Class 1A to feature new look with big graduating class, 20 new teams
WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - With 20 schools moving up or down a classification, the Class 1A football ranks will have a different look in 2022. All four state semifinals from a year ago remain in the classification, as do many of the perennial powers including Smith Center, Plainville, and Conway Springs. Many of the top athletes in the classification, however, have graduated. That makes 1A pretty wide open in 2022.
“I’m glad that KSHSAA made changes that allow 1A to remain its own division,” said Smith Center coach Darren Sasse.
Olpe has been the team to beat over the last four years with a 46-2 record in that span, including perfect 12-0 runs and state titles in each of the past two seasons. The Eagles finally lose some big pieces to graduation, including quarterback Damon Redeker and running back Derek Hoelting. The defense, which allowed just 24 points last fall, also takes a hit but returns first-team all-stater Garrett Cole on the line.
Inman lost just the one game to Olpe last season and finished at 9-3 in 2020. The Teutons also have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of four-year quarterback Jace Doerksen, who set the school passing mark last year with more than 1,700 yards. Kendyn Blank is also gone after a first-team all-state performance at running back. Junior Tanner Heckel returns as a big impact player in the backfield, and seniors Eli and Harrison Brunk will make a pair of nice targets for the new quarterback.
Sedgwick was cruising along at 10-0 before a 26-21 loss to Inman in the state semifinals. The Cardinals were also hit hard by graduation with the loss of first-team all-state quarterback Lance Hoffsommer, and fellow first-teamer Ryan Stucky at wideout. Hoffsommer led all of Kansas last year with better than 3,000 passing yards before moving on to Emporia State.
Smith Center is rarely out of the mix late in the season. Last year the Redmen missed a spot in the semifinals after a 49-48 shootout against Sedgwick. Smith Center’s only other loss of the season came against Inman.
Like the rest of the classification, the Redmen took their lumps to graduation. Quarterback Nathan Jaeger put up 800 yards of total offense, and Jacob Kirchhoff rushed for nearly 900 yards. Colton Haresnape will be missed on the offensive line. Senior Bentley Montgomery and junior Luke Franklin return after splitting nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 28 of the team’s 52 rushing scores last year.
“Our 2022 team has worked hard and is ready to get the season started,” Sasse said. “We have good experience back and they are excited to make another run in the playoffs. Our schedule should toughen us up for that.”
Conway Springs finished last year at 8-3 with two losses coming against Inman and Sedgwick. The Cards lose quarterback Izic Billups, who put up 1,400 yards of total offense, but they do return junior Brayden Kunz, who should be one of the classification’s top running backs after compiling 1,120 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Plainville peaked with a 10-2 showing in 2019. Last season the Cards finished at 6-4 with all losses coming against teams that made deep playoff runs. Quarterback Ethan Hamilton and running back Anders Dewey have graduated, but Plainville returns size to the backfield via 205-pound senior Kyle Werner.
Staying in the Mid-Continent League, Oakley opened last year at 0-6 against a brutal schedule that included TMP, Plainville, Inman, and Smith Center. The Plainsmen won their next four games before falling to Inman in round two of the playoffs. Senior Will Schmidt threw for more than 800 yards and rushed for 255 more. Senior Landyn Plummer and sophomore Carter Krier combined for 400 more rushing yards, and senior Brayden Cunningham returns after leading the team in receiving last year.
Of the 17 schools moving from Class 2A to 1A, only eight made the 2A playoffs in 2021. None of those teams made it past the first round. Hutchinson Trinity managed a 4-5 record despite a tough schedule. Junior Eric Armour returns at quarterback, and senior Caleb Sanger is a quality running back. Marion moved from 2-7 in 2020 to 5-4 last year. Junior Jack Lanning returns at quarterback.
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