Hoisington edges Norton in another state semifinal classic

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 11:19 PM CST
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NORTON, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - A classic substate football game went down in Norton four years ago. An undefeated Hoisington team made the two-plus hour trek north to play in the snow that night, losing state championship dreams on a last-second field goal. Same two teams, same stakes, different outcome Friday night. Hoisington used a late field goal to ice a 30-21 win and secure its spot in the Class 2A championship game next Saturday.

After neither side put up much offense in the first half, the teams battled in the final two quarters. Norton tied the game on a 1-yard run from junior quarterback Eli Jones to tie the game with 7:07 to play.

Needed just a few plays to regain the lead. Senior quarterback Tony Moore opened the ensuing drive with a 32-yard run. Two plays later, Teron Kraft scored from 23 yards out. Taylen Morales missed the extra point but Hoisington led 27-21 with 6:04 remaining.

“I think we flipped a switch,” Moore said of the second half. “Our O-line was struggling. I was struggling. I wasn’t anywhere I needed to be. I had to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself if I’m really doing everything I can. The very first play, Brady (Reif) smacked someone on the kickoff. That sets the tone. That gets everyone juiced. The offense just started clicking. We started finding gaps.”

The Bluejays were trying to find another equalizer when Mason Alderdice picked off a Jones pass. The Cardinals worked the ball into the red zone, survived a fumble, but could not get the ball across the goal line. With 1:19 to play, Morales redeemed himself with a 20-yard field goal that all but secured the win at 30-21.

Norton struck first midway through the second quarter, eating more than seven minutes of clock and converting a fourth-and-long and third-and-long before Jones scored from a yard out.

The Cardinals turned it over on downs on their next drive, and the Jays again converted some big plays to drive deep into Hoisington territory. Senior Jason Robinson came up with the heroics, running back an interception 90 yards as time expired to send the game into the half tied 7-7.

Moore threw short touchdown passes to Robinson and Alderdice to begin the second half. Norton answered the first Cardinal score with a 65-yard completion from Jones to junior Tyce Melvin.

Jones entered the game with more than 2,000 passing yards and nearly 800 yards on the ground. He led the Jays with 249 yards on 18-of-31 passing with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed for 126 yards and a pair of scores on 17 carries.

Moore struggled to just 24 yards on 2-of-10 passing in the first half. He was perfect in the final two quarters to end his night with 84 yards and two touchdowns of 8-of-16 passing. He added another 165 yards on 20 carries. Kraft entered the night with more than 1,100 rushing yards but was kept in check with 45 yards on 12 attempts.

Norton ends its season at 11-1. Hoisington will take a 12-0 record into the state title game. The Cardinals have gone at least 11-0 in three of the last five seasons. They had to get through unbeaten Southeast of Saline and Norton to do it this year.

“They were two powerhouses,” said Moore. “Southeast of Saline has incredible talent and Norton has incredible size. I think we really persevered these last two weeks. We’ve not the biggest group but we’ve shown we have the biggest heart.”