Eighteen seniors witnessed back-to-back winless seasons at Salina Central.
That same group is now getting another home game.
Junior Jackson Kavanagh threw for four touchdowns, senior Ben Driver forced three turnovers, and the Mustangs wrapped up the regular season with a 43-21 victory over the Hays Indians Friday night at Salina Stadium. SC enters the Class 5A state playoffs as the No. 5 seed, earning a home game.
Hays meant business to start. Quarterback Palmer Hutchison orchestrated a balanced attack on the game’s opening drive, capping off the march with an eight-yard scamper.
Salina Central answered with 36 consecutive points. Central only needed four plays to score as Kavanagh hooked up with junior tight end Quinton Stewart for a 38-yard TD. After a Driver interception, Kavanagh found Stewart again, this time for a five-yard score. The two connected again early in the second as Kavanagh floated a 24-yard pass to Stewart with 9:12 remaining in the first half.
Junior defensive tackle Talus Price joined Driver on the fun, picking off a screen pass, setting up a 32-yard scoring scamper by senior tailback Taylon Peters. Peters punched the ball in from two yards to open the third, giving SC a 36-7 lead with 8:55 to go in the third.
The Indians didn’t give up, ending the unanswered streak at the 4:28 mark on a Hutchison six-yard pass to tailback Hayden Brown. Central made things interesting, losing the ball on the ensuing drive. That allowed Brown to sniff out the goal line on a four-yard punch, trimming the margin to 36-21 with 1:33 remaining in the third frame.
Salina Central fumbled again, but Driver made sure the Indians didn’t score as Brown’s run outside the left corner ended up getting striped. The Mustangs capitalized as Kavanagh flipped a pass to Peters on a screen pass, and Peters did the rest for a 61-yard score.
Kavanagh was 13-of-17 passing for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Stewart finished with four receptions for 82 yards and three TD’s. Peters carried the ball 19 times for 168 yards and a pair of TD’s to go with a receiving score. Senior linebacker Drew Burgoon was all over the field, earning the Salina Ortho Player of the Game.
Central stays at Salina Stadium for the first round of the playoffs next Friday. The Mustangs welcome the Eisenhower Tigers for a rematch. SC defeated Eisenhower 44-7 on October 5.