A cold night in Hays was the setting for Friday night’s 5A Quarterfinal Playoff. Under the lights of Lewis Field Stadium, the Hays High Indians would emerge victorious, defeating the Mustangs 49-12.
A close contest early took a tough turn for Central, as starting Running Back Kenyon McMillan was injured on the opening drive of the game. He did not return. Without McMillan, the typically high-powered Mustang offense lacked its usual firepower, allowing Hays to hold them in check.
The Indians would score on the final play of the first quarter, a short run by hefty Full Back Bryce Salmans. From there, the Indians would tack on 7 more points before halftime, all the while, shutting out the Mustangs in the first half for the first, and only, time this season.
The third quarter would see the contest separate entirely, as Hays outscored Central 28-6 in the period. Three rushing scores and an interception returned for a score gave Hays all the breathing room they would need to be able to salt away just its second ever home playoff win.
The Indians would add on 7 more in the final frame, while Central would score on a 53-yard run by Junior Running Back Elijah Wilson.
All in all, a tough loss ends the Mustangs’ 2022 campaign with an 8-3 record, a share of a league title for the first time since 2005, its deepest playoff run since 2013, and another step toward returning Salina Central to the top of the Kansas High School ranks. The Mustangs will see just 10 seniors depart following 2023 graduation – Unlike Hays, who will lose 21 seniors, 11 of which were defensive starters – so there is much reason for optimism and excitement surrounding the future of Mustang football.
Hays will advance to the 5A State Semifinal, meeting Maize, last year’s state runner up for a chance at a State Title Game appearance. Maize defeated an upset-minded Hutchinson team on Friday night 21-14.