Injured Hutchinson squad prepares for Derby

Derby's Garrett Xanders & Hutchinson's Blaik Middleton (photos by David Jackson & Susan Goodwyn)
By: Mark Schremmer for
Sep 25, 2014

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Hutchinson’s Ryan Cornelsen has been a high school head coach for 12 seasons, but he’s never encountered the amount of injuries that he has in his first three weeks with the Salthawks.

Running back and middle linebacker Colby Turner was injured in the preseason scrimmage. Wide receiver and free safety Conor Craig and quarterback Turner Wintz were hurt in the first game against Olathe South. Slotback and cornerback Spencer Cox was injured during last week’s game against Salina South.

In all, Cornelsen said his team has endured three anterior cruciate ligament surgeries and three labrum tears.

“This is more injuries in three weeks than I’ve ever had in my career as far as a whole season goes,” Cornelsen said.

The Salthawks (1-2) hope the injury bug will end as they host the defending Class 6A state champion Derby Panthers (2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Ark Valley Chisholm Trail I matchup will be featured on Friday Night Live. Derby and Hutchinson will be televised statewide on Cox Channel Kansas and then re-televised at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 and at 7 p.m. Sept. 30. Mark Ewing and Mark Davidson will be in the broadcast booth. Leon Liebl will be the sideline reporter.

Hutchinson opened the season with a 24-2 loss to Olathe South before earning a 34-16 conference victory against Newton. Hutchinson fell 27-21 to Salina South this past Friday. Blaik Middleton rushed for more than 100 yards as a rusher and as a receiver last week against Salina South.

The injuries have made it a difficult way for Cornelsen to begin his tenure at Hutchinson. Cornelsen, who has an 89-27 record as a head coach at LaCrosse, Hays and Hutchinson, replaced legendary coach Randy Dreiling after he left for St. Thomas Aquinas.

Hutchinson hopes to get things rolling the right direction. Wintz, who passed for 147 yards against Salina South, is back from injury and will start at quarterback against Derby.

“They’ve done everything I’ve asked,” Cornelsen said. “I think they understand that it’s a process. We knew it was going to be a struggle early with a new system. Then adversity struck. I think they’re hanging in there. They have one of two choices. They can self-destruct and find excuses, or they can work hard and try to figure out a way to turn this thing around.”

Derby, which opened the season with a 20-13 loss to Maize, has bounced back with consecutive victories of 35-14 over Salina Central and Mill Valley.

The Panthers returned zero starters on offense and only two on defense from last year’s star-studded championship squad.

“We want to get back to where we were last year, but we know a lot of improvement will have to be made,” Derby coach Brandon Clark said. “For a lot of guys on our team, the only snaps they had last year was in the freshman games. They’re hungry and working to get better. They know games aren’t won on Fridays, but rather Monday through Thursday.”

Derby quarterback Brady Rust completed 7 of 10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the win against Mill Valley. Rust also ran for 94 yards on 18 attempts. Derby running back Curtis Whitten, a transfer from Wichita Heights, rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries against Mill Valley. Panthers senior Darreon Jackson, a transfer from Texas, is a three-star recruit as a defensive back.

“Those transfers are special,” Cornelsen said. “They have probably two top 11 players there with the safety and the running back. Those guys just jump off the film as being superior players in the state of Kansas. You can tell they’re savvy and that they play hard.”

Clark raved about Hutchinson’s defensive line and said he believes the Salthawks’ record is a little misleading.

“They are probably the best 1-2 team in the state,” Clark said. “They are really big and really physical. They are like the Hutch teams we are used to playing.”

Derby won last year’s meeting 36-0. Hutchinson eliminated the Panthers from the playoffs in 2012. 

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