Football in Kansas: Playing for coach Taylor, two-hour daily commutes, and a “tremendous staff”: The stories of the assistants and infrastructure for the state qualifiers

By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas

Maize coach Gary Guzman opened his career as the defensive coordinator at Kapaun Mt. Carmel for seven seasons and coached in three state title games. Guzman served on legendary coach Ed Kriwiel’s staff in the ‘80s. Kriwiel won nine football state championships with KMC. The Crusaders won their last state championship in ’87.

Guzman eventually became Kapaun’s head coach and led the Crusaders for 14 years. He also coached at Wichita Southeast for six seasons and has spent the last 11 with Maize. When Guzman took over as KMC head coach, Kriwiel offered some advice and told him to probably switch to the offensive side.

“You have a better feel of the team when you are in charge of the offense,” Guzman recalled. “So I moved over there.”

Guzman served as offensive coordinator all 14 seasons when he was Kapaun’s head coach. At Southeast, he was the OC in addition to his head coaching duties. He relinquished duties when he came to Maize and has built a veteran staff.

“I don’t necessarily know that you have to be defensive-minded or offensive-minded as a head coach,” Guzman told SIK this week. “I just think you have to probably try to understand the game as much as you can, all the phases, and then surround yourself with good assistant coaches that can do a good job for you, and then come up with a system that is going to work for the type of players that you have, and I think that’s just what we have been able to do.”

For Andover Central, Derek Tuttle was the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for longtime AC head coach Tom Audley. Tuttle worked with Audley for 21 years.

“One thing that he told me from when I first started coaching was that if you really want to be a head coach, you have got to learn the offensive line,” Tuttle said. “Because once you learn that, you learn everything about offense, because it’s all based around that. So I have been our O-line coach since Central opened in 2001. And that was true. I really learned a ton of offense.”

Tuttle stands 29-5 in three years as head coach. When he became HC, the roles the Jaguars needed to fill came on defense. Tuttle remained more offensive-minded.

“I was going to stick with what I knew the best,” Tuttle said. “Then I could help other guys fill in different roles.”

Guzman and Tuttle are similar with the remaining 16 teams left in the eight state championship games.

The head coaches are nearly all offensive-minded. The remaining teams each have veteran assistant coaches, especially on the defensive side.

For the first time in Kansas history, seven returning champions are back to defend their titles: 6A Derby, 5A Mill Valley, 4A St. James Academy, 3A Andale, 2A Rossville, 1A Olpe, and Eight-Man, Division I Little River.

Derby, Andale, Rossville, Olpe and LR have current winning streaks of at least 17 straight games. All the head coaches (Derby’s Brandon Clark, Andale’s Dylan Schmidt, Rossville’s Derick Hammes, Olpe’s Chris Schmidt and Little River’s Kevin Ayers) have won at least two state titles. Plus, MV is 18-1 in last 19 games, and coach Joel Applebee has four state titles.

Of the nine remaining squads, veteran staffs at 4A Andover Central, 3A Frontenac and Eight-Man, Division II Axtell have combined for four state runner-up showings. Maize and Class 2A Beloit were both 2020 semifinalists.

Class 6A Blue Valley Northwest’s Clint Rider and Eight-Man, Division II’s Wheatland-Grinnell’s Jesse Vincent took squads that went a combined 1-17 in 2018 to its program’s first-ever state title games this fall.

In 1A, Inman’s Lance Sawyer went 0-9 in 2018 at his alma mater and now has the Teutons at 12-0 and the best season in program history.

Andale’s Tim Fairchild, Olpe’s Terry Smith, Frontenac’s John Palumbo and Mill Valley’s Drew Hudgins have spent at least 11 seasons at their current schools. They are widely considered among the state’s top-10 defensive coordinators.

This week, SIK communicated with 10-plus head coaches about their staffs.

The assistants include coaches with 40-plus years of experience and defensive coordinators who have previously been head coaches. Several defensive coordinators predate the current head coach’s tenure at the respective school.

These are the stories of the infrastructure of the state championship qualifiers:

Class 5A: Maize (10-2) versus Mill Valley (11-1)

Maize’s J.J. Milanovich has been on staff for 10 of Guzman’s 11 years as the defensive coordinator. Rocky Helm, the longtime special teams coach and highly successful Maize baseball coach, has been on the Eagle staff all 11 years.

Current offensive coordinator Rob Helm has been there all 11 seasons. The Helms are brothers. Assistant coach Colton Helm is Rocky’s son. Landon Helm, who scored the game-winning two-point conversion against Kapaun in the state semifinals, is Colton’s brother.

“I have got a tremendous staff without a doubt,” Guzman said.

Helm took over as offensive coordinator from Victor Mercado, the current offensive line coach. Mercado, a Texas high school alum and former Tulsa offensive lineman in college, came with Guzman from Southeast. He installed the spread offense that Maize currently runs.

When Mercado had his own children, he stepped down from the coordinator position. Brett Soft, a former standout Maize receiver, is a veteran assistant coach.

The Helms, Soft, J.J. Milanovich, and Fred Rosas are all Maize graduates. Mercado’s wife attended Maize. Several freshman coaches are Maize graduates. Jack Milanovich is retired and J.J.’s dad. Jack joined the staff this year as an assistant coach/defensive line.

“That’s really helped us,” Guzman said of the continuity. “I think our defensive staff works very well together, they know each other well. … They know what the other one is thinking. Same thing with our offensive staff.”

In the east, Applebee has a veteran staff that has helped him compile a 102-35 record and 4-0 in state title games in 12 years.

Drew Hudgins is the longtime defensive coordinator. This marks his 11th year on staff, seventh as defensive coordinator. Hudgins signed with Colorado football after an All-American career at Highland. Applebee has said several times that Hudgins is one of the best coaches he’s ever been associated with. Hudgins is known for his great football mind, prep and attention to detail both for himself and players.

“Everything about him is what you want in a coach,” Applebee said.

This year, MV had to replace all but two starters on defense. Mill Valley is back in the state title for a third straight year and lowered its scoring defense from 16.1 points allowed to 13.8 per game.

“The impact he’s had on our program – it’s hard to put into words, to be honest with you,” Applebee said of Hudgins. “…He relates to the kids really, really well. I mean, he gets his message across in a way that those kids completely understand.”

Applebee is more involved with the offensive side. Mike Strack is the offensive coordinator/QBs coach and has nearly 10 years on staff. Running backs coach Eric Thomas is in year 19 with MV. Zach McFall is in his seventh year coaching Mill Valley wide receivers.

Defensive line coach Aaron Cox, linebackers coach Matt Best, safeties coach Josh Barnes are all in their fourth year.

Plus, legendary Gene Wier is on staff as the offensive line coach. Wier went 252-99 as a head coach and won six state titles at Olathe North. Applebee said the players have loved the day-to-day process and getting prepared to play at a high level.

“Our kids understand going into a season, our expectations as a program is to put ourselves in a position to compete for a state championship,” Applebee said.

Class 1A: Olpe (12-0) vs. Inman (12-0)

Olpe has won 24 straight games under 15th-year coach Chris Schmidt. Olpe won state football and state boys’ and girls’ basketball last school year. Olpe has allowed 53 total points in the last two years.

Schmidt has defensive coordinator Terry Smith. He has served as DC through Schmidt’s tenure. SIK has talked with multiple people regarding Smith during the last year. Smith, a reserved personality, is known for his attention to detail and fundamentals.

Last year, Schmidt won SIK 1A Coach of the Year honors. Schmidt advocated Smith should win the honor. Two of Smith’s daughters are Colleen and Macy, who both went to Emporia State for collegiate athletics.

“Just how fundamentally sound they are,” Inman coach Lance Sawyer said. “I mean, you look at it, they don’t give up big plays. … And they play so well together. They don’t (have) any holes. They have people all over the place that can play, and I think they have had pretty good experience coming back in the last several years. They just have a group of kids that are winners.”

Sawyer, a 2003 Teuton graduate, is the offensive play caller in Inman’s multi-dimensional scheme full of misdirection and multiple handoffs.

Greg Froese runs the defense. Froese served as an assistant football coach under coach Mike Hicks when Sawyer played. Hicks has had a profound impact on Sawyer’s life. Sawyer knew he wanted to coach because of Hicks.

“The way he was, just the kind of man he was,” Sawyer said. “I just wanted to be in that realm. I loved sports, and he was good at sports. I looked up to him in school. I remember the first counselor meeting I had, and it was ‘What do you want to be?’ I want to be coach Hicks, and he coached football and coached weights at Inman High School, and so here we are, 20-some years later.”

Additionally, Froese served as a former Inman head coach in the mid-2000s. Inman has always run a 3-4 defense with Froese.

“He coached for a long time before that, too,” Sawyer said. “He came back because his son was playing, and we needed another coach, and he came back four years ago, and we have been pretty glad that he came back. He has done a tremendous job with that defense.”

After graduating from Inman, Sawyer went to Kansas State. Sawyer interviewed at Riley County, a short drive from Manhattan.

The AD told Sawyer he needed some experience. Sawyer returned to Inman for the summer and ended up coaching Babe Ruth baseball and summer basketball.

Then, Sawyer coached at Alma-Wabaunsee for three years, his sophomore, junior and senior year at K-State. He made the 58-mile round trip daily. The first year, he coached freshman girls’ basketball and track. The next year, he coached JV girls’ basketball and baseball. He did his student teaching at Wabaunsee.

“I coached anything they wanted me to coach,” Sawyer said.

When it came time to get a job, White City was one of the first places Sawyer applied.

“It was a smaller school,” Sawyer said. “It was good to get a young coach in there. It was the right fit at the time for both of us. And the principal at White City was good friends with the principal at Wabaunsee.”

He took over as White City’s head football coach, though lived in Manhattan, a 90-mile daily round trip. After a stretch at Hillsboro, Sawyer went to Inman.

When Sawyer returned home, his first call went to Bill Garst. Sawyer stands at 36-27 in his six seasons with Inman. After an 0-9 season, Inman has continually improved with 6-4, 6-5 and 9-3 and 12-0 marks.

“I remember talking to him on the phone when I was at a track meet in Hillsboro,” Sawyer said. “First day I took the Inman job, he was the first call I had. That was the first hire we ever had.”

Garst is a retired Air Force officer.

“He is detailed, he is structured,” Sawyer said. “He is one of our main reasons our culture is so good right now. He does a great job in the weight room. Those kids look up to him. That’s his role. That’s his domain. He loves the weight room. He loves just getting culture and the detail-oriented part of football, and then he does a pretty good job calling in plays, and just being a wall to bounce things off of.”

Wyatt Meier started on staff in 2018, his freshman year of college. Meier first attended Hutchinson Community College and is currently at Wichita State. He drives back and forth everyday, a two-hour round trip commute. Sawyer called Meier “pretty committed.”

“We were lucky to get him back on staff after that year of growth,” Sawyer said. “And then he had some understanding about what worked and what didn’t. And so our running game has gotten so much better with him being on staff.”

Class 4A: St. James Academy (8-4) versus Andover Central (11-1)

Andover Central coaches have significant experience for a program that is in its third final since 2015. Coach Tuttle has been with the school since 2001 and was a longtime assistant for Tom Audley before he took over as head coach.

AC’s theme is “Playing for Coach Taylor” this fall for longtime assistant Dean Taylor. He has served as the defensive backs coach since 2007. His brothers have coached at various sports with Humboldt and Emporia. Taylor does not actively coach this fall and is home because of chemo treatments from colon cancer. AC found out that Taylor couldn’t coach a week or two before practice started.

From the very first day of the season, AC seniors wrote on the dry erase board in the locker room “For Coach Taylor.” This week, the mantra is on the front page of the last scouting report for the season. Taylor can come to games, though has to sit in his vehicle and watch from afar.

“The senior boys really took it to heart, and they were really pretty touched by coach Taylor’s battle with his colon cancer, because it is pretty serious,” Tuttle said.

Special teams coordinator Fred Sims has coached 25-plus years, including stints at Oklahoma and Dodge City. He has been with AC since 2016. Aren Coppoc played at Concordia High School and Sterling College. He has put quarterback Kai Kunz on the verge for breaking AC’s single season passing efficiency record. Kunz has received multiple FCS looks.

Matt Clements, a 2012 Andover Central graduate, is filling in with the defensive backs. Clements tried to walk-on at Kansas State. Then, he decided to not play football, though was still interested in coaching.

He kept his contact with K-State coaches and got on at Pittsburg State for a year. Next, Clements was on the Oklahoma State staff for a couple of years as a GA. Clements elected to get a job in his career field and came back to Andover. This fall, his work schedule worked out perfectly for him to join AC’s staff.

Coach Ernie Hager is the defensive coordinator/linebacker coach. He and Tuttle came into the Andover district in 1998. He spent many years at Andover High and joined the AC staff in ’19. Hager was the head freshman coach the last two season before he became defensive coordinator this year.

Jaguar assistant coach Jared McDaniel has been at several different schools, including Derby, Northwest and the head coach at Wichita Trinity. Levi Wyrick was a standout football and track athlete at Pittsburg State (D2 All-American in the hammer throw) is in his first year on staff. Head wrestling coach Nate Alvarez is the freshman head coach.

 AC has set a record with three shutouts and has permitted 11.1 points per game, close to the school scoring defense record.

St. James coach Tom Radke, whose dad is a Hall of Fame football coach in Iowa, was a wide receiver at Iowa State. Radke won his and SJA’s first state title last fall. Radke is 91-72 in 16 years, including 69-45 in 11 years with the Thunder.

SJA offensive coordinator Matt Joshi played for Radke when he was an assistant coach at St. Thomas Aquinas. Joshi came to SJA in Radke’s first year. Joshi has been instrumental in the Thunder moving to a wide-open spread offense the last two falls.

“Tremendous play caller and builder of men,” Radke said.

Defensive coordinator Jason Denton has been with Radke since 2017.

“Great passion and energy,” Radke said. “Players’ coach.”

Assistants Larry Beashore and Brian Gray have served with Radke in stints at KC Piper and St. James. Julian Cole has been with SJA since ’17 and played for Radke at Piper. Sam Bruning and Christian Buckner, who is the strength coach, were both former players for Radke.

Justin Snell, the head girls’ basketball coach, has worked with Radke since ’18.

“He is a Pied Piper coach,” Radke said. “Kids flock to him. He has been a tremendous coach for our WR.”

Bill Pekarek is new to SJA’s staff this season. This is his 44th year coaching football, 30 years as head coach and 14 as an assistant. Pekarek served as Kinsley’s head coach from ’78-81, then Larned head coach from ’81-95. Pekarek served 19 years with Lansing, including the last 13 as head coach.

From 2014-20, he was an assistant at Park Hill before coming to SJA this year.

“Has had a huge impact with our OL,” Radke said.

Eight-Man, Division II: Axtell (12-0) versus Wheatland-Grinnell (11-1)

Wheatland-Grinnell fourth-year head coach Jesse Vincent runs the offense. In summer 2020, Vincent told SIK how the Thunderhawks developed its defense. Many eight-man coaches run the 3-2 defense, generally popularized by Little River coach Kevin Ayers. Vincent had previously ran a four-man front.

Vincent spent time talking to Ayers.

“OK, sell me on the 3-2, why do we want to do that?,” Vincent recalled. “Because to offensive mind, I see holes everywhere.”

Vincent eventually went to the 3-2.

Vincent had Josh Williams, who won a state championship at Concordia and played at Emporia State. Williams served as the defensive coordinator the last three falls. Then, Williams moved back to Concordia.

Matt Wolf, who played at Wheatland-Grinnell and Highland CC, took over as defensive coordinator. Wolf and Williams have become friends. Williams has driven back to help on the sideline for a couple games. W-G lowered its scoring defense from 32.7 points per game in 2020 to 17.8 this year. The Thunderhawks have a school record 11-1 season.

“He’s been a good asset for me this year, was glad to get his help,” Vincent said.

Axtell head coach Eric Detweiler and defensive coordinator Dale Buessing are both Eagle alums. Detweiler is 68-21 in eight seasons. Buessing was on the Axtell 1993 undefeated squad, the Eagles’ only state championship football team. Detweiler’s son, Isaac, is Axtell’s well-known junior starting quarterback. Dale’s son, sophomore Grant, is the starting center. The Buessings have a video of the ’93 state title game at their house.

Additionally, Quinn Buessing, a four-sport standout for Axtell and quarterback of the ’19 runner-up squad, is on staff for the first time this year. Coach Detweiler called Quinn a “great mind.”

Eight-Man, Division I: Little River (12-0) versus Meade (12-0)

Head coach Kevin Ayers runs the offense, Lafferty runs the defense and Konen the special teams. Lafferty was Little River’s head football coach before Ayers. Lafferty is married to LR legendary coach Shane Cordell’s daughter.

Cordell is considered the architect of the 3-2 defense that many Kansas eight-man high school teams use. Ayers, long considered a defensive mastermind, learned the 3-2 from Cordell. Ayers’ wife is from Little River.

“Shane is a good friend of mine and a mentor of mine,” Ayers said. “And so in coming here, I knew Chad a little bit.”

Ayers knew Lafferty wanted to run coach Cordell’s defense and was excited to get him on staff.

“The wisdom and the knowledge that he had,” Ayers said. “And what he brings to our team.”

LR allowed 20.2 points last year and 18.5 this season.

“That’s helped me a lot, where I don’t have to spend so much time breaking down teams,” Ayers said. “…I think it makes us a better ball club.”

First-year Meade coach and athletic director Bryan Luetters has been around football for decades. His son, Lawson, was a former Buff standout quarterback under then-coach Scott Moshier and the single wing. Moshier won two state 11-man championships. Justin Powell was a longtime assistant. Luetters helped on the sideline to keep statistics.

When Moshier left for Wichita four years ago, Powell took over as head coach. Luetters, who didn’t want to coach his kids, resigned from the school board so he could become an assistant football coach.

Last season, Meade had a difficult 4-3 season in its first year of eight-man football. Meade is 12-0, and Luetters is trying to become the first eight-man coach to win a state title in his inaugural season since Victoria’s Doug Oberle in 2006.

Powell resigned in mid-winter. Luetters went and talked with Powell and wanted to make sure he had his blessing. Powell was fine with Luetters taking over. Powell believed Luetters would be a great coach. This fall, Powell has helped some with film breakdown and given Meade encouraging words. Powell’s younger boys serve as Meade’s ball boys for the home games.

Luetters’ son, Lawson, was a first team all-state quarterback for Meade and played at Tabor College.

“I have great respect for coach Powell,” Luetters said. “Great guy, he coached my son all the way through his high school career and nothing but a standup guy, so it was great working with him, and I think it was just one of those deals, coach Powell has got some young kids coming up, three boys and a girl, and his girl was getting to high school, and his three boys were getting ready to hit junior high, so I think he wanted to maybe be able to go back and watch them and coach them up.”

This Friday, Meade is going to stop by NAIA Friends University in Wichita where Moshier is currently assistant athletic director and have a short practice before the state championship Saturday in Newton.

Luetters is the offensive coordinator, and Chad Rudzik has served as defensive coordinator. Meade was running a 3-2 and switched to a 3-3 stack with a couple of hybrid positions. The defense has helped take away angles, traps and counters that are key in eight-man football.

Rudzik was on Moshier’s staff for several years. When Moshier left, the defensive coordinator also retired. Rudzik took over as coordinator. This marks Rudzik’s fifth season as defensive coordinator. Luetters said Rudzik has been right 95 percent of the time on calls during games.

“He does a great job,” Luetters said. “He makes a lot of adjustments during the game.”

Offensive line coach Clint Kuhns played on Moshier’s first team, a successful season that yielded the Buffs’ first playoff appearance in 10-plus years. Kuhns won two national titles at Butler County Community College.

Luetters’ wife is Rochelle. Her grandfather is Herb Greenstreet. He played at Fort Hays and coached at Windthorst, near Spearville, for many years. Greenstreet passed away in 1981. Greenstreet’s wife is still alive and will be at the state game Saturday.

Per Otis-Bison staffer/Kansas historian Stan Ewy, Greenstreet had several quality seasons in the pre-KSHSAA era. Greenstreet posted a 7-1 record in six-man in 1958, 7-1 in’ 59, and 8-0 season with Windthorst in 1960. The program posted another undefeated season in 1962, per Hutchinson News archives/SIK research.

Around eight to nine years ago, Luetters’ wife’s grandmother was cleaning out her basement. She found some of Herb’s old coaching items and asked if Bryan wanted to go through it. Luetters found a 1948 book on the split-T formation, a 1941 single wing book and another one on the 5-2 defense teams ran in the ’50s and ‘60s.

“I have read all through them,” Luetters said. “You have got to see the top of them. I have got pages all tapped out at the top with bookmarks, and they are labeled, so I know what to go to. It’s just a lot of fun, especially at the high school level, there’s a lot of different things you can do, and that’s why football is fun.”

Rick Dvorak, a Spearville graduate, farms by Spearville and is Rochelle’s uncle. Late in the ‘60s, Dvorak played at Wichita State when WSU played Division I football. At the time, all Division I freshmen had to redshirt. Dvorak wasn’t on the Wichita State plane crash.

“The whole team died except the freshmen,” Luetters said. “And so they came back, and they petitioned the NCAA, and said ‘Look, we have either got to let the freshmen play, or we have to cancel our program.’”

Dvorak was able to play football. He was a four-year starter and is in the WSU Hall of Fame. Dvorak is the leading tackler in Missouri Valley Conference history and played for the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins. Two of Dvorak’s boys played at Hanston under legendary former coach Jerry Slaton. Luetters played with Slaton’s son at Dodge City Community College.

“My wife is very supportive,” Luetters said. “She knows how football is.”

Class 3A: Andale (12-0) vs. Frontenac (10-2)

Andale and Frontenac both have long-standing staffs. Frontenac’s Mark Smith, a former standout quarterback at Pittsburg Colgan and Pittsburg State University, has served as Raider head coach since 2012. Defensive coordinator John Palumbo has been a part of the Raider football program as a long time assistant leading the defense. Palumbo was a quarterback in the mid 80s for FHS and has been an assistant coach since the late 80s. He was the defensive coordinator when the Raiders won the 1994 2-1A title under Leon Miller and has been part of the program since he was in college. He was Frontenac’s head coach from ’06-09. Smith, who has been with Frontenac since 2012, is 79-31. In that span, Frontenac has allowed a collective 15.3 points per game.

Bill Sullivan coaches the wide receivers/defensive backs and has been with the Raiders since 1998. Brady Hill, a 2000 grad of FHS, and Jesse Wall, Pitt State Hall of Famer, coach the lines. Sullivan has served as Frontenac’s baseball coach for 23 years, winning a state title in 2012. Hill has been with the program for several years and is also Smith’s brother in law. Kaleb Terlip and Scott Fields also help with the program. Terlip is the state championship QB from the 1994 2-1A team, the only state football title in school history. Fields, who serves as the schools girls basketball coach, has taken them to back to back Final Fours in 3A. He was a standout multiple sport all-state athlete for the Raiders graduating in 1994.

Andale coach Dylan Schmidt is 60-2 and won 37 straight games with his alma mater. Tim Fairchild and Ted Easter have 30-plus years of coaching. Fairchild is well-known for his highly athletic children, including Mason, Grant, Katelyn and McKenzie.

Last spring, coach Fairchild told me that he had worked with Hall of Fame coach Tom Young at Derby earlier in his career. Fairchild joined Andale’s staff in ’02 and has been the defensive coordinator since ’04. Andale again easily leads 3A in scoring defense with 68 points allowed.

“Those guys are tremendous,” Dylan Schmidt told me in 2018. “As the years go by, they continue to learn more and more and more, and they’ve just done such a good job being able to come up with a game plan every week, and they’ve worked their butt off, and so it’s been fun to have those guys around.”

Derek Deegan, Mike Blasi and Tyler Ryan have all served at least four years on staff. Deegan has been on staff 10-plus years.

Deegan also serves as director for Andale Cougar football for the last 23 years and works as a manager for Spirit Aerosystems.

Class 6A: Blue Valley Northwest (11-1) versus Derby (11-0)

Blue Valley Northwest is 0-9, 2-7, 5-2 and 11-1 in the incredible four-year climb under coach Clint Rider. BVNW has second-year defensive coordinator Kollin Ahearn, who Rider labeled “phenomenal.” Zack Orrick, Tenny Dewey, John Reichart, Darren Masten and Ed Thomas have been with Rider in the last four years.

Derby has reached seven straight state championship games and has 150 wins in 16 years with coach Brandon Clark. He has great defensive coordinators: Joel Applebee, Shelby Wehrman, Caleb Smith, Cade Armstrong, Mitch Pontious and Austin Wuthrich.

Applebee, Clark’s best friend and cousin, is MV’s head football coach. Wehrman is at Cheney and paced the Cardinals to the school’s best record this fall. Smith served as Valley Center’s head football coach and is now Newton’s principal. Armstrong went from Derby to a stint as Andover’s head coach. Pontious left Derby’s staff two years ago to go into administration. Then, he returned to staff this year as the safeties coach.

Clark called Wuthrich, a former head coach at Whitewater-Remington, “a stud.” Derby allowed 23.8 points a game last season and 20.5 this year. One of Derby’s longest tenured coaches is running backs coach Todd Olmstead, who is also the head baseball coach. Olmstead has helped running back Dylan Edwards exceed 3,000 all-purpose yards this year.

Class 2A: Rossville (12-0) vs. Beloit (9-3)

Rossville has won 25 straight games. Coach Derick Hammes is 95-15 with four state titles with the Bulldawgs. His offense derives from former Big East option football with Oklahoma and Nebraska. Rossville is very well-known for its dual threat quarterbacks and high-octane spread offenses.

Rossville has assistants Dan Schneider, Blake Alexander, Thatcher Horak and Blake Iverson. Horak was a 2015 Shrine Bowler for Rossville. His brother, Torrey, is Rossville’s standout quarterback and reigning 2A Player of the Year. Alexander is Rossville’s defensive coordinator. Rossville has permitted 8.3 points per game, currently the best since Hammes took over as coach.

Previously, Alexander served seven years in Topeka, plus an earlier stint as Atchison County’s head football coach. Schneider is Rossville’s longest tenured assistant and coaches the Bulldawgs’ lines. He has been on staff since 2013.

Beloit has won 33 games in five years with coach Brad Gober. The Trojans have assistants Kevin Harris, Garry Lowry, Brock McMillan and Casey Seyfert. Lowry and McMillan both served as head coaches at Lincoln and Rock Hills, respectively. Harris and Seyfert are longtime assistants. Seyfert was an All-American at Fort Hays. His son, Grady, is Beloit’s standout junior lineman and one of the best players in the Class of 2023.

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