The Fort Hays State football team was finally able to satisfy a craving that has persisted since the 2020 fall football season was canceled.
Saturday’s organized scrimmage with Southwestern Oklahoma State provided the Tigers with their first game setting in 16 months.
FHSU took a 31-3 win over the Bulldogs in the unofficial contest at Lewis Field Stadium.
“It was good to get back out there on the football field,” Tiger coach Chris Brown said. “You can tell we hadn’t played a true game for 16 months. You can tell we’re really young right now. We’ve got a lot of guys that need to figure out our offense and defense, learn how to play a little bit more physical on both sides of the ball. But it felt good to be back out there. I think our kids enjoyed being back out there.”
Kickoffs and punts were eliminated for the scrimmage and quarterbacks weren’t allowed to be hit.
More than anything, Brown said it felt for good for the Tigers to compete against somebody other than themselves.
“It gets old beating up on each other week in and week out,” he said. “We’ve been doing that for a long, long time. It was good for our kids to get back out there and play another opponent.”
Highlights for the Tigers included two touchdown passes from starting quarterback Chance Fuller. Hunter Budke made a nice grab in the end zone for a 14-yard score. Fuller later hit Diante Crutchfield downfield for a 74-yard score.
Junior transfer Keylan Chapman broke loose for a 79-yard touchdown run. Chapman, a transfer from Southwestern (Calif.) College, unofficially had 135 yards rushing.
“He’s a strong kid. We just got to try get him to quit jumping over people and try to run through people,” Brown said. “I saw him do that a couple times today, break some tackles and get out in the open and take it the house. Those are kind of the plays we need out of him week in and week out.”
Fuller unofficially threw for 149 yards before giving way to backup Voshon Waiters late in the second quarter.
“[Fuller] did a good job,” Brown said. “You’re playing another team from another conference that you’ve never played before. You play these teams in your conference and you get used to what they’re doing, but when you see somebody else, offensively and defensively, it’s going to mess with you a little bit until you see it in front of you. And just the speed, practice is a lot different than games. It was good for us to get out there and do it.”
Waiters tossed a 17-yard TD to Adrian Soto in the second quarter and kicker Fernando Avila-Castro had a 32-yard field goal for the only points of the second half.
FHSU forced four turnovers, including interceptions from Jordan Starks and Tyler Cummings.
The Tigers allowed a first-quarter field goal before keeping the Bulldogs off the board for the rest of the scrimmage.
“They kind of settled in,” Brown said. “I thought they did a pretty good job of playing physical at times, making some tackles and wrapping up.”
Spring break is next week for the Tigers. FHSU will play another scrimmage at Colorado Mines on April 10.
“They’re going to get this whole entire week off to kind of recoup and get their feet underneath them, and hopefully those are the things they’re doing, and making the right decisions so we’re able to play on April 10th. Spring break always scares you as a coach,” Brown said. “But when we get back, we’ll have to the COVID testing again and see where our kids are at. Then we’ll have a week of practice and then we’ll prepare for Mines.”
Brown said the Tigers enjoyed playing in front of fans again.
“There was a pretty good crowd today and they made some pretty good noise,” he said. “It was good to kind of get back to some normalcy after all we’ve been through this last year. I can’t thank (the fans) enough for all they’ve done for us, and I hope they continue to support us. Hopefully we can keeping putting on shows for them and put on a better show next time.”