How tall Parkview Baptist quarterback Reggie Hayes Jr. really is has been a point of debate over the years.
The senior has been listed as 5-foot-7. Some say he’s taller, and others think he’s shorter.
That cliché about the holes a football player runs through being wide and not tall held true Friday night as fourth-seeded Parkview beat top-seeded University High 41-28 in the Division II semifinals at U-High.
“I don’t remember much about the game,” Hayes said. “The one play I do remember was going into victory formation to run the clock out.”
Hayes ran for 168 yards on 24 carries with one touchdown. He also had 87 yards in kickoff returns to help the Eagles beat District 6-3A rival U-High for the first time since the schools became 3A rivals in 2013.
For good measure, Hayes caught a 22-yard pass from Trenton Kavanaugh out of punt formation that gave the Eagles the momentum-shifting first down on the opening drive of the second half. Hayes then scored on a 8-yard run to give PBS the lead for good.
“People like to talk about his size,” PBS offensive coordinator Scott Dietrich said. “But I’ll tell you what ... he’s lightning in a bottle. When the defense thinks they’ve got him contained, he makes a cut and ends up 20 or 30 yards downfield. The thing they don’t realize is how strong he is. He uses that strength to get extra yards.”
The teams met in the Division II final a year ago, and U-High won. The Cubs also won 29-21 earlier this year.
But with Hayes making the right moves, the fourth-seeded Eagles (9-3) kept their composure and advanced to play St. Thomas More in the Division II final at 5 p.m. next Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Eagles led 15-0 after one quarter, only to see U-High tie it at 21 by halftime.
Was Hayes worried? Not in the least. He also nixed the revenge factor and the fact that the Cubs had won the previous five games since 2013.
“No, it wasn’t about (revenge),” Hayes said. “It was about playing our best game. The coaches told us all week not to worry about winning or losing. What they wanted was the best effort on every play.”
Hayes credited his counterpart — 6-4, 250-pound U-High quarterback DJ White — for his performance. White finished with 344 yards of offense: 146 rushing and 198 passing.
As dominant as White was, the Cubs ran into a big problem in the second half. Parkview controlled the time of possession and, as a result, U-High had just 51 rushing yards and 20 passing yards in the second half.
PBS running back Nelson Smith, who ran for 159 yards on 18 carries with a TD, also garnered lots of praise from Hayes.
“He just kept his legs moving,” Hayes said. “We were determined.”
U-High coach Chad Mahaffey saw that determination, too.
“He’s a special player; we’ve seen it from him for three years,” Mahaffey said. “With him out there, I knew it would be a tough route for us.”
PBS coach Jay Mayet told his players he wanted to see their best game. Turnovers had stymied Parkview in its loss to U-High during the regular season.
Hayes and the Eagles kept on running, just like Mayet wanted them to. Next week, they’re in the running for a state title again.