Hoisington vs Rossville 2020 2A State Championship
SALINA — The mighty, mighty Cardinals went down battling while achieving school history.
The Hoisington Cardinals nearly rallied from a two-touchdown deficit before dropping a classic 27-20 state championship game to four-time champion Rossville.
Rossville (13-0) led 14-0 at halftime and extended its lead to 20-6 and 27-12, but the Cardinals kept battling with the heart of a champion.
"I'm proud of our guys," said Hoisington coach Zach Baird. "I knew our guys would fight to the very end. We didn't get off to a very good start. Our defense hung in there, battled and gave us a chance. Our guys executed defensively. We played a great team. We crawled our way back into it and gave ourselves a chance to win. Unfortunately, we didn't make a few plays and fell just short."
Hunter Morris and Chase Robinson intercepted passes and the Cardinals responded with a trio of second-half touchdowns. Cole Steinert converted 32- and 11-yard touchdown passes from quarterback Mason Haxton, who scored on a 17-yard run to start the second half.
But back-to-back Hoisington fumbles handed Rossville the game-winning touchdown and prevented the Cardinals from staging a game-winning 90-yard drive.
Rossville's Torrey Horak recovered a Cardinal fumble and converted a 1-yard score for a 27-12 lead.
"We didn't get everyone blocked and Rossville got a hand on the pitchout," said Baird.
Bryson Balch ended the Cardinals' final drive with a recovery on another Hoisington mistake.
"We made a couple of bad plays and put the ball on the ground," said Cole Steinert, who blasted Corey Catron for his best tackle. "We made history by getting here, but we fell a little short. We're going to keep knocking on that door and bust it down."
Rossville roared to a 14-0 halftime lead keyed by quarterback Torrey Horak. He scored on a 4-yard run to cap an opening 78-yard drive. Tyree Sowers caught a 32-yard reception.
Rossville turned Kaiden Brown's interception into a 32-yard scoring drive. Brown converted a fourth down play into an 18-yard reception. Tight end Bo Reeves soared high for a 6-yard touchdown pass for a 14-0 lead.
Hoisington's Hunter Morris swung the momentum with a 15-yard return after intercepting Horak's second-half pass. Holt Hanzlick dashed for a first down. Haxton escaped pressure and sprinted 17 yards for a touchdown.
Horak made the Cardinals' pay for a missed tackle on a 66-yard scoring dash for a 20-6 lead.
"Horak is a nice player," Baird said. "They've got so many weapons, it's tough to defend. We missed a tackle and made us pay."
The Cardinals responded with a clutch 68-yard scoring drive. Haxton gained 25 yards on a nifty run. Haxton looked right and threw left to a wide open Steinert who beat the defense on a 32-yard reception for a 20-12 score.
Rossville made the Cardinals pay for a lost fumble with Horak's fumble recovery at the 1-yard line followed by Horak's TD.
Hoisington rallied again on a clutch 78-yard drive. Dylan Richards converted a 42-yard reception after Haxton escaped pressure. Steinert dived into the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown with 5:39 left in regulation. Quentin Boxberger caught the crucial 2-point conversion from Haxton for a 27-20 score.
"We saw the safeties creeping tighter," Baird said. "We were going to take a shot down the field. We were trying to find the right time to do it."
Nolan Wilborn's tackle helped stop Horak on three consecutive runs to give the Cardinals one final chance. Hoisington moved 30 yards to the 40-yard line. But Balch's fumble recovery stopped the Cardinals' final drive.
"As seniors, we left it all out there," Steinert said. "I knew our guys would fight. Our guys have a lot of heart. I wasn't surprised. At every position we stepped up and made plays. It was an outstanding performance that second half."
Hoisington (12-1) achieved its best season in school history. Baird has no regrets.
"It stings and hurts that we came up short," Baird said. "I wanted everyone to keep their heads up. The hardest part is saying good-bye to our seniors. I love every one of them. It's a very special group."
Hoisington 0 0 6 14 — 20
Rossville 7 7 6 7 — 27
R—Torrey Horak 4 run (Bo Reeves kick)—4:15
R—Bo Reeves 6 pass from Horak (Reeves kick)—4:07
H—Mason Haxton 17 run (run failed)—9:25
R—Horak 66 run (kick blocked)—1:10
H—Cole Steinert 32 pass from Mason Haxton (run failed)—10:28
R—Horak 1 run (Reeves kick)—7:51
H—Steinert 11 pass from Haxton (Quentin Boxberger pass from Haxton)—5:39
RUSHING—H—51-176; Holt Hanzlick 18-75, Mason Haxton 14-67, Cole Steinert 8-27, Cade Mason 5-13, Hunter Morris 4-9, team 2-(-15); R—40-211; Torrey Horak 22-162, Tyree Sowers 6-56, Corey Catron 4-27, Woodrow Rezac 5-15, Kaiden Brown 1-3, team 2-(-2)
PASSING—H—M. Haxton4-10-1, 100; Hanzlick 0-1-0; R—Horak 9-19-2, 95
RECEIVING—H—Steinert 3-58, Dylan Richards 1-42; R—Sowers 3-45, Brown 1-17, Rezac 1-12, Parker Kenney 2-12, Bo Reeves 1-6, Corey Catron 1-3