Hays overcomes 2-touchdown deficit to beat Junction City

Hays wins home opener against Junction City, 33-21
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 11:24 PM CDT
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HAYS, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - As the old adage goes, defense wins ball games. It never hurts to have a pair of big offensive performances. Hays overcame an early two-touchdown deficit Friday night against Junction City, picking up nearly 200 rushing yards in the second half from junior Malik Bah. The Indians pulled ahead late in the third quarter and tacked on a late score for a 33-21 win.

”This is huge,” said Hays coach Tony Crough. “This is a culture win right there. We didn’t used to get those.

”Junction City pulled ahead 21-7 late in the second quarter on a 6-yard reverse run from senior Thelonius Jones. The Indians marched right back, getting a big run from senior Kyreese Groen, then a big reception from senior Keomonie Archie. Groen snuck around the end with 17 ticks left in the first half for a 21-14 score.

Hays dominated both sides of the ball in the final two quarters. After forcing a Bluejay turnover on downs, the Indians needed just two plays to find the end zone. Junior Malik Bah went 13 and 57 yards on the short drive to get the Indians within one at 21-20.The Indian defense forced a punt and it was Bah several plays later with a pair of moves on a 16-yard touchdown run. Hays pulled ahead 27-21 and never trailed again. Junction City threatened deep in Indian territory but turned the ball over on downs with under six minutes to play. Bah again put on some moves, capping the drive and the game with a 46-yard touchdown run.

Bah rushed for 197 yards on just 16 carries in the first half, finishing his night with 267 yards on 33 carries. Groen added 135 yards on his 20 carries.

”They were incredible,” Crough said. “Those two guys looked like the dudes they are. They came out and made plays. We were hoping that’s what they would look like and they did. They were everything we hoped they’d be.

”Groen ran 30 yards on the first play of the game. Despite two crucial fourth-down penalties on Junction City, Hays turned the ball over on downs. The Jays struck first when Jones caught a tipped pass and finished off a 33-yard reception from senior Xavion Felton. Malijah Byers went 52 yards on a reception for a 14-0 score on the next Junction possession.

The Indians allowed 137 passing yards and the two touchdowns in the air in the first half. The Jays managed just 76 total yards of offense in the second half.

”We made a couple adjustments,” Crough said. “Coach (Kip) Keeley, our new defensive coordinator, just started getting his feet wet in that first half. He started feeling it out and made some good adjustments. We put an extra linebacker in to neutralize what they were doing. Our defensive line played great and finished it off.”