NORTON — The No. 1-ranked Hoisington Cardinals have already proven they’re a solid football playoff favorite over Norton.
In Friday’s 2A semifinal rematch, Norton (8-3) owns several psychological advantages — home-field, revenge motivation and a nothing-to-lose underdog role.
But the Cardinals (11-0) have the biggest advantage after rolling past the Bluejays 38-7 Oct. 25. All-state fullback Wyatt Pedigo gained 290 yards with four scores in the first meeting. Pedigo leads the Cardinals with 2,252 yards and 36 rushing touchdowns on a 14-yard average. The North Dakota commit has rushed for 5,071 career yards and 73 TDs.
The senior quintet of center Chandler Blackwell, guards Riley Philbern and Cade Boxberger and tackles Kameron Schneweis and Jacob Specht help the Cardinals average 408 yards and 42 ppg. QB Mason Haxton has thrown for 519 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“To have those stats, we have 11 guys doing their job,” said Hoisington coach Zach Baird. “Everything starts up front with the offensive line. Our quarterback Mason Haxton gets us into the right looks and make good decisions. We’ve got Wyatt Pedigo, a special player.”
The Cardinals’ other advantage is Friday’s weather forecast — a high of 35 degrees with a chance of light snow.
Norton quarterback Kade Melvin threw 33 times for 203 yards in the first meeting. Melvin has passed for 1,645 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 1,118 yards. Tailback Luke Wahlmeier has gained 1,019 yards.
“They feel like they’re better than week 8,” Baird said. “We’ll see a talented football team. Melvin’s a tough kid who runs well and he’s accurate with the football. We’ll have to execute and play well.”
Hoisington’s Avery Brewer intercepted two passes in the first Norton game and intercepted a pass last week. Cornerback Hunter Morris shut down Garden Plain receiver Trey Smith last week.
“Our secondary has improved and they’re playing at a high level,” Baird said. “They’re hard-nosed kids with a great work ethic.”
The Cardinals, 17-19 all time in the playoffs, lost 35-19 in the 2016 semifinals to Hesston. Norton captured 4A state championships in 1985 and 1986 and were 4A state runners-up in 1983 and 1989.
“We’re excited to see the guys see the rewards and experience something that’s special,” Baird said. “When you get to the playoffs, it’s more mental work.”
Hoisington has committed 11 turnovers and is plus-18 in turnover margin.
HOISINGTON—Pratt 37-13; Nickerson 40-13; Larned 41-19; Hays-Thomas More Prep 42-12; Ellsworth 49-7; Minneapolis 55-19; Phillipsburg 56-28; Norton 38-7; SW Heights 47-0; Lakin 48-7; Garden Plain 48-22
NORTON—Plainville 22-29; Smith Center 18-41; Oakley 41-0; Phillipsburg 39-14; Minneapolis 13-12; Hays-TMP 56-19; Ellsworth 36-14; Hoisington 7-38; Sterling 41-7; Cimarron 34-0; Conway Springs 34-32
CARDINAL OFFENSE—QB—Mason Haxton; FB—Wyatt Pedigo; WR—Avery Brewer; WB—Cade Mason; WB—Hunter Morris; TE—Joshua Ball; C—Chandler Blackwell; LG—Cade Boxberger; LT—Jacob Specht; RG—Riley Philbern; RT—Kameron Schneweis
CARDINAL DEFENSE—NG—Jevon Mogbo; DE—Chandler Blackwell; DE—Joshua Ball; MLB—Wyatt Pedigo; MLB—Kameron Schneweis; OLB—Jacob Specht; OLB—Cole Steinert; CB—Quincy Cross; CB—Hunter Morris; S—Cade Mason; S—Avery Brewer