Derby, Salina Central reload in AVCTL-I
Derby, Hutchinson, and Maize in recent years. Before that it was Salina Central and Salina South. Somehow, the Ark Valley Chisolm Trail League manages to put out at least one state power. This season Derby looks to reload from an unbeaten 2018, and Salina Central looks to move closer to its former powerhouse status.
Brandon Clark has turned Derby into the state’s most dominant football powerhouse over the past five seasons. Clark is 117-36 in his 14 seasons with the Panthers. Derby has won three of the last four Class 6A state titles, and that one break was an overtime loss to Blue Valley North in 2016. In that stretch, Clark’s Panthers have churned out a 49-3 record with perfect 13-0 seasons in 2018 and 2016.
“Our kids and coaches do a great job of not focusing on state titles,” said Clark. “Since the first one we won back in 2013 our focus has not been winning state titles but instead, becoming the best versions of ourselves and having tons of fun. If we can do that we will put ourselves in position to make a run at the end of the season.”
Derby won last year’s title with just three offensive starters back from 2017. That bodes well for Clark, who must replace quarterback Hunter Igo, who threw for nearly 1,100 yards to go along with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Igo added 931 yards on the ground.
“We will miss Igo but I feel like we have two of the best quarterbacks in the state this year with Grant Adler and Lem Wash,” Clark said. “Both will be on the field most of the time.”
Adler started as a sophomore before going down to an injury. Igo stepped in and took the job permanently. The 6-3, 185-pound senior Adler returns to quarterback this season after completing 19 passes for 260 yards last fall. He threw seven touchdowns against just one pick. Junior Lem Wash will also take some snaps. Both Adler and Wash are proven runners. Adler carried the ball just 19 times for 269 yards last fall, and Wash added 349 yards and five touchdowns on his 44 attempts.
Clark gets back a tremendous weapon out of the backfield in Tre Washington. The 5-10, 195-pound senior rushed for 1,836 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. He averaged eight yards a touch and 141 yards a night. Junior Davin Simms (5-11, 165) is also back as the leading wideout from a year ago. Simms pulled down 24 receptions for 462 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018.
As good as the offense was in 2018, the defense was better. The Panthers blanked Salina Central and Hutchinson and held 10 of their 13 opponents to just seven points or fewer. The defense did take some lumps to graduation with first-team all-leaguers Isaac Keener, Jay Fisher, and Dax Benway moving on. Jackson Syring also had 47 tackles up front for the Panthers.
The Mustangs took a giant leap back towards greatness with a 7-3 record in 2018. Once one of the great 5A powers, the Mustangs posted back-to-back 0-9 records in 2016 and 2017. Last fall, under new head coach Mark Sandbo, the ‘Stangs fell only to powerhouses Derby, Maize, and Bishop Carroll – teams with a combined 31-5 record.
Central takes a big hit out of the backfield with the loss of Taylor Peters, who will play at Washburn this fall. Peters thrived in Sandbo’s offense last season to finish his senior season with 1,719 yards and 20 touchdowns. That put the standout wrestlers at 3,819 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns for his career. Peters was also a viable threat for Kavanagh last season with 347 receiving yards.
Sandbo gets back senior quarterback Jackson Kavanagh, son of former Kansas State quarterback Brian Kavanagh. Jackson opened the 2018 season by throwing for 223 yards and two scores against Goddard-Eisenhower. He threw for 146 yards and two more scores in a win against Hutchinson, then went for 214 yards and four TDs in a win against Hays.
Kavanagh has one of the state’s top targets this year in tight end Quinton Stewart. The 6-4, 230-pound senior has already committed to play football at Oklahoma State University next year.
The Caleb Grill Show is over, at least for Eagle football fans. Last year the 3-sport standout threw for more than 3,000 yards and led Maize to a 10-2 record. Those losses came against unbeaten Derby and then unbeaten Wichita Northwest in the 5A state semifinals. Grill’s Eagles went 9-2 in 2017.
Ninth-year coach Gary Guzman will have a lot of rebuilding to do on both sides of the ball. Protecting Grill, Nic DeVore, Jacob Quiggle, and Elijah Owings have all graduated. The secondary loses defensive backs Mark Neises and Tanner Ohnmeis, along with linebacker Carson Shively.
Many teams around the state would be happy with a 6-4 mark. Last fall, Campus made it through the regular season with an impressive 4-3 record considering losses to Maize, Salina Central, and Derby. Campus pounded Wichita South 57-7 to open the 6A playoffs, then ended its season with a 51-27 loss to then unbeaten Lawrence Free State. By comparison, the Colts won just eight games from 2012-16.
Now Jamie Cruce is looking to take the Colts even further. Cruce posted a 42-21 in his seven years at Pratt. His Greenbacks won the 4A, Div. II title in 2016, and missed the Class 3A title by inches in a controversial overtime loss to Sabetha last November.
Cruce has some work to do. Campus lost many of its skill players to graduation, including some Division I talent in former tight end and lineback Quinton Hicks. Evan Cruse is gone at quarterback, Cameron Harvey and Sam Wise are gone at running back, and Tyler Kahmann is gone at wideout. All were team leaders in their respective positions.
Junior Tayton Rico and senior Bryce Connell will compete for the quarterback spot in 2019. Slade has a stable of small Colts including seniors Andrew Farmer and Brylee Cotton, and sophomore Garrett Denning – all at 140 pounds or less. Senior Derek Sheler offers a little more size at 150 pounds.
Mike Vernon’s Homecoming was a little lackluster in 2018 but the coach is a proven winner. An assistant for Hutch’s title runs in 2008, 2009, and 2011, Vernon rebuilt Nickerson’s football program before returning to the Salthawk sideline last fall. Hutchinson’s 2-9 record was its first losing season in more than a decade.
With just 427 passing yards compared to 2,112 yards on the ground, it was no secret the Salthawks liked to run the ball in 2018. Vernon loses his top-three backs from a year ago in Patrick Grabener, Trevor Rhoades, and Darian Garrett, who accounted for nearly 1,400 yards and 16 of the team’s 22 rushing touchdowns. Rhoades completed 24 passes for 406 yards with six touchdowns and five picks.
Seniors TayZhan Crough and Bradyen Rogers return the backfield in 2019. Rogers rushed for 143 yards on 47 attempts last season, and Crough, one of the state’s best hurdlers, added 123 yards on 25 attempts. Rogers also caught five passes for 103 yards last season. Junior Jalen Barlow saw limited touches in 2018.
Even in winning seasons the Salthawk defense allowed points. Last season, Hutch have up at least 24 points in each game and seven of the nine opponents scored at least 40 points. Junior Jack Hawver returns as the team’s leading tackler and sacker. Crough and seniors Celdon Jones and Noah McIntyre also return as key defensive pieces.
Still looking to return to its powerhouse years, Salina South gained a little momentum in 2017 by tripling its 2016 win total to three. The Cougars backslid in 2018 with a 1-8 record. South has posted a meager 10-28 record since a 10-2 mark in 2014.
Sam Sellers’ offense went the way of the pass last fall and this year he returns junior quarterback Terran Galloway who completed better than half his pass attempts for 1,144 yards. His big strike was seven interceptions against six touchdowns thrown in 2018.
Galloway will have back his two favorite targets. Senior Ty Garrett caught 50 passes for 647 yards, and senior David Ollenberger finished with 185 yards on 13 receptions.
The Cougars amassed just 574 yards on the ground last season. Leading rusher Kyle Quill is gone to graduation, but sophomore Brandt Cox showed promise a year ago with 190 yards on 62 carries, and Galloway netted 137 yards on 109 attempts.
Other than a 35-13 win against Newton, the Cougar defense allowed at least 20 points in every game. Sellers loses his top five tacklers from a year ago to graduation.
After a 1-8 go in 2016, the Railers were looking to further the momentum from 2017’s 3-6 season. Instead, Newton posted the same 3-6 record against tough league competition in 2018.
Railer coach Chris Jaax, back for a fourth season in Newton, will have to replace quarterback Colton Davis. Six-foot-1 senior Josh Edson saw time at quarterback last year but also led the team in receiving. Senior Boone Roberson also returns at wideout.
Davis was also a viable threat on his feet. The Railers must replace those yards and someone will have to fill the shoes of running back Jamieson Jones. Sophomore Kenyon Forest had limited carries in 2018 and should get more attempts in 2019.