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Game of the Week: Hoxie getting it done in the backfield

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Hoxie High School football team averaged 219.6 rushing yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry en route to a 7-3 season and an Eight-Man Division I playoff berth last season.

Among eight-man programs, the Indians finished in the top 25 in Kansas in rushing yards per game, according to maxpreps.com. In the area, Hoxie was eighth.

However, the Indians found success in a much different way.

Of the area's top-11 eight-man rushing teams, 10 squads had one or more players with at least 852 rushing yards.

Hoxie was the only team that didn't meet the standard -- and used four Indians to frequently run the ball.

But the different running backs have helped Hoxie win 20 games since the start of the 2010 season.

Cayle Taylor's 1,073 yards in 2010 is the only time an Indian running back has exceeded 700 yards under fifth-year coach Lance Baar.

"I am pretty lucky, the last couple of years, we have had guys that can come in and do that for me that are quick guys, that are not always the biggest guys, but they do have some speed," Baar said. "If they get a crease, they can turn it into big yards."

Hoxie had four players finish between 383 and 587 yards in 2012, including backup running back Connor Katt (543) and quarterback Chase Kennedy (587).

"We like to run our quarterback," Baar said. "We like to run both of our running backs we have in the backfield. We also like to bring a guy or two off the bench to run the ball to keep everybody fresh. If you have the guys, it's something that you love to do."

That talent, led by Katt and Kennedy, was again on display last week in a 54-6 season-opening win against Tribune Greeley-County. Katt rushed 16 times for 164 yards and three TDs.

As a sophomore, Katt started at safety and as a backup on offense averaged eight yards per carry and seven scores on 68 carries.

"He is a very good runner," senior center Mitchel Johnson said. "When he gets around that corner, he is gone and he is really good at cutbacks, too. He is going to have a great season."

Even with Kennedy little-used in a simplified game plan against a weaker team, Hoxie rushed 33 times for 254 yards and five TDs. Sophomore Austin Rietcheck collected nine carries for 45 yards and a score after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 of last season.

Kennedy's role is expected to greatly expand starting Friday against Wallace County, 1-0 and ranked No. 4 in Eight-Man, Division II in the statewide media poll. Wallace County coach Kevin Ayers called Hoxie's talent "definitely an eye-opener" after he viewed Week 1 film.

"Team speed across the board and very athletic and extremely fast team," Ayers said. "You cannot set up your defense to stop any one of the three. They just all run well. Coach Barr does a really nice job spreading the ball around."

In 2012, Katt switched off with the since graduated Matt Heim. The 5-foot-9, 150-pound Katt was pleased to set a career-high for rushing yards, but also knows he can run much better in the Indians' multi-talented backfield.

"I thought that it was really exciting getting to be the first person on the field to touch the ball and getting to do my own thing," Katt said. "I don't really think I did that well. I could have did a lot better, but I am glad coach gave me the chance. I have got to keep running the ball a lot harder after I get hit. After contact, I have got to keep moving forward. I would get hit and just stop."