HESSTON — Hesston High’s 1-3 start to the football season is only a distant memory.
A Swather team with a full head of steam heads out to Phillipsburg for a third-round game in the Class 3A playoffs on Friday.
Fans should take note that kickoff is set for 6 p.m., since it's a 209-mile trip for the Swathers.
Hesston is 8-3 with seven wins in a row. Phillipsburg, which stepped up to Class 3A after winning the 2-1A title last year, has won 11 straight.
It’s been 11 years since the Swathers have traversed this far in the playoffs.
“This team has galvanized this community, having been in this game for the first time since 2005,” Hesston coach Clint Rider said. “There is a ton of support from the community and the student body. There is a contagious positive energy flowing through the school and we are grateful for all of the support we have received.”
The Swathers advanced with a 35-20 victory over Chaparral on Saturday as it was a huge game for quarterback Zach Esau.
“Zach threw for over 300 yards, had two passing TDs and three rushing TDs on his way to setting a school record for most passing yards in a single season with over 2,200 so far,” Rider said. “His leadership was a major component in our success and his composure gave our team a steady hand. Our wide receivers provided us with big sparks on runs after catches and sprung some big runs by Esau with great blocks on the edge. Zach Vogt tied his own record for most TD receptions in a season (10) and broke the school record for receiving yards in a season with over 700 so far.”
The Swathers gave up some yards, but for the most part restricted Chaparral’s high-speed offense.
“Defensively, our line led the way by taking on multiple blockers and allowing our linebackers to run free and make tackles.” Rider said. “Sophomore defensive end Blake Martin had a breakout game. Our inside linebackers Parker Roth and Zach Anderson also had a huge night and shut down their big, talented running backs. Late in the game our secondary made some huge plays in the passing game and didn't give up any quick scores to let them back in the game.”
Phillipsburg, which edged Larned 14-7 last week, is just another talented obstacle for the Swathers to overcome.
“Phillipsburg is the defending 2A state champion and haa won 18 straight games for a reason," Rider said. "They are a team that prides itself on their toughness and their ground game, two things they do very well. We will need to have a big week again in the passing game. Defensively, we need to be successful on first downs and force them to do things they aren't as comfortable doing. Getting an early lead would be great for our defense as that may put pressure on them to throw the ball more."
The winner Friday will take on the winner of Garden Plain and Hoisington.