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Turnovers cost Hoisington in playoff loss
A Hoisington defender hauls down Halsteads Layke Heimerman during Fridays Class 3A playoff game. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

HALSTEAD — The Hoisington Cardinals were five yards away from a quick lead against the Halstead Dragons in the Class 3A football quarterfinals Friday.
The Cardinals’ Steffan Dolechek recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff. But a tackle by Halstead’s Zachery Wright forced a fumble by Hunter Hanzlick at the Dragons’ 5-yard line.
The Dragons rolled 95 yards on a stunning 22-play drive to ignite a dominating performance. Halstead roared past Hoisington 44-8 by converting five Cardinal turnovers into four touchdowns.
Hoisington ran 14 first-half plays and committed four consecutive turnovers. The Dragons ran 41 first-half plays for 182 yards.
“You can’t put the ball on the ground against a good football team like Halstead,” said Hoisington coach Zach Baird. “That was a big early play on their part. They took advantage of it. We put ourselves in a hole.”
Halstead quarterback Eli McKee converted a fourth-down pass to Chase VanSteenburg for a first down at the Cardinal 5-yard line. Blake Beckett scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 10-minute drive for a 8-0 lead.
“That drive ranks right up there at No. 1,” said Halstead coach Jason Grider. “We took time off the clock. We kept gaining yards and stayed on pace. We smacked them in the mouth.”
Halstead scored after three of four first-half takeaways for a 24-0 halftime lead. The Dragons’ right side of guard Taylor Armstrong, tackle Zachery Wright and tight end Tate Kaufman dominated up front.
“We found something we liked and kept running the football at them until they stopped it,” Grider said. “Fortunately, they never did. We kept going to the well.”
It was an emotional ending of a perfect season for Hoisington, which elicited tears for doing their best but coming up short against a superior football team, The Cardinals feature seven returning offensive and six defensive starters.
Hoisington (11-1) also reached the Class 3A quarterfinal round in 2007 and 1990. The Cardinals rushed for 122 yards after averaging 355 yards rushing.
Halstead (12-0) reaches the Class 3A semifinals for the second straight year after losing to Scott City in 2014. The Dragons also reached the football semifinals in 1972, 1979 and 1980.
Hoisington’s hard-running Hanzlick got rolling in the second half to lead the Cardinals on a 64-yard scoring drive. Hanzlick finished with 92 yards and scored on a 1-yard run.
“We couldn’t get it going offensively and we had a hard time moving them off the line,” Baird said. “They did a good job reading our mesh-point and squeezing our offense. Give them credit. They are well coached.”
The lightning-quick McKee scored two touchdowns and rushed for 85 first-half yards off the Dragons’ option-read offense that effectively ran to the right side.
“Eli was excellent and they have a lot of good athletes,” Baird said. “They were strong up front. We had a hard getting their ball-carriers to the ground. They made yards after contact and sustained their drives.”
Taylor Armstrong’s fumble recovery led to McKee’s 13-yard touchdown for a 16-0 lead. Gage Hardtarfer’s fumble recovery was capped by Layke Heimerman’s touchdown for a 24-0 lead.
“Our offensive line is unbelievable. It’s the best in the state,” McKee said. “Running the football is what we do. Once we forced some turnovers, it started rolling our way.”
Heimerman rushed for 84 yards and VanSteenburg added 52 yards rushing. Back-up Halstead quarterback Chase VanSteenburg and back-up tailback Tony Morris scored second-half touchdowns. Halstead’s McKee and Casey Kohr intercepted passes. The Dragons rushed for 309 yards after averaging 366 yards rushing.

Hoisington 0 0 0 8 — 8
Halstead 0 24 6 14 — 44

HA—Blake Beckett 1 run (Chase VanSteenburg pass from Eli McKee), 11:26
HA—Eli McKee 13 run (Layke Heimerman run), 3:19
HA—Layke Heimerman 1 run (Dylan Ratzlaff pass from McKee), 1:12
HA—McKee 5 run (run failed), 6:32
HA—VanSteenburg 50 run (pass failed), 8:33
HO—Hunter Hanzlick 1 run (Cameron Davis pass from Tyler Specht), 5:29
HA—Tony Morris 33 run (Dalton Kraus run) 1:47

RUSHING—HO 33-122, Hanzlick 17-92; Zade Sanders 4-16; Tyler Specht 4-8; Steffan Dolechek 6-14; Sean Urban 1-3; team 1-(-11); HA 57-309, McKee 20-94; Heimerman 20-84; Morris 1-33; VanSteenburg 3-52; Beckett 12-45; Casey Kohr 1-1.
PASSING—HO, Specht 5-10-2, 46; HA, McKee 3-3-0, 20; VanSteenburg 0-1-0.
RECEIVING—HO, S. Dolechek 2-25; Sanders 1-17; Cameron Davis 1-4; Hanzlick 1-0; HA, Ratzlaff 1-7; VanSteenburg 2-13.