Staff report, Photos by Wayland Clark (wfotos.com)
BUDA – After a 24-year wait, Hays High is back among Texas High School football’s elite.
Five total touchdowns scored by quarterback Durand Hill, mixed in with dominant defense, carried Hays to a 38-10 win over the Vandegrift Vipers to claim the 6A Division II Region IV championship Jan. 2 at Bob Shelton Stadium.
That win catapults Hays into the state semifinal round where it takes on perennial powerhouse Katy 2 p.m. Saturday at Baylor’s McLane Stadium in Waco. It’s the first time Hays has reached the state semifinals in football since the program’s run to the state title game in 1996 and is the first time Hays has reached the state’s final four at the 6A level.
“It’s exciting. This great senior class we have has really come through and this coaching staff has done a great job. All the stars have lined up for us this year,” said Hays head coach Les Goad in a video posted on the Hays CISD Twitter page. “One of the key things is this team keeps getting better and better and better.
“It seemed like a long time ago, but not too long ago, we were on this field just trying to make the playoffs. But they keep improving and they get better each week.”
Hays (10-3) trailed 7-6 after the first quarter before storming back into play in the second frame. A six-yard touchdown from running back Zach Obara pushed Hays into a 12-6 advantage following a missed two-point attempt.
After Vandegrift countered with a 30-yard field goal by Viper kicker Charlie Fournier, Hays responded with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Chris Bruce, giving the team a 18-10 lead at halftime.
From there, the Hays defense clamped down and shut out Vandegrift’s defense over the final two quarters. Overall, Vandegrift was limited to 179 total yards and 57 rushing yards.
In contrast, Hays amassed 437 total yards with 260 of those on the ground. Leading the way was Hill who went 10 of 13 for 177 yards and three touchdowns passing and rushed for 116 yards on 16 carries and two scores.
The Hays offense flexed its muscle at the end of the third quarter when the team orchestrated a 99-yard scoring drive capped off with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Bruce, further extending its lead to 24-10.
Fourteen more unanswered fourth quarter points in the form of a 44-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Bryant Lewis and a 19-yard touchdown run by Hill sealed the win for Hays.
Bruce caught three passes for 81 yards and finished with two receiving touchdowns and Lewis had two catches for 55 yards and a score. Hays wide receiver Michael Boudoin finished with 84 all purpose yards.
All Hays eyes now turn to a Katy program that’s qualified for the state semifinals for 14th time since 2000, but is making its first trip to the final four since 2017, according to a Houston Chronicle report.
“We know we have our work cut out for us. (Katy) Coach Gary Joseph does a tremendous job over there and they’re a very physical style program and team and got tremendous tradition behind them. We have to go back to work, see what we can figure out and get ready for the next one,” Goad said.