#31, Bryan Ferguson disappears into the darkness.
It's been a ton of Sunday's since this guy can remember an 8-Man runner who gained over 1,700 yards as a Junior preparing for his Senior season in the 6-Man football ranks. Such is the case for Bryan Ferguson of Hyannis high school, who weighs around 150 pounds and runs like a bruising 185 fullback........with speed. Last season Ferguson and his Longhorn cohorts finished the regular season 5-3 before losing 38-12 at home to a physical Spalding/Spalding Academy squad. On that playoff day the cruel, bone chilling Nebraska Sandhills' north wind put the halts on anything but basic straight ahead football. Turn the calendar ahead one year and the 15 players Hyannis had on last season's roster look like a huge group for the upcoming gridiron wars in the game of 6-Man football.
The proud town of Hyannis pretty much stands alone in the vast, wide open Nebraska Panhandle. Nearest city of any size is Alliance, 60 miles west. About 70 miles south is Lake McConaughy and Ogallala on 1-80. The town itself however, was not so desolate that ESPN couldn't find it. In 1989, they came to town to do a special on Terry Connealy, who later became a fine player for the Huskers. The folks from back East wanted to spotlight how a "small town" boy playing 8-Man football could grab so much attention from a team the caliber of Nebraska. I made the trip from Grand Island that day to watch Jay Herman, a back who rambled for 2,147 yards behind the blocks of the huge Connealy. My wife made me sleep on the couch for a week after making that trip, but it was well worth the drive. ESPN must have been impressed with breathtaking beauty of the Sandhills, because they have since returned to do a feature on Arthur County and how well they play the 6-Man game. Well, in a few weeks Arthur and a host of other 6-Man football teams are going to find out how good this Ferguson kid is, and how well he and his Hyannis teammates are adapting to the wide-open, anything goes game of Nebraska high school 6-Man football.
Hyannis won a State 8-Man championship in 1988 when Connealy and Herman were there, but since the new playoff format was formulated, the Longhorns have qualified 10 times and have yet to win a game....11-Man or 8-Man. Now they will give 6-man a whirl and Bryan Ferguson will be a key factor in this team's game plan. Last year, it seemed like the playbook consisted of "Ferguson up the gut right", or Ferguson up the gut left". The kid literally carried the pig almost every play it seemed which of course was not true, but I'll bet he thought it was and loved every minute of it.. In a 40-22 win over Hay Springs, number 31 carried a whopping 50 times for 298 yards and 4 scores. Against Brownie's potent Mullen Broncos, Ferguson toted the ball 35 times for 170 yards in a 46-12 loss. For the season the Junior workhorse gained 1,707 yards on 332 carries and coincidentally played defense and returned punts and kick-offs. In case your math is slow today, Ferguson toted the ball an incredible 37 times a game! Durable 225 lb. College star runners rarely do that. Bryan is just one of those kids that did everything but drive the bus to the away games and wash the soiled uniforms.
Bryan Ferguson is anxious to try the 6-Man game this Fall. Many fans already have
circled Friday, October 15th when Hyannis hosts traditional 6-Man power and defending State Champion, Arthur County. Ferguson has 5 older siblings that have helped teach him the ropes on their ranch 16 miles north of Ashby (which is 9 miles west of Hyannis) and just a smidge about sports too. Bryan credits his older brother Matthew with helping him do drills and giving him pointers about football. It also helps to have a seasoned veteran such as Chris Kraus for a head coach. Kraus was around to coach Connealy when he was there, so the man certainly knows what he is doing. As far as a gridiron hero, Ferguson told me it was Rex Burkhead, the young I-Back from Nebraska, and you can certainly see Burkhead's influence when you watch number 31 from Hyannis run the ball. Only difference is Ferguson is about 50 pounds lighter, but packs a punch very similar to Burkhead and is equally difficult to bring down.
Many eyes will be on Hyannis in a few weeks when they dive head first into the 6-Man world. Ferguson said this year's team certainly has the speed to play that wide open style of 6-Man ball, but also added they will need to have players who quickly learn the roles necessary to compete in this quick paced game. It is always interesting to hear what others say about a player like Ferguson. Now I've listened closely to comments from coaches whose teams have played Hyannis, and heard phrases like "You need yards, he'll find a way to get them", or "If he gets in the open space, it's almost impossible to bring him down one on one", and "I swear the kid is just like the energizer bunny and just keeps going and going and going". The thing I have seen in this young man is that he has great vision and is absolutely confident he is going to gain positive yards every time he touches the ball. I did a piece last season on the Nation's leading rusher, Zach Barket of Schuykill, Pa. and he had the same mindset, "I will gain yards each and every play". Oh, and one other thing stands out in my mind....although he never said it to me, I just know that Bryan Ferguson is thinking...."when the game is one the line, I want the ball".
You know something? I can't think of any coach in the State that would not want a player like number 31 from Hyannis. It also may not be too far reaching to think Mr. Ferguson just may have a shot at eclipsing the lofty Hyannis single season rushing record of 2,147 yards set by Jay Herman in 1988. Only difference between then and now......there will be no future Husker star blocking for him..........and knowing the way Bryan Ferguson runs and his love of the game, he may not need that luxury.