CIK Season Previews: Canton-Galva looks to carry on success in smaller 8-Man classification

Canton-Galva's Garrett Maltbie
Canton-Galva's Garrett Maltbie(Mike Courson)
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 4:21 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The east has dominated the 8-Man, Div. II ranks in recent years. Minus a 2019 run by Osborne, Hanover and Axtell have accounted for five of the last six state championships in the classification. This year, the title could move west a little as Canton-Galva moves down a classification. The west also gets a little more firepower as Hodgeman County and Kinsley move down from Div. I.

Canton-Galva has been a Div. I force over the past three seasons, starting with a perfect 13-0 run in 2019, then a 19-3 showing over the past two seasons. Senior Garret Maltbie returns as one of the top quarterbacks in all of 8-Man football, throwing for more than 2,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and just two interceptions last year. He also led the Eagles with nearly 800 yards on the ground.

Maltbie loses big-man Tyson Struber to Kansas State University. Struber caught 72 passes for nearly 1,500 yards last year. Senior Cason Mastre returns as Maltbie’s No. 2 receiver with 31 receptions for 630 yards in 2021.

But the Eagles still catch a break. Wheatland-Grinnell was undefeated headed into last year’s Div. II title game against Axtell. Wheatland coach Jesse Vincent has transferred to Canton-Galva in an administrative role, bringing with him his son, Jett Vincent. As a junior last season, Jett caught 67 passes for 1,341 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Jett Vincent transferred from state runner-up Wheatland-Grinnell to Canton-Galva in the offseason
Jett Vincent transferred from state runner-up Wheatland-Grinnell to Canton-Galva in the offseason(Everett J. Royer)

A little further east, Axtell will look to remain the team to beat. The Eagles were the only team to beat Wheatland-Grinnell last season, doing it to begin and end the season to finish at 13-0.

The smallest school in the Div. II ranks, Axtell could have opted for the 6-Man ranks in 2022 but will remain a viable threat in 8-Man. Senior Isaac Detweiler returns at quarterback after throwing for nearly 2,000 yards with 34 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Detweiler also paced the Eagles with 1,273 yards on the ground.

Isaac Detweiler returns to lead defending state champion Axtell (©Everett Royer,...
Isaac Detweiler returns to lead defending state champion Axtell (©Everett Royer, (Everett J. Royer)

Sophomores Brandon Schmelzle and Eli Broxterman accounted for 1,100 more yards on the ground in their freshman campaigns, and were also Detweiler’s favorite targets.

Wheatland was already in need of a rebuild after losing quarterback Trey Vincent, who threw for 2,442 yards and rushed for 505 yards. Isaac Mendez also graduated after leading the team with 1,671 rushing yards. With the loss of a coach and another significant player in Jett Vincent, the Thunderhawks will look to a largely new team for success in 2022.

Thunder Ridge was cruising along at 11-0 last year until a state semifinal loss to Axtell. The Longhorns lost just a few pieces to graduation and get most of their skill set back. Senior Dylan Bice was a dual threat under center with nearly 1,500 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground, and another 1,042 yards through the air. Seniors Dalton Bice and Jace Randall combined for another 1,000 yards on the ground. Bice and senior Kaleb Wagenblast return as two of 8-Man’s top defenders.

Victoria is never far from the top. Last season the Knights finished the season at 10-2, including a state semifinal loss to Wheatland-Grinnell. Victoria was ground-heavy in 2021 with nearly 3,400 rushing yards. Senior Carson Werth returns as the leader of that pack after running for 1,108 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Trego defeated Victoria 42-40 in Victoria on Friday, September 17, 2021. (Everett Royer,...
Trego defeated Victoria 42-40 in Victoria on Friday, September 17, 2021. (Everett Royer, (Everett J. Royer)

Longtime coach Doug Oberle does lose a pair of big runners in Grant Schoenrock and Nate Windholz, who combined for nearly 1,300 yards. Schoenrock was also part of the dual-quarterback system. Senior Thaddeus Wohler returns after throwing for 480 yards last fall. He gets some help up front from one of the classification’s best linemen in senior Tanis Brungardt.

After back-to-back one-win seasons, Dighton returned to powerhouse status in 2021 with a 9-2 showing. Senior quarterback Max Neeley had much to do with that after rushing for nearly 1,600 yards and 31 touchdowns, and throwing for 995 more yards and 15 scores. The Hornets take a hit with the graduation of Jace Coleman, who was a big threat on the ground to finish with nearly 1,200 yards of total offense.

Bucklin has been building toward a big finish. After winning just one game in 2017, the Red Aces have improved each year to an 8-2 showing in 2021, including a playoff win against Wallace County. Bucklin’s losses came against Dighton and Wheatland.

But the Red Aces do have some big shoes to fill. At quarterback, Nathan Bowman compiled nearly 2,000 yards of total offense and 32 touchdowns. Scott Price rushed for more than 1,000 yards and a team-high 17 touchdowns. In all, Bucklin loses 93 percent of its rushing yards from a year ago to graduation.

Hanover can never be fully counted out. The Wildcats finished last year at just 6-4, but all four losses came against quality opponents, including two against Axtell. Hanover lost its three biggest pieces on offense, all of which played under center.

Osborne is the last team from the west to win a Div. II title and the Bulldogs always seem to be in contention, especially as the largest school in the classification. The Bulldogs did lose speedster Mason Schurr.

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