WACO – Basking in the glow of the setting sun Saturday, Hays High senior Luka Vilchis thanked and embraced head coach Les Goad as they prepared to exit an empty McLane Stadium.
The embrace was bittersweet. Hays understood the challenge they faced taking on the powerhouse Katy Tigers in Saturday’s 6A Division II state semifinal, the Rebels’ first trip to the fifth playoff round in 24 years.
Katy, winners of eight state titles in program history, showed that prowess with a 63-7 victory that catapulted them to the 6A D2 state title game and brought Hays High’s magical playoff run to a close.
However, Hays embraced the moment, knowing how impactful their historic run was to their community.
Goad was appreciative of the support behind his team who will forever be one of the best Rebel squads in Hays High history.
“It was amazing,” Goad said. “I’m so happy for the community and for the kids because that’s what this is all about. I’ve been doing this for 36 years now and I’ve experienced a lot of different things in this business. This was one of the most special ones just because of the things we had to overcome, the obstacles and being the underdog.”
Hays (10-4) quickly fell behind early and never recovered. Katy (12-1) sprinted out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and then further grew its lead to 42-0 at halftime. Shouldering the load for Katy was an adept ground game that tallied 340 of its 401 total yards in the contest guided by running backs Seth Davis and Jalen Davis.
Meanwhile, Hays’ offense, which entered the game on a red-hot streak, struggled to find footing against a fast and aggressive Katy defense. Hays’ lone response came on a 36-yard third quarter touchdown pass from senior quarterback Durand Hill to senior wide receiver Will Agnew.
The Rebel offense, which had been predicated on the ground game during its playoff tear, finished with only 12 total rushing yards. Hill went 17 of 26 yards passing in the game with 171 yards and a touchdown passing and 11 yards on 17 carries rushing.
Despite the trials and tribulations, Goad lauded his team’s toughness and ability to battle even when the chips were down.
“I’m just so proud of the way these guys continue to just fight and overcome,” Hays coach Les Goad said. “I apologized to them that I didn’t find a formula for today and whatever magic we needed to bring to the field today. But we are really proud of them.”
Hays’ playoff run, the program’s deepest since reaching the 1996 state title game, was made even more special due to the number of seniors on the 2020 roster. Forging a path to the state semifinals for the first time at the 6A level was meaningful for many seniors.
“We knew that this class would be special,” Michael Boudoin III, senior wide receiver, said. “We kept fighting together and we knew that we could make it big. I’m just proud that everyone did their part to get us here. It didn’t end in our favor but we still did something amazing.”
While the players soaked in their last moments on the field, Goad looked back on what he learned this season.
“We’ll have to study videos to see certain things,” Goad said. “We’ve got to get more numbers out and get more competition for our team. But the main thing is we’ve got to get stronger and more physical so we can handle the physicality that Katy brought to the game.”