By CONOR NICHOLL
In 2018, Brant Douglas took over as head coach for Leoti-Wichita County, a long struggling program. The Indians finished 6-3, their best record in 20-plus years. WC had three seniors who were key cogs. Senior lineman Jesse Hermosillo anchored the front at 5-foot-10, 275 pounds. He earned KPreps first team all-state after 52 tackles, five for loss. After a close playoff loss to Victoria, Douglas was emotional on the field when he discussed those seniors building the foundation.
Next, AC Hermosillo was a multiple-year starter up front. At 5-foot-10, 263 pounds, AC was first team all-state in ’19 and ’20. WC finished as state semifinalist and state runner-up.
In ’20, Jesse and AC’s brother, Erhik, was a defensive starter and backup quarterback. Erhik was the only sophomore to see significant playing time on the veteran roster that went 12-1, the best team in school annals.
Last year, Erhik emerged at quarterback and displayed excellent speedy and shiftiness en route to 3,221 yards of total offense. Erhik was an Eight-Man, Division I offensive player of the year finalist and first team all-state. The last brother, Khris, played on defense and paced with 15 tackles for loss.
This season, Erhik and Khris are WC’s quarterback and running back, respectively. Erhik is 5-8, 140. Khris is 5-9, 160. Erhik is one of Kansas’ most prolific, well-known players. Khris is part of SIK’s fourth annual All-Underrated Team that will release later this week. Khris can squat 405 pounds. In the summer, Douglas told SIK that he believed Khris would be a breakout player.
The two older brothers are much bigger than the two younger ones, but they have one common major trait.
“One thing that family has always done since I have been here, and clearly before, is commit to the weight room,” Douglas told SIK. “So Khris has been around lifting and understanding how to eat right, and sleep right, all the things that go into building your body and also being able to maintain it through an entire season, like he has been around that his whole life. He’s a stud in the weight room. He is extremely impressive in the weight room and it comes from what he has seen from his older brothers up to this point.”
The Hermosillo brothers have continued the success with a 6-0 start and No. 1 ranking in Eight-Man, Division I. WC has matched last year’s win total. The Indians have two victories against Meade and Hoxie, teams 10-0 when not playing the Indians. WC, Meade, Hoxie and Hill City are considered the top-four teams in Division I West. WC is 40-9 under Douglas and looking for its first-ever state title.
“We have got some playmakers, and so far this year, it has been kind of different guys on different nights have had big nights, but my philosophy is, great players have to make great plays in big games,” Douglas said.
Last week, WC took significant control of District 8 with a 56-20 road win against Meade, the defending state champions. The Indians ended the Buffs’ 20-game winning streak. Meade had permitted 42 total points in the first five games.
Division I is generally considered the deepest of Kansas’ nine classes. Currently, WC, No. 2 Burlingame (6-0), No. 3 Little River (5-1), No. 4 South Sumner Co. (6-0) and No. 5 Hoxie (5-1) round out the rankings. Macksville and West Elk are undefeated and unranked.
“Erhik is definitely quieter,” Douglas said. “He is confident in his abilities, but he is quiet, kind of leads by example. Khris, he is just in your face. He believes that he is the best guy, regardless what position he is playing.
“If he is playing kicker, guard, tight end, I mean, it doesn’t matter,” he added. “He believes he is the best at it, and wants to prove it every single time, so he is definitely more vocal, and more of an in your face type player, but they compliment each other well in the backfield.”
Other top contenders include Hill City, Madison, Central Burden, Chase County, Clifton-Clyde, Lyndon, Wichita Independent and Goessel. Hill City, Chase County and C-C have been ranked as high as No. 2 and have since fallen out.
Wichita County paces all of eight-man in points per game since Douglas took over. WC led Division I in scoring offense per contest last year. Of the 16 contenders listed above, WC ranks first in offense (357 points) and third in defense (62).
South Sumner, Madison, Chase County, West Elk and Burlingame have each tallied more than 300 points.
“Our main goal with that is to make sure that we don’t play up or down,” Douglas said. “Like we should be the same team regardless of who are playing, and we try to really promote that with our players.”
Erhik has completed 28 of 52 passes for 450 yards with seven scores against one interception. Overall, WC has averaged 8.5 yards per pass. Erhik has delivered 99 carries for 940 yards and 18 scores.
Khris has emerged with 60 carries for 635 yards and 13 scores. WC has averaged 9.2 yards per carry. Junior Wyatt Gardner has 40 offensive touches for 817 yards and seven TDs. Senior Cordell Brown has paced WC in tackles the last two falls and has 37 this season. Juniors Christopher Michel and Colton Harbin have combined for 58 tackles.
Seniors Romeo Terriquez and Christian Marchant and sophomore Juan Tapia have been key players, too.
“Erhik is so shifty, he never really gets like a big hit on him, and he is smart,” Douglas said. “If he is up the sideline, and he knows he has got three guys – like even if he cut back, he is going to take a shot – and step out of bounds and avoid that extra tackle or extra hit.
“So I am comfortable running him and Khris and Wyatt as much as needed, whichever guy has got the hot hand,” Douglas added. “And they are tough kids that want the ball. We could give it to them 60 times, they’d be asking for more, so it’s pretty nice to have.”