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November 24th, 2020

wac selectionsBRETT MARSHALL • wacathletics.com

 

Hays has clear path to sweep of WAC football awards

It was only a season in the rear-view mirror of 2019 where the Hays High Indians football team finished 1-3 in the Western Athletic Conference and placed fourth in the five-team league. The 4-5 overall finish was the ending of coach Tony Crough’s second year at the program’s helm.

Early-season previews indicated the Indians might make a run at the WAC title with a strong contingent of returners. Those prognostications proved to be on the mark as the Indians swept through the conference race with a 4-0 mark en route to a 5-3 season mark.

Those marks resulted in a sweep by the Indians of the WAC postseason awards as junior quarterback Jordan Dale earned Offensive Player of the Year honors, senior defensive end nabbed the Defensive Player of the Year award while Crough was named the Coach of the Year.

 

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Jordan Dale, Hays, Jr., QB

Even though he earned the WAC Offensive Player of the Year, Hays High junior quarterback Jordan Dale would tell you that he’s not the best passer, or the best runner.

Yet his junior campaign was good enough as he subbed in early in the year when regular starter Dylan Dreiling was out of the lineup. Dale responded with a breakout game against rival Great Bend with a 229-yard rushing effort, scoring 4 touchdowns. That outburst set his season in motion where he finished with 482 rushing yards (7 TDs) and completed 39-of-71 passes (55.7 percent) with 3 scoring passes against 4 interceptions.

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“I think our offense as a whole made a lot of improvement over last year,” Dale said. “I don’t know if, or how much, I got better. If you’d told me at the start of the year that I would be player of the year, I would not have believed you.”

Dale said between passing and running the ball, that the running portion was his stronger suit.

“I have some more to work on to be a good passer,” Dale said. “My OC (offensive coordinator) makes fun of my passing, but it’s not something I’d done a lot of work on in the past. Now, I have to really work hard to getter for next season.”

Winning the WAC was a big accomplishment, Dale said, especially considering how the program has slowly progressed in Crough’s three seasons.

“We took our lumps a year ago, so it’s a good feeling to see the improvement we made,” Dale said. “We still have a lot of players back next year so we’re excited about making more improvements.”

 

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Gaven Haselhorst, Hays, End

There was a lot of uncertainty for the Hays Indians and other high school football teams across Kansas when the fall 2020 season kicked off in early September. With the COVID-19 outbreak, many schools either delayed their season, or lost some games originally scheduled.

For senior Gaven Haselhorst, he was just glad that his team got to play the bulk of their season after just not knowing what would transpire.

Haselhorst, a K-State commit who plans to sign in December with the Wildcats, was rock solid from his end position. His 77 tackles in 8 games was fourth best in the league, he recorded league bests of 6 sacks, caused fumbles (4) and had an eye-popping 32 tackles for loss, more than twice that of the runner-up.

“I think the fact that we’ve just all been playing together for so long made a big difference for us,” Haselhorst, a 6-1, 230-pounder, said. “The defense was the strength of our team and our secondary started to play way more aggressively, which allowed us to be more aggressive in the pass rush.”

In the offseason, Haselhorst said he worked hard in the weight room to get bigger.

“I worked hard 24/7 to make sure I was balanced on my feet, and tried to make sure I didn’t have any weaknesses,” Haselhorst said. “Our rivalry game with Great Bend was really important to us to beat them, and I think we just gained confidence with each week we played.”

Haselhorst would also find himself on occasion playing the lead blocking back on offense for a change of pace.

“On offense I just love running over people,” he said.

Haselhorst said he plans to pursue a career something in athletics, and mentioned physical therapy as one option.

 

COACH OF THE YEAR – Tony Crough, Hays 

Tony Crough sensed early on that the 2020 football season had plenty of upsides for his Hays High Indians. He returned 15 starters from a 4-5 season in which the Indians won their first postseason playoff game in more than two decades.

And the early season previews suggested the Indians would have a chance at a breakout season.

In most instances, they were right.

Finishing 5-3 overall, the Indians swept through the WAC with a 4-0 to win the title by two games over Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal, who all went 2-2 by the trio beating each other (Garden over Dodge, Dodge over Liberal and Liberal over Garden).

“I think we’d seen this coming,” Crough said of the team’s improvement in each of his three seasons. “We had a lot of seniors who had been playing since they were sophomores. That’s a lot of experience and you have that hope of things coming together. This year, we made a move more in the right direction.”

The Indians had won their first five games, but ran into a heartbreaking 21-20 loss to Maize South late in the regular season before falling to Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel and then a play-in loss once again to Maize South in Week 9 to see their season come to a halt.

“From 4-5 to 5-3 is not that big of a jump, but we did a lot of good things,” Crough said. “The last game erased a lot of the good things we had done earlier. We had a lot of players in and out of the lineup. I thought our offense didn’t help us as much late in the year. We kind of hit a lull there in the middle of the season.”

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