Bob Lutz: Silver Lake’s Kruger does the improbable
There’s a Kruger, it seems, on every street corner in Silver Lake, where being a Kruger is gold.
It started with Lon, who was a standout in sports and went on to become one of the best guards in Kansas State basketball history and a successful Division I coach. He’s a legendary Kruger, but he’s not the only one.
Dailin Kruger, welcome to the land of legends. Lon’s nephew — Dailin’s father, David, is Lon’s brother — passed for five touchdowns and rushed for three in Silver Lake’s incredible 82-38 win over Beloit last weekend in the Class 3A championship game in Hutchinson.
Dailin Kruger passed for 317 yards and rushed for 92 on a bum left leg that will require surgery for a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his knee next week. He suffered the injury in the second game of the season against Neodesha, played two more weeks before learning the severity of the injury, then returned with the aid of a knee brace after missing just one game and part of another.
“I’m not really sure how I was able to continue playing,” Kruger said. “The doctor told us that there was a possibility that if I kept going out there I could hurt it worse. My dad looked at me and said that if I wanted to try it, go ahead. It’s my last season here at Silver Lake playing football.”
The decision was easy.
And most of the time, Kruger didn’t even think about his injury. It didn’t bother him unless he made a sharp cut. So he stopped making sharp cuts.
“When we found out he had torn his ACL, it was pretty shocking for him and for me,” said veteran Silver Lake coach C.J. Hamilton, who just concluded his 39th season. “But he was clear about what he wanted to do. He came into my office and told me that once he got the brace he was going to be back out there playing.”
Playing is one thing. Accounting for eight touchdowns in a state championship game is just silly. It’s never been done, of course, and it will never be done again. Of course. Bet on it.
Beloit was undefeated going into the game — 13-0. But the Trojans never knew what hit them.
Silver Lake, which won its eighth state championship, jumped ahead 41-22 at halftime and Kruger didn’t slow down. He and his 5-foot-9, 160-pound body were all over the field.
“It was an unreal feeling to be in that game and scoring so many points,” Kruger said. “Everyone was just playing really well together. All the gears were turning with each other. It didn’t seem like anything could go wrong. I don’t think any of us were expecting to score that many points. The offensive line was just awesome. I can’t complain about any of them.”
Dailin is the seventh Kruger that Hamilton has coached at Silver Lake, he said. More are on the way; Dailin has two younger brothers although one of them, sixth-grader Kaidon, doesn’t play any sport.
“He’s not really interested in sports,” Dailin said.
Dailin Kruger is also a center fielder in baseball and would like to play either football or baseball in college. He’s not sure he’ll recuperate from his knee injury in time to play baseball this season at Silver Lake, though.
“I was going to get back to playing basketball my senior year, too, but I won’t be able to do that now,” Kruger said. “I haven’t played basketball since I was a freshman and I kind of missed it.”
If you didn’t know better, you’d swear Kruger’s left knee is as good as new. He said he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash before the football season started, at the beginning of the summer. And just last Monday he ran another 40, this time with a time of 4.6.
It must have seemed like Kruger was running 3.6 40s to the Beloit players last week.
“We were just hoping to survive in that game,” Hamilton said. “But things just feel into place. If Beloit had a weakness, it was probably that they hadn’t seen a passing game like ours. We do some different things. We use a lot of shifting and motion to disguise our formations.”
Beloit was doomed from the start. Kruger and his offense were unstoppable.
Now it’s a matter of what happens after his knee heals.
Kruger wouldn’t mind playing baseball in college, but football is his first love. Don’t even try telling him that 5-9, 160 will hold him back.
“I try not to let anything hold me back,” Kruger said. “I’ve heard all my life that I’m not a very big kid.”
He’s a Kruger in Silver Lake. He scored eight touchdowns in a state championship game in which the Eagles scored 82 points. He’s living large.