Hoisington reaches state finals for first time
BELOIT, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - 11-0 again. In the state semifinals again. One thing Hoisington did not want to do again: lose the big game to a district opponent the Cardinals had previously defeated. On Oct. 23, Beloit gave Hoisington its closest game of the season at 26-20. Friday night it was all Cardinals, earning their first trip to the state finals in school history with a 26-0 win.
“I’m just super proud of our guys,” said Hoisington coach Zach Baird. “They’ve worked so hard, had some adversity and never faltered. I just thought they were excellent tonight.”
Last year the Cardinals defeated Norton handily during the regular season only to fall to the Bluejays on a last-second field goal at sub-state. Friday night the Cardinals scored early and used stout defense to hold the lead.
Cardinal senior Dylan Richards picked off an Owen Eilert pass on the first Beloit possession but the Cardinals punted the ball away. On Hoisington’s next possession, senior quarterback Mason Haxton took advantage of a short field with a 32-yard touchdown run.
Both sides turned the ball over on downs and Beloit punted the ball away into the second quarter. Facing third down, Haxton found senior Chase Robinson down the sideline on a 31-yard connection. Three plays later, senior Holt Hanzlick brought down a ball in the endzone for a 2-yard strike. The Cards carried a 14-0 lead into the half.
Beloit sophomore Benson Berndt finished a big season with 1,356 rushing yards. Friday night he was kept in check with just 52 yards on 14 carries. The Trojans managed just 102 yards on 33 carries in the game, and added just 39 more yards in the air.
“I just thought defensively we were really good,” Baird said. “We kind of put our guys in some bad spots the last time we played them. (Our assistant coaches) did a great job of coming up with a good game plan and our guys executed it perfectly.”
Meanwhile the Cardinal offense kept rolling. Two big plays to open the second half ultimately resulted in a 7-yard touchdown run from senior Cole Steinert. After another Trojan punt, Haxton and Robinson provided the exclamation point - a 39-yard touchdown pass for the final points of the night with 2:25 to play in the third.
Hanzlick, with a 25-yard run to open the second half, finished with 90 yards on 23 carries. Haxton, with his touchdown run, ended with 42 yards on five attempts. He also threw for 108 yards and two scores on 5-of-9 passing. Robinson caught two balls for 70 yards.Cade Mason ran the ball six times for 48 yards.
Rossville bumped off reigning champion Nemaha Central in the other semifinal game. That means Saturday’s Class 2A finale in Salina will feature two unbeaten teams.
“Our expectation is going to be what it has been all year, to go 1-0,” said Baird. “It’s hard right now to think about that. I’m just excited for our guys.”
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