Prep Kickoff 2017: Class 2-1A State football notes

Mid-Continent League rivals Smith Center, Plainville head deep crowd of western contenders

CLASS 2-1A STATE NOTES

 

It will certainly be a different look at COLGAN (CNC) this year as legendary coach Chuck Smith no longer will be roaming the sidelines. The longtime coach retired at the end of last season, finishing his career as one of the winningest coaches in state history with a 343-75 record. The task of filling those monstrous shoes falls to Shawn Seematter, a Royal Valley graduated who spent several years as an assistant at Halstead. Seematter will look to put his own stamp on the program and inherits five returning starters on offense and three on defense, led by two-way standouts Max Wilson (RB/LB) and Sam Green (OL/DL). Wilson ran for 743 yards and 15 touchdowns and led the Panthers in tackles with 67.

With eight returning starters on offense, seven on defense and between 35-40 kids out, ELKHART (Hi-Plains) not only has experience but depth as well to try and improve on last year’s 6-4 mark. The Wildcats have a hole at quarterback after the graduation of Tyler Sklenar (1,900 total yards), but if sixth-year coach Chris Hattabaugh can fill the spot the Wildcats have some weapons in tailback Josh Salazar (618 yards in 6 games) and receiver Javier Gomez (688 yards, 5 TDs).

After playing for the 2014 Class 2-1A state title, ELL-SALINE (Heart of America) has posted back-to-back 3-6 seasons. The opportunity for a turnaround season it there for the Cardinals as veteran coach Terry King has his most experienced team since the runner-up squad. Line play will be a major strength with six players who started up front offensively back, led by two-way first-team all-league senior guard Avery Bradley. Junior quarterback Nick Davenport cut his teeth as a sophomore starter last year and King expects to open up the offense a little more this year, also helped by the return of senior receiver Zaide Korb who missed all of last year with a preseason injury after starting as a sophomore.

ELLIS (Mid-Continent) started 3-0 last season before suffering through a five-game losing skid to end the season 4-5. The Railroaders return three starters on offense, though two-time all-league back Joseph Eck and fellow starter Bryce Younger could change positions. Four starters are back on defense with depth and the secondary being strengths.

A young INMAN (Heart of America) team made strides last year in Lance Sawyer’s first year as coach, winning three of its last five games after an 0-4 start. The Teutons will still be young with Ethan Stubbs the lone senior among seven returning starters. Junior quarterback Payton Froese came within 100 yards of setting the program’s single-season passing record, throwing for 1,021 yards in just five games. Senior Taiten Winkel is a dangerous threat in the kicking game, making 3 of 5 field goals a year ago.

It was hardly a typical regular season for LACROSSE (Central Prairie) a year ago as the Leopards posted a sub-.500 record. But once the postseason hit, LaCrosse looked like its typical self, knocking off one-loss Meade in the first round before falling to Smith Center in the quarterfinals. The 5-6 mark was the worst in Jon Webster’s tenure and the Leopards will look to bounce back behind strong line play with three starters back on the offensive and defensive fronts, led by senior Kadin Trower. The entire linebacking corps must be replaced, as does the offensive backfield which lost the potent duo of Clayton Herdman and Jasey Woods. Many of the holes will be filled by sophomores.

MEADE (Hi-Plains) became a 2-1A powerhouse under the direction of Scott Moshier, who led the Buffaloes to a 107-19 mark over the last 11 seasons, including a pair of state titles. Moshier left in the offseason to take over at Wichita North, putting Justin Powell in charge of the program. The offseason was doubly tough with the death of sophomore Kincaid Meyers in an automobile accident. Graduation left a big hole at quarterback with the departure of two-time All-2-1A first-teamer Lawson Luetters, but the addition of transfer Tristan Haynes from Minneola will soften that blow considerably after he racked up 2,100-plus yards of total offense last year. He’ll work with two returning backs and behind two returning linemen with senior Caden Godfrey a three-year starter and the team’s leading tackler last year.

Breaking in a slew of new starters a year ago was a bit of a grind for MEDICINE LODGE (Central Plains), which went winless. The Indians lost a couple players to transfers and had two coaches also leave the program, but fifth-year coach Josh Ybarra hopes the challenges have given his team resolve. Six starters return each way, including the entire backfield led by seniors Garrett Randels and Tanner Wedel.

MOUNDRIDGE (Heart of America) made the playoffs in Jeremiah Meeks’ first year as head coach despite finishing the season just 3-7 overall. The Wildcats have a strong senior class with explosive athletes and Meeks expects receiver Noah Eichelberger to be a difference-maker this season. Eight starters are back overall, including four offensive linemen. The Wildcats suffered three of their losses last year by six points or less, including a 24-20 loss to district champion Sedgwick.

Three wins were also enough to get OSWEGO (Three Rivers) into the 2-1A postseason a year ago as the Indians finished runner-up to Colgan in district play thanks to victories over Uniontown and Yates Center. It was the program’s first playoff berth since 2009 and was a strong finish after an 0-4 start. The Indians were senior-heavy a year ago, but still return six starters each way. Senior lineman Jake Walker had 40 tackles and five sacks a year ago.

Even though PLAINVILLE (Mid-Continent) went just 3-6 in 2015, everyone expected big things from the Cardinals last year and they delivered. Riding a stellar offensive trio of quarterback Hayden Friend, tailback Riley Nyp and receiver Ryan Buresh, the Cardinals rolled to 38 points per game and an 11-2 mark, falling just short of the program’s first state title since 1985. Plainville led Troy in the fourth quarter of the title game before falling 28-24 and the only other loss came to 3A quarterfinalist Phillipsburg. That trio is gone so Plainville will have to break in a new cast of skill players, but line play will be a strength led by All-2-1A first-teamer Hayden Gillum.

REMINGTON (Heart of America) finished 2016 strong, winning two of its last three games after an 0-6 start. Second-year coach Ben Wertenberger hopes that momentum carries over and the program built interest, actually improving numbers as the season went along a year ago. Five starters return with senior lineman Grant Janzen an all-league selection last year and one of three returners up front.

Not only did REPUBLIC COUNTY (North Central Activities) get into the playoffs, the Buffaloes pulled a first-round upset of Sedgwick, taking a 24-21 win before losing to eventual champion Plainville. Graduation claimed not only All-2-1A lineman Mikel Cottenmyre, but the rest of the starting offensive line leaving plenty of questions about who will open holes for returning all-league back Nick Allsman, who will shift to quarterback and run a new offense.

A familiar face is back in charge at SEDGWICK (Heart of America) as Jeff Werner returns as coach following a one-year hiatus. In his first 10-year stint, the Cardinals went 75-28 and boasted some high-powered offensive attacks. That shouldn’t change this year as five of the skill spots return starters, led by first-team All-2-1A receiver Brayden Francis, who had 811 yards and 15 touchdowns last year and likely will own every school receiving record when he’s don. The biggest question mark will be on the line where four of five starters graduated. Sedgwick went 7-3 last year with five games decided by four points or less, including a 24-20 playoff lost to Republic County.

The season began and ended with losses to Plainville. In between, SMITH CENTER (Mid-Continent) ripped off nine straight wins after an 0-2 start (also lost to Phillipsburg) and reached the state semifinals. Though eight solid seniors have graduated, many are expecting the Redmen to be the team to beat in 2-1A this year and for good reason. Seven starters are back on offense and six return on defense. Senior lineman Dalton Kuhn was one of 2-1A’s best last year as a junior and is one of four back across the offensive front, though he’s the lone returner to the defensive front. Senior quarterback Colton Hutchinson was a first-team All-2-1A pick on defense and will carry the load early as the Redmen replace leading rusher Kaden Meitler.

Starting mostly underclassmen last year, SUBLETTE (Hi-Plains) slipped to an 0-9 record after going 2-7 in Matt Fox’s first year as head coach. The Larks will still be young with at least four sophomores expected to start. Junior Jaren Giesick moves in from receiver to quarterback to replace departed Jeremy Ornelas and Fox is hoping the experience they have at the rest of the positions will lay the groundwork for a turnaround season in which an improved offense is a must after the Larks managed just 48 points last year.

NOTE — The following schools did not return questionnaires: Oakley, Sacred Heart, Stanton County, Uniontown and Yates Center.

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