Class 2A Preview. All game-by-game records and scoring offense/defense rankings from KPreps.com database and Conor Nicholl research. All roster numbers from MaxPreps, unless otherwise noted.
By CONOR NICHOLL
Many of Class 2A’s top teams have coaches who lead an alma mater. Other squads have a head coach who is from the area or has coached at nearby schools.
Silver Lake’s C.J. Hamilton, the state’s all-time winningest coach, and Hoisington’s Zach Baird, the reigning 2A Coach of the Year, are alums at his current school.
Rossville’s Derick Hammes had previous significant coaching stops at nearby Topeka Seaman and Washburn Rural. Nemaha Central coach Michael Glatczak starred at Centralia, just 11 miles away.
Norton’s Lucas Melvin is a Colby graduate and played at Fort Hays. Phillipsburg coach Kendall Fiscus’ dad, Tony, was Norton’s longtime defensive coordinator. Garden Plain’s Dan Adelhardt led Kapaun Mt. Carmel for more than a decade before he headed 26 miles west on US-400.
Haven co-coaches Drew Thaalman and Thomas Cooprider are from nearby Cheney and Haven, respectively. Shaun Craft was a longtime Marion assistant before he took over as head coach. Thomas More Prep-Marian’s Jay Harris’ roots are in Ness City, an hour away from TMP.
Kingman’s Tanner Hageman played at Fort Hays and now coaches 22 miles away from his hometown of Cheney.
Unlike those other 2A coaches, Brad Gober has taken a unique route to become Beloit’s head football coach. The journey first led to Augusta’s best season in the last 15 years and then a remarkably historic playoff run last fall for Beloit.
This year, the Trojans, paced by its experienced offensive line, looks for Beloit’s first football state championship since ’96.
Defending champion Rossville and Silver Lake are the Eastern favorites along with Nemaha Central and Osage City. Beloit headlines a deep West that includes Hoisington, Garden Plain, TMP, Cimarron, Kingman and Haven.
“I have really fallen in love with small town Kansas and everything that they have to offer from community support to the buy-in from kids,” Gober said. “It’s been a very, very fun experience.”
Gober grew up in Phoenix. His dad worked for the same company for 10-plus years in Arizona before a transfer to Kansas.
Gober moved to Kansas in ’06 and went to Wamego for his senior year. He played quarterback for then-coach John Black, a well-traveled coaching veteran.
“Quite a culture shock, quite a change,” Gober said.
Black coached Wamego from ’99-06 before Valley Center for a short stint. Black coached Neodesha for nine years and is now in his third year at Independence. Gober always knew he wanted to be a teacher and coach. He attended Kansas State and graduated with his secondary education license for social studies in 2012. Gober has long had a strong love for history.
He first coached two years at Rock Creek, a rural 3A school near Manhattan that draws from several towns. In his first three years, Gober taught sixth grade. Since then, he has taught a variety of classes, including high school AP Government.
Gober “developed a real love for the science behind” strength and conditioning. Part of that was cultivated at Rock Creek.
He worked under Mark Oberkrom, a P.E. teacher who previously served as a Kansas State strength coach for 14 years. Oberkrom’s coaching has helped Rock Creek enjoy great recent success in baseball and multiple girls’ sports. Plus, Gober learned the double wing at RC.
After Rock Creek, Gober went to Class 4A Augusta and spent five years on staff in several roles. He coached wide receivers, defensive backs and was the special teams coordinator for one season. From ’14-16, Gober was Augusta’s defensive coordinator.
In the six seasons before ’14, Augusta combined for six total victories. Then, Augusta named Jason Filbeck, who learned the Hutchinson flexbone at Shawnee Mission East, the new head coach.
In Gober’s three years as defensive coordinator from ’14-16, the Orioles finished 5-5, 7-3 and 6-4. The seven-win season produced 14.5 points per game allowed, the second-best defense in Class 4A, Division I. The performance remains Augusta’s best record since ’05 and top scoring defense since ’04.
“I had head coaches that were willing to give me opportunities in positions that allowed me to grow,” Gober said.
After Augusta, Gober took over as head football coach at Beloit, a town where he had no previous ties. His wife, Dedra, is also a teacher. She is from Enid, Okla. and an Oklahoma State University graduate. Gober was a highly rare social studies teacher and head football coach.
In Gober’s first three years, The Trojans posted 6-3, 6-4 and 7-4 records with playoff losses to Scott City, Andale and Hoisington; the latter two played for a championship. In fall ’19, Gober transferred to a strength and conditioning teaching position after seven years with history.
“As a head football coach, it was also really important for me to be in the weight room,” Gober said. “That was also a passion of mine.”
Entering last season, Beloit had not had a losing record since ’04. However, the Trojans graduated 80 percent of its receptions and more than 95 percent of its rushing yards.
In 2020, Beloit posted a 2-6 regular season behind an offensive line, quarterback and running back that had no seniors.
Beloit lost two games by one score. Plus, the Trojans had a late-week change when Norton cancelled because of COVID-19. Beloit played Centralia’s single wing on short notice and lost, 36-6.
Starting in Week 9, Beloit became one of Kansas’ top football stories. The Trojans traveled to Hays and dominated TMP, 55-14. Beloit was the No. 4 seed from District 8, and TMP captured District 7.
Sophomore running back Benson Berndt, the breakout player in the season’s second half, benefited from Beloit’s power game. He rushed 30 times for 273 yards and three scores. Junior quarterback Owen Eilert passed for 126 and three TDs. Beloit rolled up 447 yards of total offense.
The following week, in a game that could only occur in 2020, Phillipsburg cancelled in midweek because of a COVID-19 outbreak that affected multiple key players. Beloit had the forfeit win bumped into the state quarterfinals. The Trojans won at Haven, 32-26, in double overtime. In the state semifinals, Beloit lost, 26-0, to Hoisington and finished 5-7.
KSHSAA changed the playoff format in 2018 to have the Week 9 bracket play and four teams from each 3A, 2A, Eight-Man, Division I and Eight-Man, Division II district qualifying for the playoffs. Class 1A had the top-four in each district qualify in ’18-19 before it slightly changed the format last year.
Beloit has the furthest playoff advancement by any No. 4 seed for any classification.
From ’18-20, No. 4 seeds, including Beloit’s win, finished 2-37, 3-36 and 2-30. The final four berth marked Beloit’s best showing since a state runner-up in ’13.
“We have talked all summer about every single week is important and if you want to be the team that you think you can be, every single practice, every single rep, every single game matters if you want to reach that pinnacle of success,” Gober said.
This summer, Gober earned his Master of Science in education administration from Fort Hays State University, per a June 24 Salina Post release. This fall, Gober now has a highly experienced team and one of Kansas’ best offensive lines, regardless of class.
Greg Koenig had strong success and high-octane offenses, though the numbers had fallen before Gober took over. In ’15-16, Beloit had just 26 and 27 players out, per MaxPreps rosters. Since then, Gober has helped the roster grow from 28, to 37, to 44, to 40 last year and 46 this season. Beloit lists eight seniors.
“I am really glad that I am in Kansas, but it’s been quite a journey I can tell you that,” Gober said. “I never thought I would live in a small town again. Once I moved to Kansas, I was like, ‘Ah, I am going to get back to the city, but as time has progressed, I really enjoyed my time in the different communities I have been.”
In ’19, Beloit averaged 6.2 yards per play, 5.6 yards per rush and ran the ball on 74 percent of plays. Last year, the Trojans, with all the new skill players, finished with 5.7 yards per play, 5.2 yards per carry and ran on 82 percent of plays.
The offensive line returns junior Grady Seyfert (6-2, 270), senior Cameron Konkel (5-9, 225), senior Gage Robinson (5-10, 250), sophomore Brody Widrig (5-10, 255) and junior Wes Adolph (6-1, 235).
“We are very big and strong,” Gober said.
Plus, senior Brennan Walker (6-4, 200) and sophomore Maddox Waters (6-3, 190) are the tight ends. Walker will be a three-year starter. Beloit has 17 offensive linemen on the roster.
“We haven’t been able to say that for a long time,” Gober said.
Senior Braden Burks (5-8, 205) moves from line to fullback. Eilert, now a senior, and Berndt, a junior, return at quarterback and running back, respectively. Eilert, Walker, Seyfert and Caylen Chancellor are captains.
“They love being just really physical up front and obviously if you have guys that are physical, it makes it a lot easier, and our tight end is the same way,” Gober said.
Seyfert and Berndt were both first team all-league players. Walker was first team all-league defensive line, along with senior cornerback Jackson Rexroat. Burks was second team all-league offensive line, while Walker was second team all-league tight end. Burks was second team all-league linebacker.
Seyfert and Berndt were the only NCAA first team sophomores for any positions. This spring, Seyfert was third in the shot put and fifth in the discus at 3A state track. Walker won the 3A state javelin. Walker will be a four-year starter at defensive end. Seyfert dealt with a high ankle sprain in ’20. He is expected to play both ways.
“He is a kid that has tremendous footwork,” Gober said of Seyfert. “He is a perfectionist by nature, and so he is a kid that he wants to do everything perfectly correct, and so he is extremely coachable. He is athletic, he can run, he can jump, and so he is able to cave down one side of the line of scrimmage pretty much on his own if need be.”
Gober labeled Burks “very selfless,” and one of the team’s hardest workers. Burks is a two-year starting middle linebacker. Eilert completed 40 of 82 passes for 654 yards with eight touchdowns against five interceptions. Berndt rushed 215 times for 1,213 yards and was second with eight rushing touchdowns. Burks had 58 tackles. Konkel will be a three-year on the defensive line. Walker, Seyfert and Konkel are the three defensive line starters.
“To me, is an unsung hero for us up front on the d-line,” Gober said of Konkel. “He is not going to make spectacular plays all the time, but he always his job, and he plays extremely hard, and so he is a kid that does a great job for us.”
This offseason, Gober said Beloit has focused on improving character, culture and developing the “Total Man.”
“When we develop those other traits, that’s going to help us reach the goal or get to the goals we want to accomplish,” Gober said.
Defending state runner-up Hoisington again among Western favorites
Hoisington has become metronomically consistent with coach Baird. Last year, Hoisington broke through and reached the state championship game for the first time in school annals. The Cardinals graduated Wyatt Pedigo, a Top 11 all-classes player after ’19. Last season, Hoisington had a new backfield with Holt Hanzlick, an eventual Shrine Bowler, and Joshua Ball.
In the last seven years, Hoisington has averaged 6.8, 9.4, 8.6, 6.5, 7.7, 9.2 and 7.0 yards per play – all above average to elite rates. Last year, the Cardinals had 6.4 yards per rush, its lowest since ’14. Hoisington finished fourth in 2A in scoring defense with 11.9 points allowed a contest. Two years ago, the Cardinals were third at 13.1 points permitted per game.
The Cardinals have not lost a regular season game since a 51-21 defeat to Phillipsburg on Oct. 12, 2018. Hoisington has not lost at home at Elton Brown Field since the ’18 season opener. Hoisington and Beloit will again be in District 8 with Norton, Phillipsburg and Minneapolis.
“Us not making it past that semifinal game and the state title game has given our kids some motivation that I didn’t have to foster at all because it was already there,” Gober said. “The kids are excited, and we know that we are going to be a good football team, but there’s a lot of good teams out west, and until someone can dethrone Hoisington, they are going to be the team to beat.”
Legend Robinson was a former running back who moved to offensive line last season. He is expected to become the feature back this fall.
“Looks like he’ll get a big workload,” Baird said.
Cole Gilliland was still a first team all-conference selection after an injury curtailed his 2020 season. Baird said Hoisington is confident “he’ll be 100 percent or as close to it as possible.” Logan Philbern will play center and defensive line. Baird said Wyatt Wikum “has a really good chance” to be the starting quarterback. Wikum played strong safety last year and will move to free safety this fall.
“We’ll need (Cole) to take another step in the right direction on both sides of the ball,” Baird said. “Legend has had a great summer and we will lean on his experience on both sides of the ball. Wyatt Wikum and Logan Philbern are both going to be big for us this year. Both have had great summers in the weight room and we’ll need big years out of both of them.”
War on 24 rivals lead East
Rossville finished 13-0 last season and coach Derick Hammes won his fourth state championship. War on 24 rivals Rossville and Silver Lake easily led 2A with 52.2 points and 51.1 points a game. Maur Hill ranked third at 42.7, while Osage City was fourth at 36.6.
All four return starting quarterbacks. Rossville brings back Torrey Horak, the reigning 2A Offensive Player of the Year. Horak completed 93 of 157 passes for 1,447 yards with 25 touchdowns against four interceptions. He rushed 162 times for 1,628 yards and 30 TDs. Senior Brody Lietz anchors the line. Rossville averaged nine yards a play in 2020.
Three years ago, Rossville was No. 12 in offense with 28.8 points a game. In ’19, Rossville bumped to sixth with 37.8 points per contest. Hammes has regularly had a dual threat running quarterback. Hammes’ offense derives from former Big East option football with Oklahoma and Nebraska. Hammes was a former eight-year assistant at Topeka Hayden and formed the offense.
“Probably where the nuts and bolts of this all came from, we were playing a team that maybe had a little more talent than we did, and we decided to spread the field a little bit,” Hammes told me last fall. “I had a little input with coach (Tom) Stringer at the time, and basically we used the quarterback as a running component.”
Silver Lake’s season started late because of COVID-19. In just eight games, Kruger completed 84 of 168 passes for 1,589 yards with 23 touchdowns against five interceptions. Kruger had 99 rushes for 586 yards and 13 scores for the 6-2 Eagles. Rossville and SL are the heavy District 3 favorites.
Silver Lake is third, third and second in 2A scoring offense the last three years.
Maur Hill (8-1) and Nemaha Central (8-3) didn’t play each other in districts because of a COVID-19 cancellation. MH returns senior quarterback Drew Caudle. He completed 91 of 141 passes for 1,383 yards with 14 touchdowns against five interceptions. Caudle had 51 carries for 342 yards and five scores. NC returns Zac Kramer when he delivered more than 2,600 yards of total offense and 32 offensive TDs. NC beat Silver Lake when he accounted for 350 yards of total offense.
Osage City finished 9-2 and won District 2. Standout quarterback Landon Boss returns. OC was eighth and 13th in 2A defense in ’18-19 and first in ’20.
Pittsburg Colgan won District 1 with a 7-3 mark and will be the district favorite again. Colgan lost to Rossville in the state quarterfinals. Colgan has made at least the state quarterfinals every year since ’98.
Garden Plain and Kingman pace District 6
Tanner Hageman has led Kingman’s turnaround with a 6-3 mark and plus-three win improvement last year. Kingman lost to Garden Plain, 14-10, that decided District 6. GP finished 9-2 and has won 11 straight district contests. The Owls are ninth, ninth and seventh in scoring defense the last three years. GP senior running back Reed Adelhardt. He rushed 153 times for 1,179 yards and 15 scores.
Hageman has served as an assistant at Hutchinson and St. James Academy. Hageman spent four years at SJA, including the last two at defensive coordinator. He gave great credit to current St. James coaches Tom Radke and Stan Dohm. Hageman and his wife, Logan, a former collegiate basketball player at Fort Hays and William Jewell, wanted to move closer to family.
Kingman’s veteran defensive coordinator Dustin Beam remained on staff once Hageman took over. Beam also received praise from previous Eagle coach Curtis Albin. After he interviewed for the position, Hageman went to Beam’s garage and talked. Hageman said Beam was one of the reasons that drew him to the position.
“We really couldn’t have a better strength coach,” Hageman told me before the playoffs last year.
In 2019, Kingman was No. 14 in the 48-team 3A with a 3-6 mark with 18.7 points allowed a contest. In 2020, the Eagles improved to No. 6 in 48-team 2A with a 6-3 mark with 13.4 points permitted a contest.
Kingman’s offense improved from 13.2 points per game to 36 last year.
“Competition has been everything for us,” Hageman said.
For ’21, senior lineman Aaron Siemens and senior lineman/linebacker Colby Schreiner are both at least three-year starters. Schreiner is second and third at Class 3-2-1A state wrestling the last two years. He delivered 81 tackles. Senior quarterback Nolan Freund passed for 1,446 yards.
“One of the smartest players that I have ever been around,” Hageman said of Freund.
District 5 features Hutchinson Trinity (8-2), Haven (8-3) and Hillsboro (6-4). All three finished 4-1 in districts. Trinity paced 2A in scoring defense in ’18 and was second in ’20. Haven had the best season in school history and returns standout linebacker Keaton Loop.
Hillsboro brings back quarterback Matthew Potucek. He completed 79 of 155 passes for 1,477 yards with 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He had 128 carries for 805 yards and four scores. Hillsboro returns all of its rushing yards.
In District 7, TMP finished 7-2 and had its best season since ’02. The Monarchs delivered a comeback to beat Cimarron, 16-12, at home. TMP returns significant talent, including QB Kade Harris, WR/K Jace Wentling and LB Bryce Seib. Cimarron brings back QB Braxton Harrison. He passed for 927 yards with eight scores against eight interceptions, along with 881 rushing yards and 12 TDs.
Harris passed for 1,212 yards with 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He had 151 carries for 860 yards and nine TDs. Wentling had 20 catches for 407 yards and six TDs. He kicked three field goals, 18 extra points and averaged 37 yards a punt. Harris led with 98 tackles.
2020 Class 2A Top-15 Scoring Offenses
Silver Lake 51.1
Maur Hill 42.7
Osage City 36.6
Hutchinson Trinity 33.2
Nemaha Central 32.5
Pittsburg Colgan 32.3
Garden Plain 29.4
2020 Class 2A Top-15 Scoring Defenses
Osage City 9.0
Hutchinson Trinity 10.5
Nemaha Central 12.1
Garden Plain 13.9
Maur Hill 16.8
Pittsburg Colgan 17.4
Silver Lake 19.3