By CONOR NICHOLL
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BETHANY BOWMAN
Axtell father/son dynamic encapsulated state title theme
NEWTON – Axtell coach Eric Detweiler pulled out his phone shortly after his Eagles defeated Thunder Ridge, 76-28, for the Eight-Man, Division II state championship Saturday. Detweiler wore a big smile as he turned to the massive Axtell fanbase that filled the visitors’ sideline at Newton’s Fischer Field.
Detweiler stood with his coaching staff that included longtime defensive coordinator Dale Buessing. Detweiler filmed Axtell’s players as they ran down the sideline fence that separated the field from the bleachers. The Eagles slapped hands and received congratulations from the loud crowd.
Both Detweiler and Buessing have coached a son in Axtell’s 26-game winning streak, back to back 13-0 seasons and Division II titles. Detweiler’s son, Isaac, tied the eight-man state championship single game record with seven passing touchdown passes. Grant Buessing, Dale’s son, is a key multiple-year starter on the line.
“It’s tough sometimes, but it’s definitely worth it,” Grant said. “I definitely enjoy it.”
Isaac, a four-year starter, expected four-year all-state player and three-year quarterback, has a strong case for the greatest eight-man quarterback in Kansas history. Upon review, Axtell football confirmed Sunday night: Isaac finished his career with 205 touchdowns accounted for: 201 offense (passing, rushing, receiving), two defense and two special teams. No player in recorded Kansas history has more.
Axtell delivered 786 points, which broke the eight-man state record of 764 set by Osborne in 2016. A few hours later, Division I’s Leoti-Wichita County reset the mark and finished with 792.
“The backing that we have had from our community is unreal,” coach Detweiler said to SIK’s Conor Nicholl. “You can just look at the size of this crowd, it was phenomenal. Whenever we need something, this crowd helps out. Two games ago, we played at home, and we had snow on the field, and we sent out a message to get the snow scooped off of our field, and we had 25 guys there in a matter of an hour. So just incredible, and the backing we have and the support that we have is phenomenal.”
Axtell, which played in the 11 a.m. contest Saturday, became the first of the nine Kansas teams to win a state title. The father and son, family and community dynamic continued throughout the day.
Brothers help Wichita County to 8M1 title
Around six hours later, Wichita County pulled off its first state title with a 54-36 win against Little River in the Division I finale. While the Axtell win had no precipitation, Consistent rain fell throughout the second half. Wichita County finished 13-0 and won the first football title in school history.
“Once it started raining, I think we started playing better,” WC coach Brant Douglas said.
Wichita County, led by brothers Ehrik and Khris Hermosillo, converted a fourth-and-9 and fourth-and-5 in its own territory to effectively seal the game. Ehrik had both fourth down carries.
“There was only player that was going to get the ball, and I knew I could get the first down every time, so my teammates trusted me, and we got it every time,” Ehrik said.
“I always try to out better him, but it’s fun,” Khris added.
Ehrik Hermosillo completed a remarkable career and season with more than 2,000 rushing and 1,300 passing yards in 2022. Ehrik rushed 28 times for 242 yards and five touchdowns.
Khris Hermosillo returned a key fumble 65 yards for a touchdown and rushed for 82 yards. Ehrik was known for his elusiveness, Khris his powerful running.
“You guys saw him put his head down and run through some guys,” Douglas said of Khris. “He’s just a guy you can rely on to get the good tough yards. He’s to me a traditional football player. He’s going to put his nose in there, he’s going to take the double team and run through guys. He’s going to give his full effort and behind it he has a lot of strength and natural athletic ability, so those three things make him a pretty special player, especially as a sophomore.”
Douglas gave significant credit to his players, his family and community. Douglas improved to 47-9 in five years with WC and is already the Indians’ most successful football coach. Douglas’ wife, Haylie, is from nearby Tribune, and they moved to Kansas five years ago.
“It was a special moment for the entire community,” Douglas said. “And I really want to shout out my wife. I mean, I have two young kids, and another one on the way, and she has done a great job of letting me commit fully to this team, and get to this point, so it’s a full community effort, and these boys deserve they are getting right now.”
Schartz family ends remarkable season with a 6A state title
Seventy-four miles east on US-50, Manhattan pulled off a remarkable 21-20 double-overtime state win against Gardner Edgerton in the 6A state championship. In the celebration, Manhattan senior quarterback Keenan Schartz ran up to his dad, longtime Indian coach Joe Schartz. Keenan yelled “Way to go coach, that’s my dad, that’s my dad!”
In 1992, Schartz was Dodge City’s quarterback when the Red Demons lost in the state semifinals. That season is still tied for DCHS’ deepest postseason run in the last 37 years.
Joe Schartz played quarterback at Washburn graduated as WU’s all-time leader in passing (5,527) and total yards (6,622).
Schartz’s best friend is Bryan Luetters. In 2021, Schartz travelled to Newton and watched Luetters take Meade, unranked in the preseason, to a 13-0 mark and Eight-Man, Division I state championship. A year later, Schartz enjoyed a similar achievement. Manhattan went to its first title game since ’01 and won its first title since ’88.
“It’s been a lifetime of work,” coach Schartz said to SIK’s Bethany Bowman. “I had a lot of family come, a lot of former teammates, a lot of well-wishes. It was 30 years ago that I played my last high school football game. There was nothing that we wanted more than to win a state championship. We come up a game short.”
Manhattan has always been a consistent winner under Schartz with an airtight defense. The Indians even went 9-2 and led 6A with 13.7 points allowed last season. However, Manhattan struggled in the playoffs, notably with Derby, in recent seasons. Schartz entered 2022 with a 107-29 career mark.
Manhattan set a school record for wins in a 13-0 mark. Unranked in the preseason, the Indians had a dream season that started on opening night with the 26-23 overtime win against Derby. Manhattan won six games by 10 points or fewer, including 28-23 versus the Panthers in the state semifinals and the double overtime 21-20 victory against Gardner-Edgerton.
Schartz had coached many of the Manhattan seniors, including his son, since the youth ranks. Coach Schartz was emotional after the game.
“He showed signs of maturity and signs of leadership,” coach said of Keenan. “He was the go-between me and his teammates, and I have had the opportunity to coach a lot of these kids when they were younger. They started talking about fourth and fifth and sixth grade about winning a state championship and it came to fruition, and it’s very special.”
Cunningham father/son helps Wildcats win first 6M crown
Last week, SIK spoke at length with Cunningham football coach Lance McGuire. During the years, McGuire has been a stalwart for Wildcat athletics, especially with the football program. McGuire posted an 8-2 season with the Wildcats in 2008.
However, Cunningham went winless in ’13-14 and didn’t have its own team from ’15-18. The Wildcats re-started with six-man football and posted a 1-7, 6-2 and 9-1 marks the last three years.
Last season, Cunningham lost to Natoma in the Wild West Bowl six-man state championship. Lance’s son, Luke, was hurt early in the Natoma loss.
Cunningham’s last state title in an athletic or academic event came in 2019 when Luke’s sister, Alayna, won oral poetry at state speech. Alayna had reminded her brother of the comparisons. Alayna also had top-four finishes in volleyball and basketball.
On Saturday, Luke matched his sister’s state title. Cunningham won the first KSHSAA six-man state championship with a 38-16 win against Ashland. In Week 1, Cunningham defeated Ashland, 38-30.
Cunningham had 11 on-field wins, one forfeit and one bye. The Wildcats allowed just 8.1 points per game, the state’s best-ever six-man defense since the classification restarted in 2016. This is the first football title in CHS annals. Cunningham has three seniors: Lane Halderson, Trey DeWeese and Leo Hageman.
McGuire completed 11 of 16 passes for 174 yards, along with 16 carries for 61 yards. He opened the scoring with a 69-yard TD pass to Halderson.
Families, the greatest defense ever? and state records:
In addition to Axtell’s and Wichita County’s scoring offense and Cunningham’s defense, multiple records and milestones came from the other state titles.
For 5A, Mill Valley held off Maize, 28-14, in a rematch of last year’s state game. MV won each game against Maize by the same score. Mill Valley (12-1) became the first 5A team in Kansas history to win four straight state championships. Mill Valley improved to 6-0 in finals under Joel Applebee. He has the most titles without a loss in Kansas annals. All six titles have come in the last eight years.
Since the summer, SIK has noted the potential historical nature of Mill Valley’s defense. MV allowed 78 total points, or six per game. Per Massey Ratings, Mill Valley has 5A’s second-best scoring defense in the last 20 years, just behind Bishop Carroll’s 65 points allowed in 2014. BC’s defense has generally been considered the best 4-6A defense since at least 2003 in Kansas.
Maize, with K-State quarterback Avery Johnson, averaged 51 points a game entering state. In the semifinals, Mill Valley shutout Blue Valley Southwest, which had tallied 33 points a game in its other contests.
In Week 1, Mill Valley also shutout Olathe Northwest, an eventual 6A state semifinalist that tallied 29 points a contest when not facing the Jaguars.
At state, Mill Valley received 189 passing yards from Hayden Jay and 117 rushing yards from Tristan Baker. Plus, MV’s first team all-state defensive back Mikey Bergeron delivered a huge interception in the end zone. Senior linebacker Broc Worcester led with 12 tackles.
Applebee’s son, Haden, is a junior reserve defensive back.
In 3A, Andale defeated Holton, 28-0. Andale moved its winning streak to 51 games, fifth-best in Kansas history and second-longest currently in the country. This marked AHS’ closest game this season. Longtime Andale defensive coordinator Tim Fairchild led the Indian defense to three straight shutouts to end the fall. Andale outscored teams 689-67, or an average score of 53-5.2.
The Indians had nearly the exact same margin from 2021, a year that yielded 692-68. Those totals were school records. This year’s team set a new scoring defense mark by one point.
Andale’s remarkable senior class of Riley Marx, Jack Kraus, Wyatt Spexarth, Cody Parthemer and many others capped their career with four straight titles. Andale started the scoring on a 4th and goal TD pass from Spexarth to Marx – coach Fairchild’s nephew. Four players had at least 63 offensive yards.
In 4A, Bishop Miege beat Wamego, 35-14. Miege, which finished 5-7 last season, moved to 11-2. The Stags won state title No. 11, most in Kansas history. Miege broke the tie of 10 held by Lawrence and Smith Center. Wamego also had its best season in school history under coach Weston Moody.
In 2A, Nemaha Central held Kingman’s late charge for a 33-17 title. NC running back Cooper Hajek, who ran with a broken hand, went over 2,000 rushing yards. NC won its second 2A title in four years and went 13-0. In the final, Hajek rushed 38 times for 210 yards and four scores.
In 1A, St. Marys went 99 yards and scored in the final seconds to beat Inman, 44-41. St. Marys, 5-4 in 2A last season, was preseason No. 1 in 1A. The Bears went 11-2.
Keller Hurla accounted for 403 passing yards and 94 rushing yards in a remarkable game for the Bears. Inman led 41-38 and fumbled at the St. Marys’ goal line. Then, St. Marys went 99 yards and second on a 1-yard run from Hurla with 13 seconds left.