Catch It Kansas continues to look at the top players in each position group entering the 2019 football season. While some players are standouts at multiple positions, the goal is to list a player just once. We continue our positional previews with a check on the top linebackers in Kansas.
1.Branden Martin, K.C. Piper – Last summer, former K.C. Piper head coach Chris Brindle, who became a Pirate assistant for ’18, believed Branden Martin could be a breakout player. As a freshman, Martin didn’t start, though was the team’s best linebacker by the end of the year. In just three games, he delivered 18 tackles, three for loss. In 2018, Martin, a sophomore, enjoyed a breakout performance with 159 tackles, 20 for loss, along with four sacks, two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. He is the only 4A first team all-state linebacker back. Piper finished 5-5 and allowed 26.4 points a contest.
2. Cade Lautt, St. James Academy – Lautt had 120 tackles and 10 tackles for loss as a junior. He is a North Carolina wrestling commit. His older brother, Clay, wrestles for the Tar Heels. SJA went 2-8, and Lautt led the team in both defensive categories. He had 66 more tackles than any else on the squad.
3. Mac Brand/Caden Parthemer, Andale – Brand, a senior and Parthemer, a junior, were both first team all-conference last season. Brand collected AVCTL IV Defensive MVP honors for the 11-1 Indians that led Class 3A with just 7.5 points allowed per game. Brand paced the Indians with 764 rushing yards and nine touchdowns at running back.
4. Jared Casey, Plainville – Casey is one of the state’s all-around best players. He has a Fort Hays offer and has interest from KU. Casey, like Hoisington’s Wyatt Pedigo, could easily be listed on both sides of the ball at RB/LB. Pedigo was listed on offense, and Casey on defense. Casey has 260 tackles, 22 for loss, eight interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in his career. Last year, he delivered 91 stops, 11 TFLs, three interceptions, six passes defended and four fumble recoveries. Casey is a four-year starter. In his three seasons, Plainville is 28-9 and has collectively allowed 14.5 points per contest. In the three years prior to Casey in high school, the Cardinals finished 11-17 and combined to allow 28.5 points per game.
5. Garron Champoux/Storm Slupianek, Marysville – Marysville was Class 3A runner-up two years ago and finished 8-3 last year. Champoux was third in Kansas with 144 tackles, trailing only Piper’s Martin and Parsons’ Joel Schibi, according to MaxPreps. Champoux had five tackles for loss, forced five fumbles and recovered four. Marysville permitted 16.6 points per game. Slupianek returns after 102 tackles and has started since his sophomore year. Marysville had a better scoring defense than its state runner-up team (16.6 to 18.2). Champoux was 3A first team all-state.
6. Malik Berry, Lawrence Free State – Berry is the state’s highest non-committed recruit. He will likely play quarterback for Free State and is listed as an outside linebacker by 247 Sports, a recruiting industry leader, and free safety by another recruiting service. Berry is ranked No. 13 in the state and stands 6-3, 218.
7. Tony Lunson, Olathe South – Lunson enjoyed a huge year when he had 137 tackles, fifth in Kansas last season. He had more double the tackles of his next closest teammate, and finished with an astounding 83 solo tackles. No one else on the team had more than 41 solos. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder helped Olathe South to a 5-5 record and 27.5 points allowed.
8. Jashon Taylor, Dodge City –Taylor paced Dodge City with 95 tackles and was second with seven TFLs. Taylor, Garden City lineman Refujio Chairez, and Topeka running back Ky Thomas are all four-year starters at a 6A school. Taylor is listed at 5-foot-8, 185 pounds. He started at middle linebacker last year and has 149 stops in the last two seasons.
9. Mason Thrash, McPherson – Thrash was first team all-conference for the Bullpups, which finished 11-1 and advanced to the 4A sub-state title game. McPherson permitted 10.5 points per game. Cody Stufflebean, athe Bullpups’ defensive end and Kansas State signee, said this summer that he believes defense will be the strength again for McPherson this year. Thrash has attended multiple high-profile combines, including the Top Prospect combine in Salina in late June. He led the squad with 62 tackles and had seven TFLs.
10. Will DeVader, Topeka Hayden – DeVader paced the Wildcats in tackles as a sophomore and is expected to move in a bigger role this year after the graduation of all-class lineman Daniel Hernandez. Hayden finished 7-3 and is 108-40 under coach Bill Arnold.
11. Dhimani Butler, Goddard – An all-Non Senior selection at linebacker by Sports in Kansas last season, Butler had a huge year with 106 tackles, 14 for loss. Goddard finished as state runner-up in Class 4A.
12. City League linebackers – Wichita West senior Jerimiah Brown was first team all-City League, while Wichita Northwest’s Jacob Younkman was second team as a sophomore. Wichita East senior Norman Massey also collected second team. Youkman helped Northwest to Class 5A runner-up finish to Aquinas. He had 53 tackles and was second on Grizzlies with 21.5 tackles for loss.
13. Iverson Bello, Chaparral – Bello was a first team unanimous Central Plains League selection as a junior. Bello delivered 115 tackles at outside linebacker. Chaparral went 7-3 and permitted 20.1 points a contest.
14. Isaac Hilt/Zane Cornejo, Wellington – Hill is a senior this fall and is coming off a first team all-league season. His teammate, Zane Cornejo, was second team all-league at linebacker. Also in their conference, Mulvane’s Trey Greer is back after second team all-conference. Wellington posted an 8-3 mark and allowed just 15.5 points per contest. Two years ago, Wellington went 5-5 and permitted 21.8 points per contest after an 0-9 mark three seasons ago.
15. Jack Wiens, Andover Central – Wiens, a senior, delivered 135 tackles, seventh-best in the classification. Trey Degarmo finished with 98 stops. They were 1-2 for the Jaguars on tackles, as AC’s top-three tacklers were all non-seniors. At rival Andover, Ashton Ngo had 88 tackles, 18 for loss and will be one of the stronger linebackers in the area.
16. Dawson Urwiller/Garrett Burns, Central Christian LBs – Urwiller paced Central Christian with 78 stops, while Burns delivered 76 as the Cougars finished 7-3. Central Christian has averaged more than 60 points a game in each of the last three years. Central Christian is well-known with their offensive skill players, notably quarterback Caleb Lambert, but the Cougars could improve off a defense that allowed 32 points a game. Urwiller is a junior, Burns a senior.
17. Chayde Snyder, South Central – SC has posted three straight 9-2 seasons and has finished in the top-six in eight-man scoring defense the last two years. The T-Wolves allowed just 13.3 points per game last year. Snyder was a first team all-state selection after 119 tackles, eight TFLs and three interceptions, along with 1,974 passing yards. In the last two seasons, Snyder had 179 tackles, 18 for loss. He will be a senior.
18. Cason Liebst, Medicine Lodge – Liebst collected 141 tackles, an average of 15.7 per game, best among returning eight-man players, according to MaxPreps. Among other returning eight-man players, Wichita Homeschool’s Luke Johnson had 128 tackles. Cobey Fiske for Solomon delivered 112 tackles. Rawlins County’s Cyrus Green, as a sophomore, finished with 124 stops. Cameron Campuzano from Rural Vista had 108 tackles as a sophomore. Frankfort’s Garrett Dalinghaus returns after a big season at running back and linebacker.
19. Brady Myers, Sterling – Myers is a back-to-back all-league player for at least one position for the Black Bears. Two seasons ago, he was a clear-cut first team all-league pick at linebacker. Last season, he again was first team all-league at linebacker/punter.
20. Jesse Whitmer, Russell – Whitmer enjoyed a standout freshman year with 79 tackles to lead the Broncos. He is expected to play middle linebacker and running back this season.
21. Connor Searcy, Tonganoxie – Searcy was hurt last year, though came back in the winter to capture a state wrestling championship. Searcy, a team captain, paced the team with 73 tackles, 16 for loss as a sophomore. He will be a senior.
22. Abe Siebenmorgen, Maur Hill – MH is well-known for returning all-state quarterback Jack Caudle, entering his fourth year as a starter. But Siebenmorgen was also first team all-state after 130 tackles. 19.5 for loss, four sacks, and a pair of fumble recoveries. Maur Hill finished 8-2 and permitted just 16 points per contest, No. 10 in 2A. Two years ago, the Ravens were 7-3 and allowed 23.8 points a game.