 2020

defense tackleLiberal’s Trystian Juarez (21) and Alex Esparz (7) tackle Roy Morni in Hays Friday. The defense showed marked improvement by holding the Indians out of the end zone on several drives, but four turnovers proved to be the difference in a 27-13 loss. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

Leader & Times

HAYS — After a rough start to the Western Athletic Conference schedule against Dodge City, Liberal traveled to Hays to face the undefeated Indians, and despite a lopsided match-up on paper, the Redskins were competitive in a 27-13 loss.

Turnovers made the difference. Liberal gave Hays four extra possessions with two fumbles and two interceptions, and the timing of two of those turnovers were costly.

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Liberal fumbled on the first play from scrimmage when Easton Zapien coughed up the ball at midfield, and two plays later the Indians scored the first touchdown of the game to take a 7-0 lead.

Liberal trailed 14-7 and had a chance to tie late in the first half when Shay Kerr attempted a pass on third and 28 deep in Redskin territory. Hays intercepted the pass and took over at the 22 yard line. Three plays later Hays took a 21-7 lead less than two minutes before the first half ended.

Liberal held Hays to a punt on the first possession of the second half, and Jaylin Staten took the ball, headed to his, but saw a wave of Indians. He reversed to his left, ut upfield and headed back to the right sideline to take the ball down to the 10 yard line.

A block in the back pushed the ball back to the 20 yard line, but a second Zapien fumble on first down gave Hays the ball, and the Indians flipped the field by driving into Liberal territory before punting, and when the Redskins couldn’t sustain a drive, the Indians took over at their own 38 yard line and marched the ball 672 yards in nine plays for a touchdown to take a 27-7 lead with 1:35 to play in the third quarter.

The two teams traded punts the rest of the way until Hays set up for a field goal attempt with less than 30 seconds to play.

The 47-yard attempt was well short of the goal posts, and Malcolm Wiltshire caught the ball around the Redskin 10 yard line and returned it 50 yards tot he Indians 40 yard line with 24 second to play.

Kerr handed off to Zapien on a scrape tot he left, and after Zapien cleared the first wave of defenders, he cut back to the middle, headed upfield and then sprinted to the left pylon for a touchdown with 12 seconds to play.

Hays recovered the squib kick, and the Redskins fell to 0-3 with a 27-13 loss.

The turnovers allowed Hays to rush for 210 yards and throw for 125 more for 385 yards of offense. 

The Redskins rushed for 121 yards, with 1146 of those coming from Zapien, and passed for another 74 yards for a total of 195 yards of offense.

Hunter Huskey helped keep the Redskins in the game on defense with several tackles form the defensive end.

“Hunter Huskey is a player,” Liberal coach Jason Dunlap said. “He has a future in this game. He played hard and passionate and in control. He did his 1/11th.”

Despite the two fumbles by Zapien, Dunlap kept the junior in the backfield, and he finally broke free late in the fourth quarter for a touchdown run. 

“That happens,” Dunlap said. “He is young, and those things are going to happen. He’s my guy. I’m not turning my back on him.”

Liberal fell to 0-3, and with changes to the schedule in the past few days, Liberal went from having no game on the schedule for the week following Hays to Coffeyville, and then a switch late Friday to Ulysses.

“We have a tough team in Ulysses,” Dunlap said. “They are getting healthy. Our kids are sore and we can’t let that carry over into next week.”

Dunlap said he has relied on youth, but standout plays also came from seniors Staten and Wiltshire.

Staten caught five passes for 62 yards, and Wiltshire had the big return on the short field goal attempt.

“When you play a lot of young kids, they miss coming out on the field.,” Dunlap said. “You saw how many freshmen and sophomores we had on the field. But when you get the ball in Jaylin and Malcom’s hands, good things happen.”

Take the turnovers away, and the Redskins could have flipped the outcome.

“We are going to preach that to our kids,” Dunlap said. “They could have given up. We played a really good team and our kids battled. They hit the bubble screen early and scored, and  could have got down.”

But the Redskins were competitive after the 35-0 shutout and will look for a win Friday in Ulysses.

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