When SM East meets the Hutchinson Salt Hawks in the Kansas football championship Saturday, head coach Dustin Delaney will be standing on familiar turf and facing a foe he knows all-too-well.
This year’s 6A title game will be played at Welch Stadium at Emporia State University, where Delaney started as a linebacker in his college days playing for the Hornets.
And the Lancers’ opponent will be the team where Delaney first started making waves as a coach, the Hutchinson Salt Hawks.
Delaney was the Salt Hawks’ offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2009, a stretch during which they won four consecutive state titles, twice in 6A and twice in 5A.
But the Salt Hawks string of success didn’t begin or end with Delaney. They are by measures the most successful high school football program in the state over the past decade, with seven state titles. They missed the title game in 2010, but won the 5A championship in 2011, and lost in the 6A championship in 2012 to SM West.
Last season, legendary head coach Randy Dreiling’s 17th and final with Hutchinson before he accepted the coaching job at St. Thomas Aquinas, the Salt Hawks had a middling year, going 5-4. And their 2014 season got off to a slow start under new coach Ryan Cornelian, who took over after five years of leading the Hays football program. Hutchinson lost four of its first six games this year, needing an overtime against Maize to secure a win in week five.
But starting with a 62-14 romp over Garden City Oct. 17, the Salt Hawks have been on a tear, winning six straight games over a stretch where they’ve averaged nearly 48 points. Last week, they beat Lawrence Free State 42-14 on Free State’s field in substate. If that score sounds familiar, it’s because SM East beat Lawrence Free State at Free State by the same score Oct. 3.
“We’re ecstatic to face those guys,” said Delaney of the matchup against Hutchinson. “Quality program. They’ve got a great team and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”