Little big man: Diminutive freshman QB Cade Ross coming up huge for Jefferson West in 2-0 start

Though just 5-foot-2, 96 pounds, Ross sets Tigers’ passing record with 340 yards, 5 touchdowns in rout of Riverside

MERIDEN — As is the case with most of his high school football coaching colleagues, Jefferson West coach Steve Johnson was a bit apprehensive at first about the thought of turning his offense over to a freshman starting quarterback.

 

In a rugged Big Seven League, such a decision likens throwing a lamb to the wolves — particularly when you consider that the candidate, freshman Cade Ross, is remarkably close to the size of a lamb. There are small guys dotting rosters all across the state, but maybe none playing a prominent role who are smaller than Ross, who stands just 5-foot-2 and weighs 96 pounds. And that’s probably with pads on.

“You look at him physically and you don’t think you can make that decision to make him the QB,” Johnson said. “He looks like a seventh-grader.”

Looks can be deceiving, however. Despite his diminutive stature, Ross already has come up big for the Tigers this season. After a mixed-bag start in West’s season-opening 7-6 win over Chapman, Ross tore up Riverside last week as West rolled to a 36-12 victory. In the game, Ross completed 27 of 42 passes for 340 yards and five touchdowns, breaking the school record for single-game yardage. The old mark was 330 set by former Tiger standout Ian Mullins.

“It was exciting,” Ross said of his record-setting night. “My goal is just to win, not so much breaking records.”

What Ross lacks in size he makes up for in instincts and knowledge of the spread offense West installed this year. The son of former Lindenwood University coach Pat Ross, Cade has spent his entire life around football and learning the nuances of playing quarterback. He started in second grade and played on highly competitive youth league teams in the St. Louis area before moving to Meriden this year.

Ross coached current Jefferson West assistant coach Jake Farrant in college and the connections remained strong after Farrant was done playing and that relationship carried over to Johnson as well when Farrant joined his staff at West. When Ross approached Johnson about the possibility of becoming an assistant coach this year after being let go as Lindenwood’s coach after last season, the decision was a no-brainer.

The decision to make Cade the starting quarterback this season, however, took some mulling. West spent last season with a freshman starting at quarterback and though Quinn Neuenswander performed admirably with 441 yards passing and eight touchdowns, Johnson wasn’t sure if he was rdady to make that move again.

But having known the Rosses and seen Cade’s ability throughout the past several years, he felt confident in moving Neuenswander to receiver and handing Ross the offense.

“I really had to sit down and took all the evaluation stuff we did and put it on paper,” Johnson said. “He gets rid of it fast and knows his reads so well. In two games nobody’s touched him yet; he gets rid of it that fast.

“I always knew he was pretty good, but I didn’t know to what extreme. He’s always been around the game with his dad, so he knows that game extremely well. He’s been running that offense since the third grade and he’s able to make really quick decisions.”

Ross knows he had and will get strange looks from opposing teams and fans when he runs onto the field to line up at quarterback. But he doesn’t let perception both him in the least as it’s something he’s dealt with his entire playing career.

“I’ll grow at some point and until I do, I’ll just keep trying my hardest to prove myself,” Ross said. “I’ve learned a lot being around my dad and his players.”

The tests will get tougher for Ross and the Tigers, starting this week with a league clash against 2-0 Sabetha. The following week, it’s Class 3A No. 1 Nemaha Central and West’s district to finish the year is the toughest in Class 4A Division II.

But so far, nobody at West can argue with the results. After going 1-8 last year, West is 2-0 heading into Friday’s game with Sabetha.

FOOTBALL

— Madison’s Nasun Wasson scored seven touchdowns — three rushing, two receiving and two on interception returns in the Bulldogs’ 62-14 win over Lebo. Wasson finished with four interceptions, 8 tackles and 179 total yards.

— Treyse King ran for 214 yards and two touchdowns as Council Grove rolled past Northern Heights 32-12.

— Axtell won twice in four days, rolling past Valley Falls 74-24 on Friday and thumping Southern Cloud 70-20 on Monday. Quinn Buessing threw for 228 yards and five touchdowns against Valley Falls and followed with 138 yards and three touchdowns passing against Southern Cloud. Michael Swanson ran for 159 yards and three scores against Southern Cloud.

— Burlingame’s Colton Noonan returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the Bearcats’ 60-8 rout of Hartford and also ran for 130 yards and two scores.

— Sabetha’s defense blanked Holton 21-0 as Gabe Garber had 16 tackles, including eight solo stops.

— Rock Creek beat Rossville for the first time since 2008 as Taybor Vetter ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 93 yards and two more scores on just two pass attempts.

— Clay Center snuck past NCKL rival Concordia 28-26 as Peyton Lane completed 4 of 9 passes for 110 yards and a score and also had 22 total tackles, including five solos.

— Osage City quarterback Tucker Kimball racked up nearly 300 yards of total offense in a little more than a half in a 59-6 blowout of Chase County, throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He also had an interception on defense.

— Chapman edged Southeast-Saline 28-20 as Malik Watson ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns and Dalton Harvey added 126 yards on the ground.

— Nemaha Central’s Mitchell Henry threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 139 yards and three scores as the Thunder rolled past Royal Valley 55-14. He also had 10 tackles.

— Atchison ran all over KC Sumner as Taye Helms rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns and Sercy Duncan added 139 yards and three touchdowns, also catching a touchdown pass.

— Ottawa got 143 yards and four touchdowns passing from Kaleb Shaffer to beat Wamego 28-13. Devion Bethea added 145 yards rushing and caught a TD pass.

— Emporia’s Gabe Galindo ran for 174 yards in a 20-13 loss to Hayden.

— In a 50-45 shootout loss to Anderson County, West Franklin tailback Brayden Singer ran for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

CROSS COUNTRY

— A pair of area freshmen made a pretty strong statement in the girls’ Class 4A race at Saturday’s Wamego Invitational. Chapman freshman Taylor Briggs and Baldwin freshman Ambrynn Stewart finished 1-2 in the race with Briggs winning in 19 minutes, 36.5 seconds — 40 seconds ahead of Stewart. Baldwin’s girls took the team title by 40 points over Scott City.

— In the boys’ 3-2-1A race at Wamego, Frankfort’s Brodric Shirley ran away with the title, finishing in 16:56.5. Seabury’s Henry Nelson, who dominated last week’s Hayden Invitational, was second in 17:10.2.

— Hiawatha swept both the team and individual titles at the Holton Invitational. Junior standout Elizabeth Kettler won the girls individual title by a minute and a half in 21:10.97 while freshman Justin Hodge won his second straight race to start his career in 18:11.78.

— West Franklin’s Molly Rossman captured the girls’ title at the Lyndon Invitational, winning in 23:08.20. Lyndon’s girls won the team title.

VOLLEYBALL

— Nemaha Central went 6-0 to win the title at its home tournament, beating Atchison 25-16, 25-22 in the championship match. Laura Macke led the way for the Thunder with 53 kills, 10 aces and 40 digs after earlier in the week committing to Kansas State for basketball.

— Valley Falls captured the title at the Lyndon Invitational, downing Burlingame 25-17, 25-7 in the title match. Reagan Kirkwood had 30 kills, 11 aces, 58 digs and 4 blocks for the Dragons, who are undefeated in Northeast Kansas League play as well.

— Led by sophomore Holly Brockmeier, Rural Vista captured the title at the Centre Invitational with a 25-19, 25-27, 25-16 win over Marion in the title match. Brockmeier had 48 kills and 8 aces, finishing with a .400 hitting percentage which included 14 kills on 18 attempts in the semifinal win over Herington. Rural Vista improved to 11-0 with the title.

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