Mustangs gunning for third-straight playoff win

Record-breaking QB Gunnar Gross to lead ‘Stangs vs. one-loss Hays Indians


Mykah Trusty

Junior quarterback Gunnar Gross (9) tosses to senior running back Kenyon McMillan during a game earlier this season. Gross and McMillan have put up big offensive numbers in leading the Mustangs to the third round of the playoffs.

The Mustangs are going on the road with their record-setting quarterback against the Hays High Indians in the playoff quarterfinals, marking the first time since 2013 the Mustangs have made it this far.

Junior quarterback Gunnar Gross joined school history, as he is the second Mustang quarterback to pass and rush for 1,000 yards each.

“He’s a dog and he’s doing his thing out there,” senior linebacker Dawson Hogan said. “He’s definitely a leader on our team.”

Gross has a combined 35 touchdowns this season, 13 of which being passing touchdowns. Eight of his touchdown passes have gone to junior receiver Hunter Mowery.

Mowery is the Mustangs’ leading receiver with 42 receptions and 638 receiving yards on the season, averaging just under 64 yards per game.

“We’ve played together for a long time,” Gross said of his relationship with Mowery. “I think it’s because of all the years we’ve played together.”

Head coach Mark Sandbo said the Indians will be a tough team, as their only loss this season was at the hands of the undefeated Manhattan Indians.

“We’re playing a well-coached opponent with some dynamic athletes,” Sandbo said. “They’re arguably the best team on this side of the bracket.”

Every game will be tight and every game will be a close at this stage of the playoffs, Sandbo said.

“I think they’re all gonna be tight now and that’s what we’ve been used to,” he said. “I think this team is no different and that’s what we’re conditioned for.”

The Indians’ offense could present big problems, as they have dynamic playmakers at the quarterback and running back position.

“Their QB and RB are two of the best we’ve seen this year,” defensive coordinator Austin Kingsbury said. “Their offensive line is big and physical.”

Senior defensive lineman Hunter Swolensky said he is expecting a close game against the Indians, who are the second seed in the western bracket.

“It’s definitely gonna be a battle,” Swolensky said. “They’re one of the better opponents we’ve faced this year, but they’re a beatable team.”

Senior linebacker Dawson Hogan said that Hays won’t be a problem.

“It’s nothing to really be worried about,” Hogan said. “We’ve played the best of the best and we’re gonna go out there and do our thing.”

Giving the defense rest will be the ground game of the Mustangs, which has scored 43 touchdowns with a rotating group of players.

Leading the team in rushing is senior running back Kenyon McMillan, who averages 157 yards per game with 1,565 rushing yards along with 18 touchdowns on the season.

“Kenyon is his own type of species,” Swolensky said. “Nobody compares to Kenyon, nobody is as good as Kenyon. Kenyon is just a dog.”

There have been some health concerns about McMillan, who dislocated his elbow earlier in the playoffs, but Sandbo says that he is the healthiest he’s been all season.

“I think that kind of speaks about how we do things around here,” Sandbo said. “To be in week 11 and to say that you’re the healthiest you’ve been is extremely fortunate.”

The run game may be a challenge, as Hays boasts a run defense that Sandbo believes can cause issues for the Mustangs.

“They’ll be extremely physical and well conditioned to stop the run,” Sandbo said. “They present a lot of problems that we’re going to have to solve.”

Even though Hays will be a tough matchup, players have the confidence to win and move on to sub-state.

` “You gotta have that confidence,” McMillan said. “We’re definitely happy we’ve made it this far, but we think we can make it farther.”