2019 CIK Season Preview: Specialists to Watch

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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. Our final positional breakdown is of the specialists group--the top kickers, punters, returners, athletes to watch in Kansas.

1. Taybor Vetter, Wamego – Perhaps the state’s most exciting player, Wamego’s Taybor Vetter and his teammate, transfer running back Isiah Childs (Akron commit), could put plenty of highlights and big numbers for the Red Raiders. Two years ago, Vetter delivered 23.4 yards per kick return and 32 yards per punt return. He set a school record with a 99-yard punt return. Vetter is a two-time all-state returner. He has posted a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and has a Bethel College offer. His Hudl tape is worth the watch.

2. David Kemp, Andover – One of the country’s best kickers, Kemp enjoyed a superb sophomore season with 18 of 19 on extra points and 13 of 21 on field goals with a long of 54 yards, three off the all-time state record for longest made field goal, according to Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. Andover went 3-6 in 5A, though could definitely be a breakout team this fall with quarterback Eli Fahnestock, running back Peyton Henry, 82 percent of its receptions and its top-four tacklers returning. Kemp paced Kansas in field goals made in 2018, according to MaxPreps. He was a MaxPreps Freshman All-American after he went 7 of 11 on field goals with 48 touchbacks. Kemp has earned interest from many Power 5 schools.

3. Will Huggins, Shawnee Mission South – Huggins has committed to KU to play tight end and also made a 50-yard field goal in 2018. He averaged 37.5 per punt, one of the state’s leading marks. The 6-foot-6, 234-pound Huggins is ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the state by 247 Sports. He delivered 515 yards and six scores. Huggins was 11 of 12 on extra points and 3 of 4 on field goals.

4. Dominik Stadlman, Blue Valley Southwest – Among the state’s best kickers/punters – and the nation’s top punters –Stadlman has learned the craft from his step-uncle Mike Scifres, a longtime San Diego Chargers punter. Stadlman has converted 11 of 13 field goals and 45 of 51 extra points in his career. Last season, he delivered 39 punts for a 32.9 average. He had a 64-yard punt and made field goals from 40 and 53 yards, the latter a school record. Overall, he missed just three kicks last year, including 7 of 8 on field goals. He holds a priority walk-on offer from Nebraska.

5. Dasan McCullough, Blue Valley North – A 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomore, McCullough is the son of Kansas City Chiefs’ running backs coach Deland McCullough, a former NFL player with the Cincinnati Bengals and the subject of a well-known, award-winning ESPN story in 2018. Dasan is ranked as the state’s top recruit for the Class of 2022 by 247 Sports. McCullough is listed an Athlete by 247 and already has many Division I Power 5 offers, including Georgia, Nebraska, Penn State, USC and Utah. Western Illinois offered before McCullough even played a collegiate game. His father and older brother played at Miami Ohio. He had limited high school statistics as a freshman. McCullough will likely play defense for BVN, the defending Class 6A runner-up to Derby, though could see time in multiple roles as BVN graduated the majority of its key skill players.

6. Aric Propst, Halstead – In the last two years, Propst has delivered 757 kick return yards with two kick return touchdowns, both coming as a sophomore. Propst is also a strong defensive player with 79 tackles, along with 4.5 for loss.

7. Calvin Stapp, Colby – One of the state’s most versatile players, Stapp earned at least some recognition in all three phases on the GWAC all-league team. Stapp helped Colby finish 8-2. A senior this year, Stapp relishes playing in all three phases. He had 968 rushing yards, 8.9 yards per carry and 17 rushing scores, 20 catches for 293 yards and three TDs, 29 tackles and 245 return yards. Stapp recorded 54 percent of Colby’s total return yards. He returned a punt for a score.

8. Landon White/Wichita Southeast; Carson Arndt, Wichita Northwest – White, a senior at Southeast, was the first team all-City League kicker last year. Arndt stayed busy for the state’s offense in his sophomore season and was honorable mention all-City League. He converted 86 of 92 extra point attempts and kicked three field goals, including a famous game-winner to defeat Bishop Carroll, 23-22, in the season opener last year. Northwest quarterback Reagan Jones was listed high among the state’s top signal callers and is a great punter, too. He was 9 of 9 on extra points and averaged 37 yards a punt with 10 inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. White and Jones both were honorable mention all-league as punters, and Jones earned honorable mention kicker, too.

9. Other top City League/AVCTL I specialists – The City League returns several top specialists, all whom were honorable mention all-league: Wichita Heights sophomore kicker Kaden Claassen, Kapaun senior kicker J.D. Mash, and Bishop Carroll senior returner Dalton Nichols. In AVCTL I, Campus junior punter Rico Tate earned first team all-league.

10. Graham Stephens, Little River- Stephens, Little River’s standout quarterback, has enjoyed back-to-back stellar punting seasons. Last fall, he had 12 punts for 477 yards (39.8 yards per punt) with a long of 51 yards. Seven of kicks stopped inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. He delivered 34 touchbacks on 45 kicks. Stephen accounted for 1,273 total yards. He has 179 career tackles. As a freshman, Stephens punted just three times but collected 48.3 yards per punt.

11. Carter Morrow, Goddard – Another strong returning player for Goddard, Morrow delivered 36.3 yards per punt and easily led the state in total punting yards (2,143). He had a long of 68 yards and delivered 17 inside the 20-yard line. Goddard went 10-3 and finished as Class 4A runner-up and is another favorite this year. Senior Kaeden Hoefer and junior Dalton Caraway had 209 and 137 total receiving yards and finished first and third, respectively, for the Lions.

12. Matt Pauly, Garden Plain – Pauly, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior, was a key returner on both kicks and punts for the Owls last season. Pauly, GP’s leading receiver, was all-league second team and honorable mention all-state wide receiver/returner.

13. Connor Tillman, Sedgwick – Tillman was a reliable specialist as a freshman for high-flying Sedgwick. He made 48 of 52 extra points and 5 of 10 field goals. Tillman is expected to handle both kicking and punting duties this year. Tillman helped Sedgwick post an 8-2 mark and average 40.6 points per contest.

14. Jace Wilson, Oswego – Oswego posted a 6-3 mark and averaged 36.9 points per contest with first-year coach Matt Fowler and his single wing offense. Fowler had great success at Spearville, including a state title. Oswego received all of its passing yards and nearly all of its rushing yards from non-seniors last season. Wilson led the way with 164 passing yards, 1,440 rushing yards and 21 scores, 242 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, 112 tackles and 386 return yards. Wilson had 76 percent of the team’s return yards and returned a pair of kickoffs for scores in 2018. As a sophomore, he was the Three Rivers League Special Teams Player of the Year with four return scores.

15. Jayce Hamel/Dalen Journigan, Hill City – Like Oswego, Hill City (5-4) could make a big leap in Eight-Man, Division I. Senior Jayce Hamel recorded 273 return yards, and senior Dalen Journigan collected 269. Hamel had 266 kick return yards, while Journigan had 168 punt return yards. Both players had a kickoff return for a score. Hamel is one of the stronger eight-man kickers with 15 of 19 extra points and kicked a 20-yard field goal. In the last two years, Journigan had 639 return yards with a pair of kick return touchdowns.

16. Eli Harris, Southeast of Saline – As a sophomore, Harris delivered 35.1 yards per punt as the Trojans moved from 4-5 to 8-2 last year. He was in the top-20 in total punting yards. Harris had a solid freshman year punting with nine attempts for a 33.7 average.