Northwest losses mix up GWAL for 2019 season
Wichita Northwest, Bishop Carroll, Kapaun Mt. Carmel and Wichita West each had winning seasons last year. Throw in Wichita Heights, and the GWAL is one of the state’s toughest football leagues each year. Powerhouse Northwest lost some of the state’s top players to graduations, and that should make the league race more interesting in 2019.
The Grizzly offense did what it wanted last year: 724 total points, nearly 600 yards a game. The result was a 12-0 run all the way to the Class 5A state championship game in which Northwest fell to St. Thomas Aquinas 49-28.
Most teams would be happy to have one rusher with 1,000-plus yards in a season. Coach Steve Martin had three in 2018. Breece Hall, who ran for 2,127 yards and 29 touchdowns, has taken his talents to Iowa State. Roy Johnson added 1,233 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Obviously losing two backs the caliber of Hall and Johnson will hurt,” Martin said. “The plan always stays the same since 2014! We still will play fast and physical. We just might look different.”
So what does Martin have back offensively? Senior quarterback Reagan Jones threw together nearly 4,000 yards of total offense. He completed 118 of his 206 pass attempts for 2,414 yards with 31 touchdowns to just five interceptions. The dual threat finished second on the team with 1,393 rushing yards and 20 more scores.
Most of Jones’ favorite targets are gone. Kale Patterson led the team in receptions and yards, and Hall, Johnson, and Jamir Cupps also had big years. That leaves only Zion Jones to return in 2019. All he did in 2018 was catch 30 balls for 617 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.
The Grizzly defense did allow some yards last year as 10 of the 13 opponents scored at least 20 points and five opponents scored 30 or more points. The obvious loss is that of Marcus Hicks, who headed to Oklahoma after recording 84 tackles and seven sacks. Also gone is Josh Carter, who piled up 136 tackles last season, and Percelle Finch, who had 73 tackles.
“Losing Carter and Hicks will be felt in the locker room,” said Marin. “Two guys that just flat out worked in every aspect of the program. We feel we are faster on that side of the ball and the young kids have stepped up.
Senior Jamar Martin returns as a defensive leader after putting up 87 tackles and a pair of interceptions last year. Senior Malcolm Bell grabbed five interceptions to go with his 46 tackles last season.
“(On both offense and defense) we will lean on the development in our program with the focus on our freshmen and junior varsity teams throughout the past several years,” Martin said. “We have guys that have waited their turn, now it is time for them to produce!”
Most teams around Kansas would applaud a 8-3 season. For the Golden Eagles, it was a step down from a 12-1 showing in 2017. Then again, two of Carroll’s three losses came against Wichita Northwest – 23-22 thriller to open the year and an 84-67 track meet to end the season.
Expectations are always high at Bishop Carroll and they remain there in 2019 with seven offensive starters back. Junior quarterback Aiden Niedens earned an all-league honorable mention after throwing for 1,710 yards with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He should have plenty of protection with four offensive linemen back. Senior Ethan McMillan (6-3, 240) was a first-team all leaguer a year ago, and senior Matthew Bachman (5-11, 220) earned an honorable mention. They are joined by juniors Ben Purvis (6-0, 240) and Gabe Havlovic (6-4, 245).
Six-foot-three senior Max Bullinger is the other big returning skill player. Last season the tight end/wideout was second on the team with 542 yards and six touchdowns on 22 receptions.
That means some big pieces are gone. Jackson Nichols rushed for more than 1,300 yards last year as a senior. Mason Baalmann and Gunner Lynch split 76 receptions for nearly 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns.
Four defensive players return from last year’s team. Senior Justin Powell was a first-team all-league selection at defensive back, and senior Dalton Nichols earned a second-team nod in the secondary with three interceptions. Seniors Phoenix Smith and Joseph Korte return at defensive end where Smith earned an all-league honorable mention.
KAPAUN MT. CARMEL
After a two-win misstep in 2016, the Crusaders have strung together a 13-7 run over the past two seasons. Last year Kapaun had to replace a pair of talented backs. Scott Valentas filled in nicely with nearly 800 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. This year, long-time coach Dan Adelhardt must again replace a star running back.
Valentas was a workhorse in 2018, accounting for nearly one-third of the team’s rushing attempts and half of its yards gained on the ground. The Crusaders to get back senior Hunter Shonka, who ran the ball 65 times for 169 yards and two scores last fall.
Kapaun also loses quarterback Jack Hacking, who threw for 652 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Senior Jairus Kennedy split time with Hacking last year, throwing for 386 yards and six scores with just one interception. Kennedy also netted 207 yards on 59 carries in 2018.
No matter the quarterback, tight end Jacob Schmitz was a favorite target with 35 receptions for 589 yards and 10 of the team’s 15 touchdown receptions in his final prep season. Six-foot-one junior Tiger Jones returns as the biggest threat at wideout.
The Pioneers won they games they were supposed to last year to finish the season at 6-4 overall. Weston Schartz is 116-94 in his 22 seasons at West, and this year he hopes a mix of returners and youth will give him another winning season.
“Our sophomore class had an undefeated freshman season and many will step up to varsity football this year,” he said. “We should be competitive with everyone on the schedule and look to take another step in the playoffs.”
This year’s offense begins with the offensive line as four starters are back. Junior Jordan Dillon anchors the line at 280 pounds, and senior Isaiah Candy is not far behind at 6-3, 270. Seniors Kaleb Press and Mario Perez also return up front.
The rest of the offense was hit hard by graduation. Zion Parks threw for 622 yards last season, and Parks, Xavier Sellers, and TreVaunte’ Hunt rushed for more than 1,500 yards. All four wideouts with more than three catches last year have also graduated.
Sophomore Geremiah Moore and junior Cassius Williams could see time under center in 2019 or split time at wideout. Sophomore Jomarion Nelson returns to the backfield after picking up 175 yards on 22 carries last season.
Schartz’s defense is much better off in terms of returning experience with eight back from last year. Senior safety Jeremiah Brown recorded 66.5 tackles last season. Sophomore linebacker Quentin Sanders had a big freshman season with 58.5 tackles. Four more players had at least 30 tackles in 2018, including senior linebacker Rosh Norwood with 39.5.
In his first season as head coach, Dominick Dingle lost games to former WAC-foe Dodge City and a few games to new league foes Northwest, Kapaun, and Bishop Carroll. With one of the league’s top running backs returning in 2019, Dingle may improve upon last year’s 4-5 mark.
With more than 3,100 yards on the ground compared to just 338 in the air, the Falcons made no secret of their offensive strategy. Quarterback K’Vontae Baker provided some highlight plays on the way to leading the team with 1,354 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. He threw for another 243 yards and two scores. Also gone out of the backfield is Armaad Hubbard, who accounted for another 523 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
But the Falcons do get back junior Joshua Sanders. The 175-pounder ran the ball 117 times for 925 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. Juniors Jaylin Hanks and Dylan Depperschmidt, the other players to take snaps under center last fall, combined for 204 yards on 45 attempts last season.
The Falcon defense allowed 21 points or more in eight of the nine games last season. Dingle loses four of his top-five tacklers to graduation. At 223 pounds, senior tackle Caylen Lowery returns as one of the defensive leaders.
The Blue Aces have been on a slow climb to a winning season. Bill Coffman coached East to a 6-21 record in three seasons that ended with a 3-6 showing in 2017. Last season, Ene Akpan stepped in for his own 3-win season. Several Blue Aces return in 2019 to make the job a little easier.
Akpan gets back much of his offensive line in senior Nate Snyder and juniors Luke Clayton, and Juan Navarrete. They will look to clear a path for returning seniors Tavi Agnew and Norman Massey out of the backfield. Sophomore Jake Syder will likely move into the starting quarterback spot this fall. Out wide, seniors Amos Alfred and Kimathi NKanata-Gray and junior Kamarion Hart return.
Several Blue Ace defenders are also back this season. Agnew, Alfred, and seniors Eric Davis and Jalen Taylor will make up an experienced secondary. Massey joins senior Deriek Thomas both in the back field and in the middle of the defense. The front line will be bolstered by seniors Angel Antu and Isaiah Dicus-Sulzman and junior Breaden Barley.
A 3-6 record is not ideal but it was still a step up for Paul Lopez in his final year with the Titans. After losing nine straight, South won three straight to open 2018 at 3-1. Things went downhill after that as the Titans lost their final five games of the season, including a pair of big losses to Bishop Carroll and Campus.
The Titans made a change at the top following the season, with Russ Wells being named Head Coach.
South runs the ball and the Titans lose leading rusher Antwain Scales, who accounted for nearly half the team’s 1,900 ground yards and 13 of the team’s 20 rushing touchdowns in 2018. Payton Collins accounted for another 320 yards before graduating.
Wells does inherit the top-two quarterbacks from a year ago. Senior Jashun Grant threw for 513 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. The slightly larger junior Jonathan McManus completed three passes for 52 yards with a pair if interceptions.
With the graduations of Scales and Collins, Grant also returns as the team’s leading rusher. At 166 pounds, Grant netted 280 yards and four touchdowns on 52 carries last fall. Junior Jordan Huggins, listed at 175 pounds, ran the ball 35 times for 235 yards and two scores. Senior JoJo White could also get more touches in 2019.
The top-two Titan tacklers have graduated. Right behind them, cornerback Mike Shelton recorded 62 tackles last year. Senior linebacker Josiah Crocklin had 44 tackles last year, and junior Adam Shipp added 47 tackles.
The turnaround will come at some point. The Redskins entered last season riding a 21-game losing streak. Second-year coach Scott Moshier ended that with a 29-22 win over South in the season opener. The ‘Skins made it to 2-0 with a 13-6 over Liberal. The rest of the GWAL had its way with North but the two wins were the most in nearly a decade.
Success this season could follow senior running back Joe Williams III. As a junior, the 160-pounder averaged nearly seven yards a carry, finishing with 1,469 yards and nine touchdowns on 224 attempts. Williams also threw for 82 yards with a touchdown on 6-of-21 passing.
Missing this year is Tayton Jenkins, the other quarterback who threw for 469 yards and rushed for 258 more. Also gone is Chris Zaricki, who accounted for most of the team’s receiving yards.
The Redskin defense allowed just 28 points in the first two games of 2018. Things got away after that as offenses piled up nearly 50 points a night over the final seven games. Senior linebacker Silas Marcos Quintero returns as a leader, and 270-pound junior Bishop Britt brings returns to the defensive line.
The way to go is up for the Golden Buffaloes. Southeast has won just eight games over the last six seasons, and the Buffs have not won more than three games in a year since posting a 4-5 record in 2009. New head coach Taylor Counts returns a healthy group of starters and has his squad optimistic about 2019.
“We have gotten off to an awesome start this summer with consistent numbers at workouts every day,” Counts said. “We have several returning upperclassmen with impressive talents and leadership along with great numbers and talent in the lower classes. The dedication shown through all of the young men we have seen out this summer as well as the coaching staff has us excited to kick the season off and see what we can do.”
Leading the returners is senior quarterback Quintin Thomas (6-1, 190). He is joined in the backfield by senior Larry Cherry (6-0, 185), senior Knowledge McPherson (5-11, 170), and junior Fontaine Dixon (5-10, 200).
Up front, juniors Jacob Condit (5-11, 212) and Jakobi Livingston (6-0, 220) provide the protection. Juniors AJ King (5-8, 140) and Sahntaj Murphy (5-10, 150) lead the receivers.
Defense continues to be an issue for Southeast, which allowed some 50 points a game in 2017 and 38 points a night. The good news is the Buffs held four teams under 35 points last fall. Condit and Livingston again anchor the defense up front. Dixon returns at linebacker, and Cherry, King, Murphy, and McPherson complete the secondary.