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Cardinals play third consecutive unbeaten team
Hoisington's Teron Kraft escapes Phillipsburg defense for a touchdown    .jpg
Hoisington's Teron Kraft escapes Phillipsburg defense for a touchdown. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez


State championship week officially began Saturday for Hoisington.
But for the Cardinals, it honestly seemed like it began weeks ago.
When Hoisington (12-0) takes on defending champion and fellow 12-0 Nemaha Central in Saturday’s noon Class 2A championship game in Salina, it will mark the third straight week the Cardinals have gone up against an undefeated team in the playoffs.
Just to get to the title game, Hoisington had to survive an undefeated showdown with Southeast of Saline in the quarterfinals, winning 49-42, and then another undefeated showdown with Norton in last week’s semifinals, winning 30-21.
It’s a gauntlet no other team in the state has even come close to facing.
“We knew we had a tough road,” Hoisington coach Zach Baird said. “Going into this year, I thought the west was stronger overall than it had been in year’s past, really deep with some really good teams. I felt like there were a lot of good teams and it could go any number of ways as to who was going to make it out of the west.
“Coming through that, it just makes you sharper because you’re used to playing against really good teams with really good football players. You have to elevate your game if you want to win and you keep doing it week after week and before you know it you don’t know anything different than playing really good football.”
Hoisington has played awfully good football under Baird’s watch. Since he took over at the start of the 2014 season, the Cardinals have posted eight wins or more in 9 of his 10 seasons. The program continuously raised the bar, reaching the state semifinals for the first time in program history in 2016 and the state championship game for the first time in 2020.
The only step left to take is to bring home the program’s first state title. Hoisington lost 27-20 to Rossville in the 2020 title game.
“We talk about it all the time, the previous groups and the foundation that’s been built for them and what these guys got to inherit,” said Baird, who is 99-18 in his 10 years. “I think they’re extremely hungry and our past players who are no longer playing are extremely hungry for it. It’s one of those deals where we wouldn’t be where we’re at today without those guys, starting all the way back in 2014.
“It’s just been a stepping stone, advancing a little bit farther and a little bit farther and before long you get in the big games but you have the feeling like this is what you do. You’re going to win it – it’s not going to be easy, but there’s no other option.”
Getting that elusive title this year certainly won’t be easy. Nemaha Central is the defending state champion and has been dominant throughout the season, recording eight straight shutouts at one point and giving up just an 11-player low 53 points all season.
Some of the same strength’s Hoisington has – big, physical offensive line and a powerful running game – are the same as Nemaha, making Saturday’s title game the ultimate test.
“I think they’re so good up front and the (Holden) Bass kid is phenomenal,” Baird said. “And it’s one reason why everybody knows what’s going to happen but it’s just tough to stop. They do a great job up front and the (Carter) Hajek kid is elusive and strong. It’ll be a big test.
“But I feel like our line has done a great job for us, too. It should be a good one. Both teams like to run the football and be physical. It should be a good old-fashioned football game.”
Senior lineman Caiden Hoffman was the lone Cardinal to start as a freshman for Hoisington in the 2020 title game. He’s been an anchor on both sides of the ball, leading an offense that’s scored 551 points (45.9 point per game) – the most in 2A this season.
Senior quarterback Tony Moore is a dual-threat who’s accounted for nearly 2,300 rushing and passing yards with 27 touchdowns. Junior back Teron Kraft has added nearly 1,200 yards on the ground with 13 touchdowns.

COACH: Zach Baird (10th year, 99-18)
STATE FINALS HISTORY: 1 runner-up finish – 2021 (2A)
W,39-6 Hesston
W,38-14 at Halstead
W,60-0 Lyons
W,63-6 Southwestern Heights
W,27-19 at Pratt
W,63-15 at Lakin
W,34-6 Larned
W,67-20 at Cimarron
W,46-8 Phillipsburg (P)
W,35-6 Beloit (P)
W,49-42 Southeast of Saline (P)
W,30-21 at Norton (P)
Points scored: 551 (45.9 per game)
Points allowed: 163 (13.6 per game)
Total offense: 4,893 yards (407.8 per game)
Rushing: 3,437 yards (286.4 per game), 50 TDs
Passing: 1,456 yards (121.3 per game), 19 TDs, 2 INTs
RUSHING--Teron Kraft (jr.) 145 carries, 1,171 yards, 13 TDs; Tony Moore (sr.) 87 carries, 838 yards, 8 TDs; Mason Alderdice (sr.) 39 carries, 572 yards, 11 TDs; Kyler Dean Russell (jr.) 19 carries, 233 yards, 4 TDs; Jason Robinson (jr.) 27 carries, 184 yards, 6 TDs.
PASSING--Tony Moore (sr.) 66 of 113, 1,453 yards, 19 TDs, 2 INTs.
RECEIVING--Mason Alderdice (sr.) 14 catches, 399 yards, 4 TDs; Mason Martin (so.) 14 catches, 330 yards, 6 TDs; Jason Robinson (jr.) 8 catches, 228 yards, 2 TDs; Carson Mason (so.) 9 catches, 169 yards, 4 TDs.
TACKLES--Ian Smith (sr.) 78 tackles (28 solo), 3 tackles for loss; Jason Robinson (jr.) 57 tackles (29 solo), 4 tackles for loss; Teron Kraft (jr.) 51 tackles (29 solo), 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks; Gage Britt (sr.) 49 tackles (23 solo), 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks; Brady Reif (jr.) 47 tackles (26 solo); Mason Alderdice (sr.) 40 tackles (22 solo).
TAKEAWAYS--Jason Robinson (jr.) 8 INTs (2 TDs); Mason Alderdice (sr.) 5 INTs, fumble recovery; Gage Britt (sr.) 3 fumble recoveries; Carson Mason (so.) 2 INTs, fumble recovery; Taylen Morales (so.) INT, fumble recovery (1 TD).
Kicking: Taylen Morales (so.) 1 of 2 FGs, 34 of 40 PATs.