Methodical offense, paired with a smothering defense, carried the Hays Rebels to an emotional 35-13 district opening win Thursday over the Anderson Trojans at Nelson Field.
But amid the postgame revelry came the realization that sports often times takes a back seat to everyday life. Getting a chance to honor Hays junior running back Jake Jackson, who on Friday begins chemotherapy to battle a form of bone cancer, meant just a little bit more.
“It is on our minds and it puts it in perspective,” Hays head coach Les Goad said. “But it’s satisfying to know if this is the last time he (Jake) gets to be a part (football) of for a little while, he’ll have winning memories before going through the process to battle this thing.”
Aiding that cause were Anderson High fans, coaches, players and teammates, who joined Hays fans, coaches and athletes in donning green garb to honor Jackson. Both sides had a balloon release prior to the start of the contest.
Alyson Jackson, Jake’s mother, said support from both Anderson and Hays High “blew my mind.” Jake said the support is “all love” and that he appreciated the well wishes.
“Wow, just wow. That’s all I can say,” Alyson Jackson said.
Once the mood returned to football, Anderson gained an early 6-0 first quarter lead via a 27-yard pass from quarterback Carsten Groos to wide receiver Grose Kiel.
Hays battled back in the second frame by methodically tallying 14 unanswered points to close the half with a 14-6 lead. The onslaught continued into the third frame when Hays scored another 14 unanswered points to build a 28-6 lead.
Hays’ Slot-T offense was a common thread in all four drives as the Rebels slowed the tempo and kept the ball out of Anderson’s hands. Three of Hays’ five drives lasted more than four minutes in length.
Leading the Rebel offense was running back Xavier Green who rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown. Hays amassed 365 yards on the ground, 149 of those yards gained in the second quarter alone. Through the air, Hays was led by quarterback Durand Hill who went 4 of 5 for 61 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Conversely, Hays’ defense stiffened and forced Anderson to two turnover on downs in its final six drives of the contest, along with forcing two turnovers in the second half recovered by McCaleb Bialeszewski.
Hays’ defense limited Groos to 14 of 32 passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns, both thrown to Kiel.