Prep Kickoff 2017: Class 4A Division II State football notes

Wichita Collegiate lineman Mac Copeland. (Submitted)

CLASS 4A DIVISION II STATE NOTES

 

ANDERSON COUNTY (Pioneer) slipped to 2-7 after making the playoffs in 2015. The struggles came on both sides as the Bulldogs scored more than 20 points in a game just twice and allowed fewer than 20 just twice. The Bulldogs will still be young with four underclassmen starting on the offensive line and only two seniors expected to start on offense. Junior receiver Austin Adams was a bright spot as a sophomore catching 31 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns.

After winning just five games from 2011-2015, BAXTER SPRINGS (CNC) improved to 5-4 last year as third-year coach Tim Parrish saw a different mentality from his squad. With the program rejuvenated, Parrish hopes that success carries over to this season and with eight starters back on offense and 10 on defense, it should. The bulk of the returners are juniors and the big key will be rebuilding a backfield which lost three of the four backs who accounted for nearly 2,400 yards.

CLEARWATER (AVCTL IV) will lean on a large senior class to try and turn things around after going 3-6 last year. For the first time in Dirk Ankerholz’ nine years, he’s changing his defensive scheme in hopes of improving a unit which gave up nearly 30 points per game last year. A strong linebacker corps will be key to the new scheme and the biggest holes defensively are in the secondary where Bryce Wiens is the lone returning starter. The offense returns virtually in tact with nine starters back.

Rees McKinney takes over as head coach at COLBY (Great West Activities) and has a team which could be a surprise contender in 4A Division II this year. The Eagles have a standout playmaker in junior Jordan Schippers, who averaged 11.1 yards every time he touched the ball, finishing with 919 yards rushing and 784 receiving with a total of 27 touchdowns. He’s one of seven returning starters on offense and seven also return on defense from a team which went 5-5 a year ago.

Some might have expected COLUMBUS (CNC) to be in for a rebuilding season last year after graduating a stellar senior class which produced a state runner-up finish in 2014 and semifinal appearance in 2015. Instead, the Titans simply reloaded and were five points away from taking an undefeated record into the quarterfinals. A 21-20 loss to Frontenac denied the Titans a league title and 28-24 upset loss to Girard in the playoffs concluded a solid 8-2 season. The Titans expect bigger things in 2017 with seven starters back on offense and eight on defense and a senior class which could become the winningest class in school history. Senior lineman Sam Eddington anchors a strong unit up front which cleared the way for returning senior back Keenan Stanley to run for 1,307 yards and 16 touchdowns.

FRONTENAC (CNC) was seemingly on its way to the 4A II state semifinals, up 21-0 on Holton going into the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal showdown. Instead, the Wildcats mounted an improbable comeback and pulled out a 32-28 win which ended Frontenac’s bid for an undefeated season. The 10-1 campaign was still one of the best in school history and an undefeated league title. The Raiders will have to replace all but one offensive starter, losing All-4A II first-team quarterback Brandon Mlekus and lineman AJ Lusker, among others, but the defense returns six starters led by defensive end Broc Ginavan and senior linebacker Jordan Ishimura (70 tackles).

For the fourth time in five years, GOODLAND (Great West Activities) will have a new coach in charge as Chase Topliff replaces the departed Jeff Savage, who was 3-6 in his only year with the Cowboys. Topliff inherits a team with a large group of seniors who have started multiple years, including quarterback Levi Archer and honorable mention all-league lineman Blaine Sederstrom. Four of five linemen return overall on offense and eight starters are back on defense led by linebacker Lucas Wood.

A 5-4 season was so close to being much better for HUGOTON (Great West Activities), which saw two of its four losses come by three points, including a 31-28 district loss to eventual state champion Pratt. The Eagles have numerous holes to fill on offense with just two starters back, none bigger than at quarterback where Valentino Degollado had two straight seasons where he amassed more than 2,500 yards of total offense. There are far fewer question marks on the defensive side of the ball as seven starters return including four linebackers.

With Doug Kerr taking the job at Baldwin, IOLA (Pioneer) turns to first-year coach David Daugharthy to take over the program. The Mustangs were sub-.500 a year ago, but made the playoffs and finished 4-6. Six starters are back on offense and five are back on defense, including two-way seniors Cale Barnhart and Isaac Vink.

With only four players lost to graduation, KINGMAN (Central Kansas) fully expects to improve on last year’s 3-6 mark. While the losses are few in numbers, they’re not in production as back Payton Pickering, who led the Eagles in rushing for three years, is gone. Five players who saw time in the backfield do return and all five starting linemen are back led by second-team all-league senior Jack Govert. Injuries hampered the Eagles a year ago and if they can stay healthy this year a winning season should be in store.

Winless in 2013, NICKERSON (Central Kansas) has made steady steps in each of Mike Vernon’s first three years as head coach, going 1-8 in 2014, 4-6 in 2015 and then 6-4 last year. The upward trend very well could continue this year as the Panthers return a large group of starters who have been key contributors in each of the last two playoff seasons. Few backfields in 4A II have a better 1-2 punch than fullback Peyton Kuhns and quarterback Tanner Schrag, who combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in the Panthers’ flexbone offense. Schrag also threw for 847 yards and eight scores and could pass more this season. Nickerson was an overtime loss to Smoky Valley from earning its first postseason win in several years and the only other losses came to 4A II champion Pratt, 3A semifinalist Hoisington and 4A II quarterfinalist Wichita Collegiate.

There’s starting over with just a handful of returning starters and then the starting over OSAWATOMIE (Pioneer) will do this season. After going 2-8 and hanging with 4A II runner-up Hayden for a time in the playoff opener, the Trojans return zero starters and just one letterman. In all, fewer than 20 players are expected out after graduation claimed a 22-member senior class.

Starting six sophomores and two freshmen a year ago, it wasn’t a total shock that PARSONS (Southeast Kansas) went just 1-8 in Travis Hurley’s first year as coach. Looking to put his stamp on the program, Hurley looked toward the future and hopes the growing pains the Vikings endured in his debut season start to pay dividends this year. Sophomore DaQuan Johnson was one of the freshman starters this year and could become Parsons’ primary playmaker at either receiver or quarterback, while junior Patch Loadholtz is expected to be the defensive leader at linebacker.

Even as it kept racking up wins, PRATT (Central Kansas) still managed to fly under the radar as a serious title contender — until the Greenbacks went out and won the 4A II championship. A 32-14 mid-season loss to 3A semifinalist Hoisington was Pratt’s only hiccup in a 12-1 season and the Greenbacks showed the ability to win close games on their way to the title game before rolling Hayden 48-14 for the program’s first title since 1995. Graduation claimed a huge senior class including All-4A II first-teamers Hunter Kaufman and Traik Peltier, but All-4A II tailback Travis Theis is back and his presence is enough to make Pratt capable of defending its crown. As a sophomore last year, Theis emerged as one of the state’s best, rushing for 1,975 yards and 24 touchdowns, punctuated by 270 yards and 4 TDs in the title game. Quarterback Landon Studer (1,500 total yards) also returns, as do two linemen, but Theis (89 tackles) is the lone returning defensive starter.

Life after Glenn O’Neil went reasonably well for SCOTT CITY (Great West Activities) after the longtime coach left for Seaman a year ago. Jim Turner’s debut season as head coach produced a 7-3 mark in which two of the three losses came to Holcomb. The Beavers return a bulk of last year’s starters, though starting quarterback Bo Hess (1,330 yards) and All-4A II defensive back Justin Faurot leave fairly big holes to fill. Junior fullback Wyatt Hayes ran for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore starter and also led the team in tackles with 79.

Expectations were that SMOKY VALLEY (Central Kansas) would improve on 2015’s 2-7 mark, but not many saw the 8-3 season the Vikings enjoyed coming. After opening the season with a loss to Halstead, Smoky Valley won eight of its next nine games — the only loss in that span coming to 3A runner-up Hesston. An overtime win over Clay Center clinched the program’s first district title and an overtime win the following week secured the first playoff win in several years. Tailback Kyle Anderson had a breakout year, rushing for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns and is one of seven returning starters each way for the Vikings. The biggest holes are up front where four of five starting offensive linemen must be replaced and the defense lost standout Beck Elliott.

Runner-up in Class 3A in 2015, WICHITA COLLEGIATE (AVCTL IV) moved up to 4A Division II last year and handled the transition well, going 7-4. The Spartans have one of the top linemen in the state in senior Mac Copeland, who already has committed to Kansas and is a three-year starter both ways. They also have one of the top playmaking quarterbacks in Cody McNerney, who in his first year starting threw for 2,295 yards and 32 touchdowns and ran for 791 yards and five scores. Since 2008, Collegiate has won at least seven games in all but one season and has twice played in championship games, winning the 2009 3A state crown.

WICHITA TRINITY (Central Plains) sent one player to Kansas State (Ben Adler) and one to Kansas (Sam Schroeder) off last year’s team, but only managed a 3-6 record. Adler was an All-4A II first-teamer on the line while Schroeder led the Knights in tackles and rushing. Trinity is better equipped to fill those huge holes defensively with eight starters returning on that side of the ball. Offensively, just five starters return with the passing game a strength behind quarterback Sam Hardin and receivers Caden Williams and Hillard Cozine.

NOTE — The following schools did not return questionnaires: Girard, Holcomb, KC Ward and Prairie View.

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