Hoisington poised to climb CKL ranks in 2019
The Central Kansas League was home to two of the state’s top rushers in 2018. Pratt coach Jamie Cruce has moved on to Campus, and Greenback running back Travis Theis has graduated, but Hoisington’s Wyatt Pedigo is back for a senior season. That could result in a mix-up in the league standings in 2019.
“With how the state has gone to the six-team districts, league play for us has diminished with us being 2A and the rest of the league being mainly 3A,” said Hoisington coach Zach Baird. “We've been really fortunate to play in a tough league and we've also had a lot of success in our league which always prepared us for the playoffs, so it's something we definitely missed out on last year.
“Every year kids graduate and teams change but I like the fact that we open up with Pratt, Nickerson, and Larned - all three are programs that have been playoff teams in recently.”
Theis entered his senior season last year with 4,136 rushing yards a Class 4A, Div. II state title in 2016. He moved to quarterback in 2018, rushing for an additional 2,608 yards and 43 touchdowns. He kept defenses honest with 985 passing yards and 11 touchdowns against just one interception.
The result was a 12-1 season for the Greenbacks, who lost a controversial overtime battle to Sabetha in the Class 3A state championship game. Pratt opened last year by winning its first six games by a total tally of 260-16.
Obviously, losing a player like Theis means major changes in 2019. Not only is Theis gone, but running back Kadence Riner has also graduated after moving the ball 975 yards on 92 attempts last season. Caden Blankenship rushed for just shy of 300 yards in his final prep season. Out wide, Brett Winsor, Riner, and Blankenship accounted for virtually all of the team’s receiving yards.
That stout defense also took its licks to graduation. Theis led the team with 91 tackles and three interceptions, and Riner and Jaden Koehler combined for 145 tackles. Winsor paced the secondary with eight picks. All those players are gone.
Cruce said goodbye to Pratt after posting a 42-21 record in seven years.
Cardinal coach Zach Baird has found his Kryptonite in recent seasons. Hoisington went 7-4 in 2017 with losses to Pratt and Phillipsburg. Last season the Cards went 9-3 with a 34-0 season-opening loss to Pratt and two losses to Phillipsburg. Both of those teams suffered key losses to graduation and that leaves the door open for Baird to make big improvements on his 48-11 record in Hoisington.
Senior Wyatt Pedigo, a two-time wrestling state champion, crushed defenses last season to the effect of 2,101 yards and 29 touchdowns on 222 carries. Defensively, Pedigo led the Cards with 104 tackles.
“We'll lean heavily on this year’s senior class to lead us, one of those guys being Wyatt Pedigo. Wyatt will be a four-year starter for us and brings a lot to the table. He’s a kid that can do it all. With his combination of size and speed we can play him anywhere defensively. Offensively as a back he has great vision, speed, and power. Every time he touches it there is a chance of him scoring it.
“But I think the biggest thing he does for our team is he is our emotional leader and plays with great passion and that rubs off onto the rest of the team. Wyatt has worked extremely hard during the offseason, he's bigger, stronger, and faster than we was at this time last year, so I expect him to have his best year yet.”
Baird does have some shoes to fill. Derek Boxberger threw for 516 yards and rushed for 158 more. State-champion jumper Xavier Robinson rushed for 783 yards, led the team in receiving, and picked off three passes before taking his track talents to Fort Hays State University. Braxton Donovan added 550 rushing yards in Hoisington’s ground attack.
Mason Haxton enters his junior campaign with plenty of varsity experience after taking snaps behind Boxberger and rushing for 183 yards last fall. Junior Joshua Ball rushed for 411 yards on 85 carries in 2018, and junior Holt Hanzlick comes from a line of strong running backs.
The Cardinal defense flexed its muscles last year. Minus the three games against Pratt and Phillipsburg, Hoisington held opponents to just 11.7 points a night. Ball finished with 86 tackles last year, and senior Kameron Schneweis returns after recording 63 tackles up front. In all, Baird returns a healthy portion of his 2018 defense.
The Parker Roth era in Hesston is over. A perennial 1,000-yard rusher, Roth paced the Swathers last year with 1,190 yards on just 107 carries in eight games. The graduation of Roth and quarterback Cameron Cox will mean some big changes for Tyson Bauerle, in his third season at Hesston.
The Swathers opened last year at 2-0 before Roth missed in a loss against eventual league champion Pratt. Roth rushed for just 13 yards in a loss to Smoky Valley before putting up 503 yards in his next two games. Hesston fell to Smoky Valley 22-14 in a playoff rematch to end its season at 6-4.
Bauerle will have some firepower back in 2019. Cox is gone at quarterback after throwing for 985 yards and rushing for 631 more. Playing behind Cox, senior Jacob Eilert threw for 209 yards last season, and junior Brady Cox completed nine passes for 48 yards.
Senior Max Arnold split carries with Roth and Cameron Cox, still putting up nearly 300 yards on 57 attempts. Eilert ran the ball 45 times for 143 yards. Grady Toews and Blake Martin caught 50 balls for 626 yards last year as seniors. Juniors Ben Bollinger and Brady Cox return as the wideout threats with a combined 448 yards on 46 receptions in 2018.
The fastest running back in Kansas is no longer in Lindsborg. Tim Lambert has taken his record-setting track talents to Kansas State University. That will mean big changes for a Smoky Valley squad that opened last year with 10-straight wins and an overall record of 19-3 over the past two seasons.
Smoky Valley won a pair of 3A playoff games last fall before running into another CKL unbeaten in Pratt. The Greenbacks stomped the Vikings 46-0 en route to their overtime finish in the state championship game.
With so much speed, the Vikings were a run-first team in 2018. The three players responsible for most of that offense have graduated. Lambert carried the ball 226 times for 1,451 yards and nine scores. Cort Elliott added 1,152 yards and 12 touchdowns on his 213 attempts, and quarterback Lane Schrag rushed for nearly 800 yards to go along with his 355 passing yards.
Junior Jake Lucas saw very limited time out of the quarterback spot behind Shrag last year. Senior Raleigh Wilson was the only other Viking to break the century mark on the ground with 140 yards on 29 carries.
The defense was hit just as hard by graduation with seven of the top-eight tacklers gone. Senior Andrew Peters returns as the leader after recording 46 tackles and intercepting three passes in 2018.
After a 4-14 start in his first two years at Hillsboro, Devin Metzinger turned the Trojans around in 2018 with a 7-3 record. Metzinger will need to replace All-CKL honorable mention Jorge Hanschu at quarterback to keep that momentum rolling in 2019.
Hanschu proved to be a threat in the air on the ground last year. He rushed for 135 yards and threw for 126 more in a week-2 win against Lyons. Hanschu threw for 326 yards in a win over Sacred Heart, and threw for 140 yards in a win over Bluestem.
Also gone to graduation is running back Brooks Gardner, who ran the ball 12 times for 227 yards and three scores in that win over Bluestem. Wideout Darian Ratzlaff has graduated, as has Wes Shaw, one of the state’s all-time top shot put throwers.
That leaves senior Caleb Potucek as the lead returning. Out of the backfield, Potucek rushed for 69 yards and two scores in Hillsboro’s first win against Lyons last year. Sophomore Matthew Potucek could also be a threat out of the backfield in 2019.
Scott Grider posted a 31-6 record in his first three years at Halstead. After a losing 2017 season, the Dragons moved back to the winning side of things with a 5-4 record in 2018. With one of the top running backs in the CKL, Halstead is looking to use that momentum in 2019.
Senior Scott Grider was a workhorse out of the backfield last year with 1,434 yards and 21 touchdowns on 180 carries. He averaged eight yards a carry, hit the century mark in seven of Halstead’s nine games, and topped out with 303 yards and five touchdowns on just 16 attempts in a 50-22 win over Clay Center.
The offense was built around Grider. Quarterback Braden Gerber graduated after throwing just 45 passes for 201 yards last year. In all, the Dragons completed just 21 passes last season for 241 yards. Gerber was also a ground threat with 345 yards last fall, but Coach Grider does return another option in senior Brian Casey, who rushed for 308 yards in 2018.
The Grider boys return as the team’s leading tacklers: Scott with 101 tackles and junior Doug Grider with 97 tackles. Senior Aric Propst and junior Lakin Farmer return after splitting 156 tackles. Junior Kaden Lopez led the defense with 3.5 sacks.
John Wellman had a rude welcoming back to the 11-man game in his first year at Nickerson last year. After a successful run at Chase, Wellman had just a few returners on a team facing a brutal schedule. The result was a 2-7 record.
Wellman will again deal with some big losses in 2019. Quarterback Tanner Schrag and fullback Chandler Eaton have both graduated after leading the Panther ground attack. Hunter Jones, one of the best athletes in Kansas, will be participating as a decathlete for the Pitt State track team this year. All three players were big on both sides of the ball.
The Wildcats won two games in 2018 but those two victories came against Lyons and Rock Creek – teams that went a combined 0-18 last fall. With several skill players back in 2019, fourth-year coach Michael Hill may be ready to turn the corner on a 5-22 start with the program.
The Wildcats ran a run-first offense in 2018 with 1,239 rushing yards compared to just 336 yards in the air. Second-leading rusher Jacob Ediger has graduated, but Hill has back three of his top four runners. Junior quarterback Darby Roper accounted for 200 of those 336 passing yards in 2018, and also netted 383 yards on the ground to pace the Wildcats. Senior Mario Quintero added 199 yards on 42 attempts, and senior Wyatt Winter ran the ball 38 times for 158 yards.
Roper and Winter split 133 tackles last year to lead the defense. Quintero’s 35 tackles tied for third on the squad. Quintero picked off two passes as one of the team’s leaders last fall.
After some historical runs under AB Stokes, the Indians fell back into the CKL cellar a year ago with an 0-9 showing under Tad Remy. To be fair, Remy was dealing with a massive loss to graduation. He will have several skill players back in 2019.
Senior Mason Perez and junior Dillan split time at quarterback last year. Smith threw for more than 400 yards last year. His big strike was 11 interceptions against just one touchdown pass. Senior Andrew Lacobee could also see time under center. The athletic Perez could be used elsewhere in 2019. Senior Brock Skelton returns as an athletic wideout, and senior Chance Sanger joins him outside as one of the team’s top receivers from 2018.
The streak has to end sometime. The Lions enter the 2019 season riding a 29-game losing streak. Lyons last won in the final weeks of the 2015 season, securing a playoff spot before falling to Scott City 54-0 in round one of the Class 3A playoffs.
First things first, the Lions must find some offense. Throwing out a 55-21 loss to Sterling last season, the squad averaged just 4.4 points a night in its other eight games. Opponents, on the other hand, put up nearly 46 points a night.
Changes start at the top this year with James Johnston moving on as head coach. Johnston took over the program eight years ago with a career record of 155-87. His Lions posted a meager 11-53 record. Andy Gwennap, a former walk-on lineman at the University of Nebraska, takes over as new head coach.
Gwennap will have to replace quarterback Nick Duntz and former all-league wideout Chris Goans. Senior Ismael Reyes returns as a respectable threat out of the backfield, and Dawson Stover and Cade Crawford will battle it out for the quarterback spot.