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Indians getting it done on the ground

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Hays High School junior quarterback Alex Delton loves to throw the football. The Indians spent much of the offseason adapting its old offense to a new spread style system in order to better accommodate Delton's passing ability.

And after all that, Delton attempted only nine passes for 42 yards last week in a 52-38 win at Liberal. For now, this doesn't seem to be bothering the dual-threat quarterback.

"Definitely getting out there and throwing the ball 30 times a game is something I'd like to do," Delton said. "I think we are a threat to throw the ball, but we've been given the run. People have been letting us run a lot."

Part of the reason Hays High (3-0, 1-0 WAC) didn't throw the football against Liberal was because of its run game, which racked up 351 yards on 50 attempts between Delton, senior running back Preston Weigel and senior fullback Ty Whittington.

If anything comes naturally to Hays High, it's running the football. The Indians have found success on the ground each year under head coach Ryan Cornelsen. For the last two seasons it has been two-time WAC player of the year David Cardinal carrying the load.

With Cardinal's graduation and Delton stepping into the spotlight, there were expectations the passing game would take over, but so far it hasn't.

"I probably didn't expect to be so much in our old offense," Cornelsen said. "We say new offense -- it's our offense. It's no different; it's just more out of the spread. We are not going to force it. We are going to run what we are going to run ... we are not worried about being flashy."

Three games into the season and Hays High hasn't had to be flashy. None of its opponents have had any answers for its run game. The Indians amassed 214 yards on the ground against Junction City in Week 1, a 27-22 win. They followed with 266 yards rushing in a 37-23 win over McPherson in Week 2 before last week's effort against Liberal.

While the passing game has had moments, it's been largely non-existent. Delton has thrown for 248 yards on 22 of 47 passing with three touchdowns and one interception. He has 258 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Weigel has done the bulk of the work with 434 yards in three games, averaging nearly 6.9 yards a carry. His numbers have gone up each week, culminating in his 180-yard performance against Liberal last Friday.

"A game without Preston would be a big part of the yards for our offense because he's the one that will run up the middle and get 15 yards," senior lineman Kenny Rounkles said. "He has filled David's shoes really well. He lowers he shoulders and delivers a boom."

Having Delton in the backfield with Weigel has helped. Delton rushed for 127 yards and four touchdowns against Liberal and 109 yards against McPherson. Dalton had just 22 yards in the opener against Junction City because of a groin injury he suffered during the game.

With Delton's breakaway speed and Weigel's power, defenses need to focus in on both players on any given play.

"It's more effective when they don't know which guy to key on. They don't know whether to key on me or him, because we can both run," Weigel said. "If the passing game isn't working, we got the running game. If something is working we might as well keep doing it."

And what has worked for years is the run game. It's an offense the players learn from middle school, and by the time games roll around it's so automatic to them that it looks effortless.

"It's to the point where a lot of stuff we ran Friday night (against Liberal) we didn't even practice it during the week," Delton said. "When (Cornelsen) calls a base running play you don't even think. You already know."

Just don't expect the Indians to give up on the pass. They've run the ball so well this season passing hasn't been necessary. But with Weigel dealing with a turf toe injury he suffered late against Liberal and with more teams guaranteed to focus on stopping the run, there are bound to be situations going forward where the Indians will need to pass.

And when that time comes, the players are expecting great things.

"Over the years we've just been a run-heavy offense, but we're switching up now because we have a quarterback that can throw the ball," Rounkles said.

"I think real soon we will be able to click on all cylinders and be able to throw the ball, get long passes. We will be able to go from run plays to pass plays and our offense will be unstoppable."

Hays High hosts Garden City (1-2, 0-1 WAC) at 7 p.m. today for homecoming at Lewis Field Stadium.