Last Thursday, Hays forced seven turnovers en route to a 17-7 victory over Buhler.
Salina Central changed the narrative in the regular-season finale.
The Mustangs forced five turnovers, senior tailback ran for a career-high 175 yards, and the Mustangs secured a winning record for the second consecutive season with a 35-3 road victory over Hays at Lewis Field Stadium Friday night. Under second-year head coach Mark Sandbo, Central registered its second-straight winning season for the first time since 2010-11.
Both teams had a pair of turnovers each in the first half. The difference was Central scoring after the miscues compared to the Indians.
On the opening drive, Hays (3-5) marched down the field to the Central turnover. A bad snap took place and Salina Central recovered the fumble. The Mustangs sprinted down the gridiron and scored on a five-yard scamper by Chard with 5:08 to play in the first. Hays didn’t seem phased, responding with a strong drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal by Matt Goodale, making the score 7-3 after the first.
Salina Central (5-3) turned the ball over a second deep in Indian territory. Sophomore Parker Kavanagh, who replaced his brother Jackson following an injury, ran into a pile of Indians inside the 15. When he was stood up, Hays stripped the pigskin. Hays coughed up the ball on the ensuing play and Central senior linebacker punched the ball free and recovered at the Hays 8. Following an illegal substitution by Hays, the Mustangs scored with a jet-sweep tap by Kavanagh to Logan Heigele, putting the Mustangs ahead 14-3 at halftime.
Neither offense could get in rhythm in the second half as both teams were plagued by turnovers and penalties. Chard did get his second TD run with 1:20 to go in the third frame. If the game wasn’t decided late in the third, it was midway through the fourth as junior Dakota Hogan picked off a pass and returned the ball for a touchdown.
Salina Central’s defense was dynamite, scoring on three of the five turnovers. The defense limited Hays to just 58 yards in the final two periods.
Chard carried the ball 31 times for 175 yards and three touchdowns. The offensive line paved the way for the senior to have his best night of his career.
Salina Central more than likely should be the No. 5 seed going into the playoffs next week. Central will host next Friday at Salina Stadium.