Ranked in the top-5 of the preseason polls for 5A, Hays certainly wasn't going to sneak up on anyone this season.
But after the pummeling the Indians put on McPherson, the rest of the state might take notice of a 58-28 win Friday night in McPherson.
"Our backs were against the wall, we had never been beaten in game one since I took over as coach here," said Ryan Cornelsen, Hays High head coach, who's team lost 44-43 in overtime to Junction City last week. "The kids felt the pressure and they knew we had to come out fighting tonight."
Hays ended with 433 total yards of offense, 346 of those gained by the legs of Alex Delton, Preston Weigel and David Cardinal, who finished the game with four touchdowns.
The Indians took advantage of two early Bullpup turnovers for a quick lead in the first quarter. An interception by Chance Pitcock of McPherson quarterback Kyler Kinnamon resulted in a field goal and an Austin O'Bannon fumble deep in Indian territory led to their first touchdown, with Wiegel punching it in. Before McPherson could call their first timeout, Hays had a 10-0 lead.
O'Bannon redeemed himself with the home sides first score on a 24-yard touchdown run to get within striking distance at the end of the first quarter.
Hays scored on back to back possessions to begin the second quarter and led comfortably at 24-7 inside of two minutes to play in the half. But a sequence of events looked to turn the tide. Pinned in their own end zone, Kinnamon escaped a tackle and subsequent facemack by Hays' Emilio Mitchell, running up to the eight yard line. The penalty put McPherson on the 23-yard-line with one final shot before the half. Kinnamon connected with Keaton Sorenson for a 77-yard touchdown, down 24-14 at halftime and dragging momentum with them.
"We spent most of our time on defense this week," said Cornelsen. "I felt like we were very indisciplined last week versus Junction and I felt like the kids knew what the expectations were this week and got it done."
"We gave up the big pass before halftime. But our kids kept fighting and we got an open field (afterward) and made plays."
As quickly as they scored in the game, Hays regained the momentum from the hosts, scoring three times in the third quarter and blowing the lead open to 45-21. Defensively, the Indians, led in tackles by Mitchell with eight, locked down the running game and forced McPherson to throw more. Kinnamon connected with senior Marcus Houghton for their final touchdown. But not before Delton got his second score of the night on a long run. The game was long over even before that.
"I think this shows (our players) know the importance of our program and what we expect every single game," said Cornelsen. "And they came out ready to play."