Fifteen unanswered second half points made the difference for the Hays Rebels Friday as they claimed a crucial 42-21 regular season ending win over the Del Valle Cardinals.
Getting back into the win column, and ending a two-game skid, was imperative for Rebels head football coach Les Goad as they prepare to take on perennial power Converse Judson in the first round of the postseason.
Hays (8-2, 6-2) clung to a narrow lead at intermission Friday, hindered by giving up a handful of explosive plays on defense. A 58-yard touchdown pass from Cardinals quarterback Sirr McCook to wide receiver Caleb Burton pulled Del Valle to within six points at 27-21 at halftime.
The Rebel defense responded by shutting down Del Valle’s offense in the final two quarters. Goad said forcing turnovers, while also showing tenacity in “playing every down” helped the team’s defense from giving up big plays.
Meanwhile, the Rebel offense recaptured its rhythm and pulled away with key plays late. A 43-yard touchdown from Sam Scott in the third quarter, followed by a seven-yard touchdown run by Xavier Green in the fourth frame gave Hays enough separation to win.
“I was proud of the guys from coming back off of the last two weeks,” Goad said.
Applying adjustments learned during the final three weeks of the regular season is something Goad plans to do as Hays readies for the playoffs. During the team’s losses to Lake Travis and Westlake, Goad said the Rebels had potential in several areas, such as completing drives and controlling the tempo of the game.
On the defensive end, Goad said preventing big plays, while making opposing offenses work for their scores, will be the focus.
The later could become imperative as they take on the Judson Rockets, whose size, speed and athletic ability have led them to a 9-0 record and a No. 3 ranking in Class 6A.
Judson, which averages more than 500 yards per game, is led by dual threat quarterback Mike Chandler II, who has thrown for 1,758 yards and 19 touchdowns to only one interception. Chandler has also rushed for 581 yards and nine scores. The Rebels will have to find a way to stop senior running back Sincere McCormick, whose rushed for over 1,000 yards, and a talented wide receiving corps.
“They’re accustomed to playing deep in the playoffs every year and they have a great tradition,” Goad said. “They’re very athletic and they’ve got speed all over the field and are big up front on both lines of scrimmage as well.”
Last year’s experience of reaching the playoffs could be an asset for the Rebels, Goad said. Continuing to maintain the status quo on offense, including controlling the ball and maintaining long drives, will be critical as they take on a formidable Judson defense.
While the players and staff are excited about Hays’ first winning season in four years, Goad said players are looking ahead.
“They’re excited about being 8-2. They understand the success they have, but they’re not looking back as much as they are looking forward to the playoffs and trying to extend their season,” Goad said. “They’re excited for their success, but they’re hungry for more.”
Hays travels to Rutledge Stadium to play Converse Judson. Kickoff is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m.