Hays returns talented, experienced roster

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 11:28 PM CDT
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HAYS, Kan. (KWCH) - After a season in which Hays finished undefeated in the WAC and with an overall record of 5-3, with 15 seniors returning the Indians will look to use that experience to make a playoff run.

“This is the oldest we have been talent wise; we have had a lot of young players on the field the last couple of years and we are not as lucky as some of the 5A schools that will have 120 or 130 kids out,” Hays Head Coach Tony Crough said. “We have 80 kids out and we always have to count on sophomores and sometimes freshmen so it’s nice to look at your depth chart and see all 11th and 12th graders at the top for once.”

The talent returning for Hays is amongst the best in the state, with the top recruit in Kansas in the class of 2022 in Clemson commit and athlete Jaren Kanak poised to start the year playing both under center and as a linebacker.

“I’m always going to do what is best for the team and try and put us in the best position for success and it just so happens that means me at quarterback this year,” Kanak said. “If that’s what’s best for the team that’s what I’m going to do.”

The move comes as senior Dylan Dreiling, a projected MLB draft pick, opted out of the season to focus on baseball.

“Our big-time baseball playing quarterback Dylan Dreiling decided not to play this year and focus on baseball which we understand, and we are ok with,” Crough said. “That means moving Jaren into quarterback now and maybe Jordan Dale who we had there last year.”

Jordan Dale played quarterback for most of the 2020 season and was named the WAC player of the year. He’s currently listed as a wide receiver.

Hays has one of the state’s top wide receiver and all-around athlete units in Kanak, Dale, senior Carson Kieffer and junior Bryce Salmans.

“It’s a talented group and we have to figure out how we are going to fit it all together and get them all the ball,” Crough said. “We definitely have kids that can make plays and it’s always fun to have those out there.”

Defensively, while the Indians lost one of the best defensive ends in Kansas last season to graduation in Wildcat Gaven Haselhorst, Hays returns one of the best linebackers in the state in senior Gavin Meyers.

Meyers holds multiple power five offers and is poised to break the program’s record for career tackles.

It’s going to be tough without Haselhorst and a few others we lost on the defensive side, but I think we closed the gap in some of the other spots where we weren’t as good,” Crough said. “We might not have a lot of those big-time names with the exception of Meyers flying around but we feel like we are really solid up front and inside and we like the experience of the kids we have.”

Hays has some tough non-conference matchups on the schedule against Wichita East, Maize South and the 5A runners-up in Wichita Northwest.

The Indians will rely on the talent and experience to do something that’s never been done before in program history.

“There hasn’t been a Hays team that’s won two playoff games. We could make a bunch of excuses about how we can’t get it done or we can prove all the hype we’re getting, “Crough said. “We haven’t proven anything yet and that is what we are rallying around. It’s time for us to show that we can hang with the big boys.”

Hays kicks off its season against a talented East team at home on September 3rd.

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