By Moses Leos III
When the going got tough Friday, the Hays Rebels hit the ground running.
An adherence to running the ball laid the foundation for Hays’ 48-14 win over the Del Valle Cardinals at Shelton Stadium.
For senior quarterback Cody Reiley, execution was pivotal to not only ending their two game losing streak, but succeeding without quarterback Braeden Kent.
“We put in a lot of hard work, knowing we lost Braeden this week. We put in a lot of hard work on the practice field,” Reiley said. “We came out executing. We put everything we did in practice and executed it.”
The Rebel offense Friday found its groove on the ground by amassing 300 rushing yards. Senior running back Cody Gandy led the way with 138 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Hays (2-2, 1-1) gained 378 total yards on the night.
For Gandy, the success allowed him to shed the hesitance he had since injuring his foot last season. He said that uncertainty led to initial struggles to start the year.
“Because of my injury last year, I was hesitant in running the ball,” Gandy said. “But through those games, I realized that my foot is better and I could play my game. It’s great to get out there and do what I can do.”
But it was Del Valle that got on the scoreboard first via a 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Gutierrez to wide receiver Emmanuel Martin.
Del Valle led 7-0 with 8:30 left in the first quarter. It was the last points the Cardinals scored until the fourth frame.
The Rebel defense played the primary role in shutting down Del Valle’s speedy offense. Hays limited Gutierrez to 89 total yards before he exited the game at halftime due to injury. Del Valle gained 269 total yards of offense on the night.
Hays senior defensive lineman Dale Caswell said “coming together as a whole” on defense equaled success. It was the adjustments made after Del Valle’s initial score that made the difference.
“We had to pay attention. That [touchdown]was eye opening for us,” Caswell said. “The coaches told us before the game they are lightning fast and they have speed. After that, we woke up finally, after being in this two week lull.”
As Del Valle’s offense floundered, Hays’ offense powered ahead for 41 unanswered points.
Strong special teams plays made for a pivotal role in the Rebels’ first half success. Big punt returns from wide receiver Dustin Bruno gave the Rebel offense short fields to work with. Kicker Jax Kell contributed to the effort with a pair of field goals in the first half.
Hays took a 13-7 lead and added to it when quarterback Cody Reiley scored on a three-yard quarterback keeper. Hays led 20-7 at the half and poured on the offense from there.
Hays added 28 more points in the second half, highlighted by a pair of rushing touchdowns by running back Cade Powell.
While Gandy said it was a “challenge” without Kent in the game, he said the team continue to run their normal game plan.
“It was a lot different, but we still came out and passed the ball. It was our game plan,” Gandy said. “It was do what we do. It ended up we had to run the ball more. We did that effectively.”
Reiley went 5 of 9 for 56 yards passing; he added 63 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. Powell rushed for 72 yards on the night.