The Clearwater Indians defeated the Hesston Swathers 35-28 on Friday night in Hesston to advance in the high school football Class 3A playoffs. The Indians hadn’t won a playoff game in five years.
“It just means so much to our school and community as a whole,” Clearwater junior Tanner Cash said. “I’m just so happy I can’t put it into words right now, I’m just so happy for everybody.”
Although it was the first round of the playoffs, the win did not come easily for the Indians.
Hesston answered almost every time Clearwater scored, and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Clearwater had some wiggle room with a two-touchdown lead.
“Our guys want to play another week, and their guys wanted to play another week,” Coach Jeremy Scheufler said. “That’s the type of game you get when that kind of stuff happens.”
With Hesston’s 7-1 record, Clearwater knew it had work to do. Scheufler said he had been preparing the team all week for the game to come down to one-possession.
“We talked to the guys all week long that this game could be a one possession game. … It could be one or two plays that could really make a difference,” Scheufler said. “Tonight, we had a couple kids make some really big plays.”
Cash was one of those players. He had four touchdowns. After suffering from an MCL tear earlier in the season, the Indians had to accept the fact that they might not get their starting quarterback healthy enough to play.
Cash still found a way to lead and influence the team despite his injury and not being able to physically be out on the field with his team. Cash kept a positive mindset throughout his recovery that he would be able to play again this season.
“(Cash) showed up to practice every single day and his arm wasn’t hurt so he kept throwing passes with the intent that he would come back,” Scheufler said. “The injury he came back from, to only miss three games, I kept thinking that’s crazy but he’s a big, strong, healthy kid that just loves the game.”
Scheufler said that it isn’t often that a player like Cash comes around. He said that he’s happy Cash is healthy again not only for the team’s sake, but for the community to be able to watch a player of Cash’s caliber.
“Every once in a while, you get to coach a player like him. I’ve said it time and time again, he is one of the best players in Kansas, one of the best players in the area, and one of the best players in 3A,” Scheufler said. “I’m happy that people get the opportunity to see a kid like that play because his competitive drive is second to none.”
Scheufler, Cash, and the rest of the Indians get the opportunity to play undefeated Andale next week.
Despite having to face the 3A powerhouse that is Andale, Clearwater feels as if they have enough momentum to carry through to the second week of playoffs.