Pratt runs past Hayden, 48-14, to win the 4A-II title

The Pratt Greenbacks captured their first state football title since 1995. (by Sean Boston)
By: Sean Boston special to
Nov 26, 2016

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SALINA -- Jamie Cruce took over the Pratt football program four years ago with not much to offer. The Greenbacks won two games in Cruce’s first season, followed by five wins and then four wins a year ago. The hard work in the offseason paid off on Saturday as the Greenbacks won the 4A-II state title game over Topeka Hayden 48-14 at Salina Stadium.

“It’s been a work in progress,” Cruce said. “These guys weren’t alive the last time that this program won a state title. This is something that we’ll cherish forever and hope that the process has just begun.”

The Greenbacks offense has caused fits for opposing teams all season long and that wasn’t any different on Saturday as Pratt compiled 403 yards of offense on the ground. Sophomore Travis Theis paved the way with a 266 yard performance and four touchdowns.

Cruce drew up some trickery as well, having quarterback Landen Studer air it out, connecting on two touchdown passes.

“Everyone looks at our team as a run-only type of team,” Cruce said. “Landen can throw the ball as well and he showed that this afternoon. No one expected those two pass plays, but I trusted in Landen and his ability and it paid off.”

The Greenbacks struck first following a fumble on Hayden’s opening drive. Hunter Kaufman followed his blockers and tight roped the near sideline for a 34-yard score, capping a three-play 38-yard drive and putting Pratt up 7-0.

“Getting a turnover and getting an early score is obviously how you’d like to start every game,” Cruce said. “I think our defense played really well and set our offense up with some great opportunities.”

“It feels pretty good,” Theis said. “The whole town of Pratt is here to share this with us and I can’t wait to get home tonight. No one believed in us and we kind of liked being that underdog and surprising teams that we are really good.”

After the Greenbacks forced a Hayden punt, Theis found paydirt just two plays later on a 63-yard score giving Pratt the 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Hayden began to move the ball down the field on the ensuing drive, as they would score on a 21-yard pass  on fourth down from Sampson Huston to Deshawn Hanika to cut the Wildcat deficit in half.

Pratt would have an answer to the Hayden score, marching the ball down the field with the ground and pound rushing attack. Theis pushed off defenders and lunged into the end zone for his second score and a 21-6 lead.

The Greenbacks added one more touchdown before the half on a 25-yard pass from Studer to a wide open Logan Baird with 42 seconds in the half remaining.

“That was a big score right before half for us,” Cruce said. “We knew that we were going to get the ball to begin the second half, so to end the first half how we did was big for us.”

Pratt opened the second half with a few big runs from Theis, finished off by a 13-yard score from the sophomore. The Greenbacks continued to move the ball without being stopped.

Hayden grabbed some momentum in the third quarter after recovering a Pratt fumble in Wildcat territory. Three plays later the Wildcats would score on a 17-yard quarterback keeper from Huston.

That momentum would halt there, as Theis responded 26 seconds later with a 70-yard score and a 41-14 lead.

“I knew I had to make a move as the defender was coming at me,” Theis said. “I’ve been successful with my stiff-arm all season long, so I went to that and next thing I knew I followed my blockers and found the end zone.”

The Greenbacks would add one final score in the fourth quarter a 53-yard pass from Studer to Noah Myers. That would be the explanation point to the Greenbacks first state title in 21 years.

“This is an unbelievable feeling right now,” Cruce said. “I can’t thank these guys enough for all the hard work they put in in the offseason and it all paid off this afternoon. Every single one of these guys played a big role in today’s win.”

Pratt’s defense stepped up big when they needed to, allowing a strong offensive Hayden team to just 204 yards on the ground, led by Tomas Stringer’s 72 yards on 16 carries. Huston threw for 107 yards and one score through the air, with an interception. He also ran for 36 yards and a score.

Hayden -- 0 6 8 0 -- 14

Pratt -- 14 14 13 7 -- 48

P -- Kaufman 34 run (Myers kick)

P -- Theis 63 run (Myers kick)

H -- Hanika 21 pass from Huston (kick failed)

P -- Theis 7 run (Myers kick)

P -- Baird 25 pass from Studer (Myers kick)

P -- Theis 13 run (Myers kick)

H -- Huston 17 run (2pt pass good)

P -- Theis 70 run (kick blocked)

P -- Myers 53 pass from Studer (Myers kick)

Individual statistics

Rushing -- Hayden, Stringer 16-72, A. Smith 9-69, Huston 8-36, Hobart 5-19, Peavler 1-8. Pratt, Theis 26-266, Studer 9-46, Balderrama 2-5, Kaufman 1-34, Huber 1-2, Team 1-(-2).

Passing -- Hayden, Huston 12-32-1-107. Pratt, Studer 2-3-0-78.

Receiving -- Hayden, Hanika 4-32, A. Smith 2-32, Guerra 2-26, D. Smith 2-14, Wilson 1-5, Stringer 1-(-2). Pratt, Myers 1-53, Baird 1-25.

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