By Moses Leos III
The Hays Rebels kept themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot Thursday night. They needed a total of five hours to do so.
Despite a two-hour lightning delay that pushed the game beyond midnight, Hays claimed a 27-13 win over the Anderson Trojans at House Park.
Hays (3-3, 2-2) earned its third straight win and now takes third place in 14-6A with four games remaining.
Efficiency on the ground fueled success for Hays, guided by quarterback Braeden Kent, who rushed for 188 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.
But it was the defenses for both squads that stepped up in the early going. Hays and Anderson held each other scoreless through the first seven minutes of play.
Kent broke through the stalemate late in the fi rst stanza, capping off a 75-yard, nine play drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. Hays held a 7-0 lead after a quarter of play.
But it wasn’t until the second frame when Hays struck again. Hays drove 80 yards, guided by Kent and running back Cody Gandy.
Utilization of the zone-read option fostered success for the Rebels. Gandy said Anderson focused on limiting his output, which stymied the Rebel offense. Kent countered by forcing the defense to bite on the option fake. It was predicated on reading the defensive end. It allowed Kent to attack the perimeter early and often.
“They played it the same way every time,” Kent said. “Apparently, they wanted me to run it and not Cody. It worked sometimes. They picked up on it in the end.”
Kent finished the drive by throwing his only passing touchdown of the night to wide receiverBrandon Hunter. Their eight-yard connection gave Hays a 14-0 lead. But the Trojans needed less than 30 seconds to respond back.
Anderson went on a four-play scoring drive, led by quarterback Kirby Hill. An eight-yard touchdown pass from Hill to wide receiver James Baran cut Hays’ lead to 14-7.
Hill went 30 of 47 for 349 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Kent scored a touchdown run before halftime, giving Hays a 21-7 advantage at intermission.
Their lead held through the third quarter.
Hays’ 'bend but don’t break' defense kept Anderson off the board. Hays defensive back Joseph Rubio said relying on teammates led to success, even when Anderson started tallying the yards.
“Everyone helped each other out and took care of their individual assignments,” Rubio said.
Hays held that lead until lightning halted the game with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter.
The delay was nothing new for Hays, according to head coach Neal
LaHue. “It seems we’ve been in these kinds of delays all year. They’re pretty used to it,” LaHue said. “Everyone (on the team) has their smartphones and they were listening to music. They know how to entertain themselves.”
But Anderson’s offense opened with a fl urry when play resumed two hours later.
The Trojans scored on their second drive after the delay, as running back Chris Ortiz punched in a four-yard touchdown to cut Hays’ lead to 21-14.
Hays put the game on ice roughly three minutes later when a 46-yard touchdown run from Gandy put the game out of reach.
It was strengthen by the Rebel defense, which held the Trojans on their final drive.
“I felt like we started off slow (after the delay),” Rubio said. “But after one group picked it up, the next group picked it up. Everyone got each other up.”
The focus now lies on a pivotal game against Austin High on Friday. Improving play each week is what LaHue hopes to accomplish during the final month of the year.
“It’s about getting better,” he said. “We know we have our work cut out for us.”