25 Kansas area high school stars in Class 6A, 5A, and 4A you need to know

1 of 25

TANNER HETTENBACH, CHAPMAN, 6-2, 205 SENIOR LB/QB

A first-team All-North Central Kansas League pick at linebacker last year after making 65 tackles in just seven games, Hettenbach will take on a bigger role in the Irish offense this season. The multi-sport athlete will move into the starting quarterback job as Chapman looks to fill some big holes in its backfield.

2 of 25

ISAAC MCCULLOUGH, OTTAWA, 6-3, 205 SENIOR QB

After starting at quarterback for the Cyclones as a freshman and sophomore, McCullough missed all of last football season with a hip injury. He threw for 1,499 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for 455 yards and six scores as a sophomore. His future, however, is on the basketball court where’s he’s led Ottawa in scoring all three seasons.

3 of 25

HUNTER DEAN, JEFFERSON WEST, 6-0, 175 SENIOR QB/DB

Stepping into the starting quarterback job a year ago, Dean led the Tigers to the Class 4A Division II playoffs. The dual-threat finished with more than 1,600 yards of total offense and delivered in the Tigers’ biggest game of the regular season, rushing for 302 yards in a district upset of Royal Valley. He is West’s lone proven skill player.

4 of 25

DREW BONES, OTTAWA, 6-5, 275 SENIOR OL/DL

A three-sport starter for the Cyclones, Bones emerged as a rock for Ottawa’s offensive and defensive lines last year, earning first-team All-Frontier League honors on offense and second-team honors on defense. The MVP of the Illinois State O-line camp this summer, Bones has verbally committed to the Redbirds.

5 of 25

DANTE JACKSON, LAWRENCE, 5-7, 145 JUNIOR QB/DB

Jackson was a rare sophomore two-way starter for the Lions last year, earning honorable mention All-Sunflower League honors on defense. The son of Kansas strength coach Je’Ney Jackson, he’ll take his 4.5 40 speed and put it to use at quarterback this year after playing wide receiver a year ago.

6 of 25

PARKER O’NEAL, ABILENE, 6-1, 190 SENIOR LB/RB

O’Neal led the Cowboys with 110 tackles last year on his way to first-team All-North Central Kansas League honors. The two-year starter also ran from the fullback spot a year ago, gaining 210 yards and scoring three times, but will probably move to tailback this year and take on an even bigger role in the Cowboy offense.

7 of 25

TIM BELL, JUNCTION CITY, 5-11, 198 SENIOR LB/FB

Bell ranked fifth on the team in tackles last season with 41, 26 of those solo stops. He also picked off a team-high four passes and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns. He’ll be the leader of the linebacker corps this season and also will see time in the offensive backfield after getting limited action there a year ago.

8 of 25

SAWYER SLAYDEN, EMPORIA, 5-9, 165 JUNIOR FB

Slayden started every game last year as a sophomore, finishing the season with 532 yards rushing, 23 receiving and 206 in the return game. After splitting time with Nick Kirmer at fullback a year ago, Slayden will become the Spartans’ backfield workhorse this season.

9 of 25

SAM BURT, ABILENE, 6-5, 235 SENIOR OT/DE

A three-year starter for the Cowboys, Burt was an All-North Central Kansas League pick as a junior. He made 73 tackles and had four sacks last year and is drawing interest from Division I and II schools going into his senior season.

10 of 25

LEEROI JOHNSON, TONGANOXIE, 6-2, 240 JUNIOR OL/DE

Johnson developed into one of Tonganoxie’s top defensive players last year as a sophomore, leading the team with nine sacks among his 65 tackles, which ranked second for the Chieftains. He garnered second-team All-Kaw Valley League honors for his performance and this season will also start on the offensive line.

11 of 25

KADE WALLACE, CLAY CENTER, 5-10, 170 SENIOR QB

After missing his sophomore season, Wallace stepped in at quarterback last year and ran the Tigers’ flexbone offense efficiently. He finished with just 316 yards and seven touchdowns rushing, but directed a Tiger offense that averaged 225 yards on the ground. He also threw for 481 yards and four scores.

12 of 25

JUSTIN HOWARD, BALDWIN, 6-0, 205 SENIOR LB/FB

In three years as a starter for the Bulldogs, Howard has spent time at various positions. An All-Frontier League pick on the defensive line last year, making 62 tackles (42 solo), Howard will shift back to linebacker this year. A blocking fullback for a pair of 900-yard rushers last year, Howard will carry a bigger load in the Baldwin offense.

13 of 25

JOVON BALDWIN, JUNCTION CITY, 5-11, 190 SENIOR RB

Baldwin averaged of 14.2 yards for every touch a year ago. The speedy back who earned a Tulane offer over the summer led the Blue Jays in receiving with 607 yards on 38 catches out of the backfield. He’ll take over as the Jays’ feature back this year after rushing for 736 yards last year and also starting as a sophomore.

14 of 25

JAY DINEEN, FREE STATE, 6-2, 225 SENIOR LB/OG

The younger brother of former All-Stater and current Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen, Jay will follow in his family’s footsteps and play for KU in college — the fifth generation of his family to do so. Dineen formed a strong 1-2 linebacker punch with All-6A pick Sam Skwarlo a year ago, making 91 tackles.

15 of 25

JAKE HASTINGS, SANTA FE TRAIL, 6-3, 297 SENIOR OL/DL

Hastings has helped restore the physical style that was once a benchmark for the Chargers. A mauler who benches 355 and squats more than 500, Hastings is a two-time All-Pioneer League pick and was a first-team All-Class 4A Division II pick last year. MIAA schools have come calling and Hastings has drawn interest from Kansas.

16 of 25

IAN TRAPP, MANHATTAN, 6-3, 195 SENIOR QB

Trapp easily handled the jump to 6A from 3A last year after moving to Manhattan from Ellsworth. He immediately became the Indians’ best offensive player, rushing for 1,270 yards and 15 TDs and throwing for 825 yards and eight more scores. The strong arm is evident — he placed fourth in the 6A javelin at the State Outdoor.

17 of 25

IAN NORDELL, CONCORDIA, 6-4, 220 SENIOR LB/TE

Nordell led the North Central Kansas League with 21 tackles for loss last year and finished as the fifth-leading tackler overall with 90. He will become the quarterback of the defense this year and could be a bigger target in the passing game from his tight end slot. FCS schools South Dakota and Southeast Missouri have already offered.

18 of 25

ELDON PICOU, MANHATTAN, 6-3, 275 SENIOR OT

A three-year starter on the offensive line for the Indians, Picou has simply been Mr. Consistent for the program. A two-time All-Centennial League pick, Picou’s agility, footwork and leverage should be of no surprise — he’s a three-time state placer in wrestling as well, finishing runner-up at 285 at last year’s 6A state meet.

19 of 25

DYLAN AESCHLIMAN, HOLTON, 6-0, 180 JUNIOR LB/RB

Plugged into a starting linebacker role as a sophomore, Aeschliman did not disappoint. Serving as a complement to All-4A pick Mason Barta, Aeschliman ranked second on the Wildcats in tackles with 111, 63 of them solo stops. The junior will also figure into the backfield mix offensively.

20 of 25

DILLON BLAIN, WAMEGO, 6-3, 185 SENIOR QB/FS

Blain stepped into the quarterback job on a full-time basis last year and flourished, throwing for 1,666 yards and 17 touchdowns in leading the Red Raiders to the second round of the playoffs. His best sport might be basketball, where he averaged 21.5 points as a junior and is drawing Division I interest as a shooting guard.

21 of 25

DAI COYE HALEY, ATCHISON,k 6-2, 285 SENIOR DL/OL

A two-time first-team All-KCAL selection, Haley was a stalwart for the Redmen defensively. Haley got to the quarterback for 13 sacks and finished with 64 tackles. With Atchison having to fill some holes on the offensive line, Haley will be pushed into double duty this season. He’s drawing attention from Division I and II schools.

22 of 25

CHASE HOUK, FREE STATE, 6-0, 265 SENIOR OT

Carrying on Free State’s tradition of top-notch lineman, Houk was the Firebirds’ best up front a year ago and earned second-team All-Sunflower League honors. Strength is his biggest asset as Houk squats 555 and benches 265. He’ll be the anchor for an offense that will break in almost an entirely new cast of skill players.

23 of 25

BRANDON LENHERR, HOLTON, 6-3, 245 SENIOR OL/DL

It’s not a coincidence that Holton’s late-season surge last year came about the same time Lenherr returned from injury. Lenherr stabilized both Wildcat lines and keyed Holton’s run to the 4A Division II state championship game. He wound up with 18 tackles in just six games, but his presence is a key for Holton’s success.

24 of 25

ARYUS JONES, JUNCTION CITY, 6-3, 190 SENIOR DB

After leading the Blue Jays in interceptions in 2014, Jones saw his junior season cut short when he broke his leg in Week 8. His production before the injury (32 tackles, 2 interceptions) garnered him first-team All-Centennial League honors. Jones also recovered from his injury to go 22-0 in wrestling and capture the 160-pound 6A state title.

25 of 25

ADAM SMITH, ATCHISON, 5-10, 175 SENIOR QB/DB

Smith was the leader of the Atchison defense last year and his 104 tackles were 25 more than any other Redman. Smith also picked off four passes on his way to All-KCAL honors for the second straight year. A slotback on offense last year, he’ll move to quarterback this season to replace two-time KCAL MVP Wykeen Gill.

Description

The 2016 high school football season in Kansas is upon us. Here are 25 area stars from Class 6A, Class 5A and Class 4A to keep your eye on through the year.

The gallery is part of The Capital-Journal's 2016 prep football special section. View the digital publication of it here.

RELATED: 

25 city stars to watch

25 state stars to watch

25 area stars to watch in Class 3A, 2-1A, 8-Man

 

This Week's Circulars