That Hays football magic, which pops up a couple times every year, rescued the Rebels just in the nick of time Friday night, enabling them to escape their District 17-4A opener with a 26-20 overtime win at Elgin.
The Rebels have never stood accused of putting out the biggest, strongest or fastest football teams and, this year, they haven’t even played very clean football. However, the Hays teams of recent years have marked themselves with presence of mind within the moments of a football game that turn defeat into victory.
Trailing, 20-14, with the ball on their own three and 31 seconds remaining in the game, Hays worked a miracle when a pass from quarterback Sam Breyfogle hit the helmet of receiver Trey Berry, bounced into the air and landed in the arms of Trevell Jones, who ran 97 yards down the right sideline for the tying touchdown.
Naturally, the Hays sideline and its fans went berserk, so the referees threw an excessive celebration flag. Alex Perez missed the resulting 35-yard point-after kick, putting the game into overtime.
After Ryan Slaughter intercepted a pass from Elgin’s Tyler Swenson to start the overtime, Hays’ Torrance Smith ran 16 yards for a touchdown, giving the Rebels an improbable victory that made them 1-0 in the district and pushed head coach Bob Shelton’s career total up to 299 wins.
Shelton will go for his 300th career win Friday night against Lockhart at the stadium named for him, Bob Shelton Stadium. Shelton is the only coach in the 41-year history of Hays football. Before taking over the Hays program, Shelton coached for four years at Buda High School, which became Hays when the Buda school district consolidated with school districts from Kyle and Wimberley in 1968. Shelton has 276 of his wins at Hays.
Before the Hays magic kicked in, its propensity for errors this year almost put the district season off to a losing start. Elgin began the scoring in the second quarter, when Korey Jones picked off Breyfogle and went 25 yards for a touchdown. It was the second straight week when a Hays opponent scored its first points by returning an interception for a touchdown.
After Hays snapped the ball over punter Breyfogle’s head and the Rebels compounded that mistake with a defensive pass interference penalty to set up Elgin in the red zone, the Wildcats took a 14-0 second quarter lead on Swenson’s to-yard touchdown run.
Berry ran four yards for a score to bring the Rebels within 14-7 at halftime, but two field goals by Elgin’s Kelton McMillan gave the Wildcats a 20-7 lead until deep into the fourth quarter.
With three minutes left, Breyfogle connected with Berry for a ten-yard touchdown pass, bringing the Rebels within 20-14. The Rebels tried an onside kick, and Elgin recovered. But Hays held Elgin to three-and-out, forcing a punt.
The Elgin punt went into the end zone for a touchback. However, Elgin was penalized on the play and Hays accepted the penalty, forcing Elgin to punt again. This time, the punt went dead at the three, calling on the Rebels to summon their magic.
Five of the last ten Hays games going back to last season have gone into overtime. In four of those cases, the Rebels came from behind to force the overtime and, in three of those cases, the Rebels won the game.
Breyfogle led the Rebels, completing seven of ten passes for 185 yards. Billy Gandy rushed for 72 yards in nine attempts. The Rebels totaled 355 yards of offense, 205 of them in the air.
Elgin ground out 240 yards with a balanced running attack, but managed only 18 yards of passing offense.
The Rebels are 3-3 overall and 1-0 in the district after this road win against a contending opponent gave them the inside track for their first outright district championship since 1998. Elgin is 4-2 and 0-1.