By the time Hays and Great Bend meet on or around week seven each season, there is so much ont the line. It is the opening week of District play, most seasons there are Western Athletic Conference Championship implications, adding to an already great rivalry.
This season the scenario was pretty simple. If Hays won, the WAC was theirs. If Great Bend wins, they would claim a share of the title.
The Panthers looked as if they might pounce first when kick Bryce Hofmeister appears to run it back for the TD. But holding is called on the Panthers and Great Bend would come away from the drive empty handed.
Instead Hays would strike first, Emilo Mitchell's 5 yard touchdown caps the drive. The extra point was no good so the Indians lead 6-0, four minutes into the game.
In the second quarter, Hays would strike again when Alex Delton hit Adam Derterding for a 28 yard touchdown. They would go for two but not convert, so it was 12-0.
Great Bend would hang around though in the first half. Patrick McClusky picked of a tipped pass by Delton, setting up John Allende's 2 yard touchdown run and cutting the lead to 12-7.
But Hays would push the lead back up to two scores just before the half. Delton hit David Cardinal for a 40 yard touchdown with 4 seconds left on the clock. It was 18-7 Indians at the half.
Hays had the ball first to start the second half, and they would drive down the field, capping the drive with another Delton to Cardinal touchdown.
Panthers would answer with a 7 yard run by Bryce Beck, cutting the lead down to 25-13.
Then the rain started to come down a little harder and both teams traded turnovers.
Great Bend had a chance to cut into the lead, but Hays stopped them on 4th and goal.
And then the Indians drove down the field to put the game away on another Cardinal score. Hays wins 31-13 to take the WAC title outright and take the early lead in the district race.
"It feels great you know this is huge," said Cardinal. "This is what we work for. We came out here and played a great game. Great Bend they are a great team."
The Indians are now 6-1 on the season and this sets up another big match up between Hays and Salina South next week in Hays.
"Obviously they are extremely good," said Hays head coach Ryan Cornelsen. "They are one of the best teams in the state, if not the best. For us to get to the playoffs and reach some of our goals, we have to be able to play against teams like that."
Great Bend falls to 5-2 on the season. The Panthers will play what will be a must win game for both teams at Salina Central next Friday.