LINDSBORG — Hesston’s Grant Raleigh knows what to do with the ball in his hands, be it a basketball or a football.
Raleigh, the lead guard for the undefeated state championship Swather basketball team last season, has taken over for the graduated Wyatt McKinney as Hesston’s starting football quarterback.
He basically had the ball in his hands all night Friday, running for three touchdowns and passing for another as the Swathers pulled away from Smoky Valley 27-7 in a matchup of 2013 Central Kansas League division champions.
Raleigh rushed for 112 yards on 23 carries and also was 12 of 20 passing for 204 yards, the TD pass going to Scott Duerksen.
“It was obvious right away they wanted to get the ball in his hands,” Smoky Valley coach Chris Hattabaugh said of Raleigh. “He’s a nice player.”
The game turned in a span of 41 seconds in the second quarter when the Swathers scored back-to-back touchdowns to turn a 7-7 tie into a more manageable 21-7 halftime lead.
Smoky Valley, which has been decimated with injuries to its defense — especially in the line — hung tough early, but Raleigh turned the game with his arm and his feet.
“We didn’t play our best game, that’s for sure,” Hattabaugh said. “Hesston is a team that if you don’t play well, they’re going to make you pay for it. I was pleased overall with our young kids. We started three freshmen on defense and they did a great job for us. Our offense was as bad as it’s been in a while.”
The Vikings’ veer offense produced 285 total yards, with Aaron Taylor rushing for 116 yards on 21 carries while Cole Norberg added 56 on 20 carries while also throwing for another 102, including a 31-yard strike to Kirk Barnes with 5:49 left in the first half to tie the game at 7-all.
Hesston, however, scored on its next possession on Raleigh’s second short TD run to make it 14-7, then Cole Rostetter picked off Norberg two plays later and the Swathers scored on the next play when Raleigh hit Duerksen for a 43-yard beauty and a 21-7 lead.
The Vikings had a chance to get back into the game in the third quarter when they melted more than 7 minutes off the clock with a methodical drive. Hesston, though, again picked off Norberg, with Collin Martin doing the honors. Raleigh later added his third TD on an 8-yard scamper.
“The biggest moment of the game, I think, was coming out of half. We got the stop and we’re moving it and then like we did the whole first half, we got a penalty and then we’re behind the chains,” Hattabaugh said. “We’re not good enough to recover from that. We’ll watch film and we’ll regroup.”
Smoky Valley goes to Sterling on Friday while Hesston hosts Halstead.