Since the Hays High School football quarterbacks are dropping like flies, Indians junior varsity quarterback Taylor Renz just might get an unlikely promotion on Friday night.
Then again, maybe not.
As Great Bend (2-3, 2-1) hosts Hays (5-1, 3-1) in the Western Athletic Conference finale and Class 5A district opener for both teams at Memorial Stadium, Renz might be starting under center.
Hays starting quarterback Austin Unrein suffered a knee injury during last Friday’s 35-7 loss to newly crowned WAC champion Dodge City in the conference showdown. There’s a remote chance that Unrein could return, although his backup, Dylan Scoby, who came in and played from the second quarter on until he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Enter Renz, a 6-foot-1, 160-pound junior, who quarterbacked the final portion of that game. Hays, previously unbeaten and the defending Western Athletic Conference champion, might have lost much more than a shot at their second straight conference championship.
Unrein’s injury has Hays head coach Ryan Cornelsen going down the pecking order of signal-callers in his program.
“We’ve lost quarterbacks one, two and three,” Cornelsen said. “We don’t know yet (who’s going to be the starting quarterback against Great Bend).
“We’re looking at quarterbacks four, five and six, trying to figure one out.”
Actually, Hays lost its third-string quarterback, sophomore junior varsity starter Derek Bixenman, to an ACL injury during the first JV game of the season.
So that makes Renz the actual No. 4 QB in the Indians’ program.
Needless to say, Cornelsen took a long look at his quarterback situation on Monday night during Hays’ junior varsity game with Dodge City.
“We’re trying to evaluate who’s going to give us the best chance to win,” Cornelsen said. “We’ll put somebody in there and move on. The good thing is, a lot of passing is never in our arsenal, so the guys we will put in there are very capable of throwing what we ask our quarterbacks to throw, and running our offense.”
Unlike most teams, according to Great Bend head coach Bo Black, Hays won’t be adversely affected by losing its starting QB.
“Anybody else, you might think that you have a big advantage with the starting quarterback coming out,” Black said. “Hays, I just don’t think it matters a whole lot, I really don’t.”
The reason? Hays running backs Casey Sedbrook and Josh Balman rank No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, in the WAC rushing tables. Sedbrook has totaled a conference-leading 598 yards on the season and Balman has 395.
“They don’t lose anything,” Black said. “The quarterback hands the ball off to two great players in the backfield. They want to run the ball and they want to pound it.”
Hays is the hands-down top rushing team in the WAC, totaling 1,814 yards thus far.
Great Bend is coming off an impressive 42-16 road victory over Liberal last Friday night, a game where the Panthers accumulated 525 yards total offense in the lopsided romp.
Panthers quarterback Greg Hildebrand ran for three touchdowns and threw 32- and 31-yard touchdown passes to wide receiver Jace Bowman, who totaled eight catches for a season-high 135 yards.
Hildebrand completed 17 of 24 passes for 277 yards, connecting with seven different receivers in the game.