By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – The history of Hays High School football is filled with moments of emergence, victory and, more recently, leprechauns. However, district championships have been rather scarce.
All those types of moments coalesced into one Friday night, when the Rebels clinched their first district championship in ten years with a 30-22 win against Del Valle at Bob Shelton Stadium. The win, alone, clinched at least a tie with Manor, with the Rebels prevailing on the basis of last week’s 51-13 win in that town. Then the Rebels clinched the district outright when Manor lost, 52-35, to Elgin.
“It feels good,” Hays coach Bob Shelton said. “We’ve been in the playoffs a lot, but it’s been a while since we won a district title. Those things are hard to come by.”
Just as district titles are hard to come by, the Hays victory came by the usual good fortune.
Del Valle scored a touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Josef Cortez to Larry Renee-Gonzales, then Cortez hit Davion Johnson for the two-point conversion, coming within 30-22 with 1:50 left. Next, Del Valle recovered the onside kick, giving itself an opportunity to tie the game from the Hays 44.
On Del Valle’s first play after recovering the kick, Cortez completed a pass to Johnson, then the Del Valle receiver ran to the Hays 26 with opportunity for greater gain and no one hitting him when, suddenly, he just dropped the ball. Kyle Wirth recovered for the Rebels at the 26 with 1:41 remaining, and Hays simply ran out the clock to leave the field with its district championship.
“We work hard and that happens,” Hays quarterback Trey Berry said. “It’s pretty awesome. We win close games, we go for it on fourth down and make it.”
Del Valle scored that last touchdown in the game, and also scored the first when Cortez threw 55 yards to Johnson for a touchdown to make it 7-0 in the first quarter. In between, Hays dominated.
Following the first Del Valle touchdown, Hays moved quickly downfield, 59 yards in eight plays as Berry carried the final yard to make it 7-7. On the second play of Del Valle’s next possession, Cortez threw to the left flat, where Hays cornerback Luke Guerrero closed and made the interception at the Cardinals’ 15 before running in for the touchdown to give the Rebels a 14-7 lead.
On the next Hays possession, Torrance Smith ran 32 yards for a touchdown, giving the Rebels a 21-7 lead. But Del Valle came back before halftime, driving 73 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown. Cortez threw six yards to Ty Gear for the score, bringing the Cardinals within 21-14 with 43.8 seconds left in the first half.
The Rebels took a slightly different approach in the second half. In the essentials, it was the same, as they kept the ball on the ground. But Del Valle kept them from breaking anything in the second half, so the Rebels held the ball for two long drives gobbling up a combined 14:10, the majority of the second half.
On the first of those drives, their first of the second half kickoff, they moved 52 yards in 14 plays, going ahead, 27-14, when Blake Timmons ran three yards for a touchdown. The drive took 7:10.
The Rebels then held Del Valle to one first down before Ryan Slaughter intercepted Cortez and they took over again at their own five-yard line at the very start of the fourth quarter. The Rebels moved slowly and surely. They apparently scored a touchdown on the 14th play, when Sam Breyfogle completed a pass to Slaughter in the end zone, but the Rebels were called for illegal receiver downfield. Two snaps later, Ty Andrews kicked a 37-yard field goal, increasing the Hays lead to 30-14.
Del Valle responded by moving quickly to score on the pass from Cortez to Renee-Gonzales, but couldn’t capitalize on the onside kick that could have set up a tying score. Once more, the Rebels escaped, though, in this case, they generally controlled the game.
The Rebels weren’t perfect, and they certainly didn’t dominate as they did a week earlier in Manor. But Shelton believes his team continues to improve its game upwards with the playoffs to come along in two weeks.
“It’s always easier to work on mistakes after a win than a loss,” Shelton said.
Chances are, the Rebels won’t be working on mistakes after their next loss, because that loss figures to end their season. Next week, they’ll be heavily favored against school district rival Lehman. After that, it’s the playoffs, where the Rebels have to hope the leprechauns will be waiting.Email | Print