By Todd Fertig

By defeating Holton 42-14 at Hayden Friday, the Hayden Wildcats earned a spot in the Class 3A state championship game in Hutchinson next Saturday.  

Making its first appearance in a title game since 2016, Hayden will face Cheney, which edged Andale, 28-24. 

FinnDunsheeHolton 1Hayden senior Finn Dunshee broke free for a 65-yard touchdown on the Wildcats' first play from scrmmage and scored four TDs in Hayden's 42-14 playoff win over Holton. [Photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Hayden completely throttled Holton in the first period, setting the tone for a physical domination of the line of scrimmage. Holton was limited to a mere seven yards in the first quarter while Hayden jumped out to a 14-0 lead, which grew to 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter. 

Hayden senior Finn Dunshee, recently back from a midseason injury, accounted for the first three scores of the game. He exploded for 65 yards on the first play from scrimmage, then added a four-yard scoring run. He took a short pass in the backfield four yards for his third touchdown. He caught a 30-yard pass in the third period for his fourth touchdown of the game.  

“It really sucked seeing the team out there but not being able to help. It felt so good to be back, to perform under pressure,” said Dunshee, who played a minimal role in the previous week’s win over Parsons. 

“He’s a great competitor. You love his speed, and he plays hard. He’s a game changer,” Hayden coach Bill Arnold said of Dunshee. “He’s been running well for a few weeks now. There just wasn’t any need to put him in harm’s way last week.”

Holton found new life in the second period when it began attacking the perimeter of the Hayden defense. Brodie Dillon took a pitch wide and broke the Hayden containment to race 57 yards to put the visitors on the board. 

JensenSchrickelHolton 1Hayden junior Jensen Schrickel scored a pair of touchdowns Friday night in a 42-14 win over Holton, including a 60-yard kickoff return. [Photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Instead of relinquishing the momentum, however, Hayden struck back immediately. Junior speedster Jensen Schrickel took the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to retain the 21-point advantage.  

ConnorHanikaHolton 1Hayden coach Bill Arnold talks to Wildcat sophomore quarterback Connor Hanika during Friday night's 42-14 Class 3A playoff win over Holton. [Photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Hayden increased its lead to 35-14 midway through the third period on a pass from Connor Hanika to Schrickel. Hanika found Dunshee for the final score of the game a few minutes later. 

The sophomore Hanika recently replaced Hayden’s starting quarterback, Jett Wahlmeier, who suffered a season-ending injury. Hanika completed six of his 11 attempts, three of which went for touchdowns. 

“I thought Connor did a good job. He came out and executed the plays,” Arnold said. “The biggest thing is to come out and just take what the defense gives you and play within yourself. He’s got plenty of talent.” 

“It’s all starts up front with the linemen.,” Hanika said. “Without them, we can’t do anything, so I give them credit. We’ve got really good backs and even better receivers. So, they make it easy on me. 

“Everybody has just been believing in me. They’re giving me a lot of confidence.” 

Arnold said he was not surprised that his team was able to overcome numerous injuries during the season. 

“The kids have all just kept the attitude, ‘Next man up,’ and you go from there,” Arnold said. “We’ve got 60 guys on the squad, and everybody is a part of it. They know how to compete. That’s what we like.” 

Now Hayden will take it first shot at a state title since 2016, when it was defeated in the 4A Div II championship game by Pratt. In 2014 and in 2009, Hayden was beaten in the title game by Bishop Miege. 

The year before that, in 2008, Hayden won its last state football championship by beating Perry-Lecompton 42-21 in the 4A classification. 

“It’s been a while, but we’re excited about it. This is the goal, not just to get there, but to win the thing,” Arnold said. “Nothing’s changed. These are our expectations year in and year out.  

“We’re thrilled to death to be headed back. If you don’t have those goals in mind, then you’re probably wasting your time out here. Our goals aren’t ever going to change.” 

Hayden will take on 12-0 Cheney at Gowans Stadium on the campus of Hutchinson Community College at 1 p.m. on Nov. 25. 

“You don’t get to this part of the season without playing somebody good,” Arnold said. “So, we’ll go back and regroup, figure some things out and see how we can go down there and compete.” 


Holton (7-5)       0 14 0 0 -- 14 

Hayden (12-0) 14 14 14 0 -- 42 

Hayden – Dunshee 65 run (kick failed) 

Hayden – Dunshee 4 run (Schrickel from Hanika) 

Hayden – Dunshee 4 pass from Hanika (Becker kick) 

Holton – Dillon 57 run (Wilson kick) 

Hayden – Schrickel 60 kickoff return (Becker kick) 

Holton – Dillon 5 run (Wilson kick) 

Hayden – Schrickel 28 pass from Hanika (Becker kick) 

Hayden – Dunshee 30 pass from Hanika (Becker kick) 


Rushing -- Holton: Hundley 19-31, Frazier 3-16, Dillon 8-84, Hallauer 3-25. Hayden: Dunshee 13-129, Mitchell 5-21, Desch 13-73, Schrickel 2-0, Ridley 2-(minus)1, Krentz 3-7, Hanika 1-3. 

Passing -- Holton: Hallauer 0-1-0 0 yards. Hayden: Hanika 6-11-0 98 yards. 

Receiving -- Holton: none. Hayden: Mitchell 2-32, Dunshee 2-34, Heinen 1-4, Schrickel 1-28. 

Punting -- Holton: Barnett 6-32.0. Hayden: Becker 1-44.0. 

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