By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
This is the third annual Sports In Kansas Football All Under-The-Radar Team, one of the most popular pieces we have. Every class and position group is represented. SIK (Conor Nicholl, Bethany Bowman & Chet Kuplen) has talked with numerous coaches and players during the summer and throughout the season through multiple media forms: radio, articles, tv, all-access shows and several more interviews. The group comes in all forms: first-year senior starters, players who have had breakout seasons, and emerging sophomores. The purpose of this list is players who have never earned all-state recognition or even all-league (first team/second team) recognition prior but could be on the radar for those lists this postseason. This is not a recruiting list, though at least a few of the players should become D1/D2 prospects.
The 2019 Under-The-Radar Team: Moscow football; Hays High’s Gavin Meyers and Gaven Haselhorst; Eureka’s Hayden Mead/Braden Rucker, Cimarron’s Braxton Harrison; Ellsworth’s Kash Travnicheck; Wichita Northwest’s offensive line; Garden City’s Josh Janas
The 2020 Under-The-Radar Team: South Gray offensive line; Rossville’s Bryson Balch; Columbus’ Lynn Shallenburger; Southeast of Saline’s Eli Harris; Wheatland-Grinnell’s Trey Vincent and Isaac Mendez; Haven’s Hunter Barlow; Canton-Galva’s Conner Koehn; Leoti-Wichita County’s Manny Chavez; Hoxie’s special teams; Natoma’s Kayden Martinez; Colony-Crest’s Holden Barker; Baldwin’s Adam Callahan
Here is the 2021 Under-The-Radar Team
6A: Blue Valley OL duo – Andy Long and Ben Vasquez/Zak Svendsen, DB, Baylor Bowen, Lawrence
Blue Valley coach Allen Terrell has coached two-plus decades and is in his fifth year leading the Tigers. Blue Valley is consistently one of Kansas’ hallmark programs. While the state’s top 5/6A teams often produce Division I talent, Terrell sees another common link between those elite programs.
“The sustained success programs in our area, the Derbys, the Mill Valleys, the Catholic schools, the Wichita Northwest, you don’t see a lot of guys that are three-year starters,” Terrell told SIK earlier this fall. “Rarely do you see that. The guys that make the difference are the first-year senior starters, for the most part.”
“Those are the ones that are going to decide if you win a state title or not,” Terrell added. “Or make a deep run, and it’s sacred to them, their senior year is so important, and they have worked their tails off to get to that point. And they get this sense of urgency. … Honestly, it’s even more so for the kids that know that they are probably not going to go play college football, that this is it.”
Blue Valley has plenty of major college prospects including OL Nick Herzog, K Charlie Weinrich, dual threat quarterback Greyson Holbert and wide receiver Sterling Lockett. Plus, its well-known trio of running back Michael Solomon, linebacker Hayden Essex and defensive back Michael Allen.
However, the Tigers are 5-1 and ranked No. 3 in Class 6A with multiple players who have limited experience. In the last three weeks, Blue Valley has won at St. Thomas Aquinas (36-35 in overtime), versus Blue Valley North (45-23) and at Bishop Miege (31-28).
Blue Valley has averaged 40.3 points per game, a significant climb from 28.6 points a game last season. BV ended a three-game losing streak versus Miege that had average margin of loss of 25.7 points. As well, Blue Valley had lost three straight to Aquinas with an average margin of defeat 24 points.
The offense has 6.6 yards per rush and 6.97 yards per play. Last season, BV, in a year that started late from COVID-19, delivered 5.2 yards per rush and 5.7 yards per play.
Entering the year, Terrell was pleased with his offensive line, a group that has played well.
“The offensive line we are really excited about,” Terrell said. “There’s a couple kids there that have either started for us before or played sparingly.”
Senior center Andy Long (6-0, 270) is a team captain.
“He’s an absolute junk-yard dog at offensive line,” Terrell said. “He’s everything you could want from a center. He is smart. He’s nasty. He’s physical. He is strong. The kid would be getting recruited major – he’s just not tall – and colleges are in love, you’ve got to be 6-5 to play offensive line, which is total bull. But Andy is as good as there is for a high school center.”
Senior guard Ben Vasquez came on late in 2020 and played some snaps. Terrell said Vasquez had “a really good offseason” and “made a ton of personal improvement.” The 6-3, 295-pound Vasquez is basically a first-year starter. Terrell believes Vasquez has a chance to play college football. Vasquez has a 78-inch wing span.
“That’s his goal,” Terrell said. “He is a giant of a young man. … Moves OK for a guy that size, and he is still growing and learning.”
Against Aquinas, Blue Valley had 24 pass attempts. Vasquez went against Aquinas’ 6-6, 275-pound defensive end Jalen Marshall, who is the state’s No. 6 recruit. Vasquez did not allow a sack and delivered a pancake.
Senior Zak Svendsen served as Blue Valley’s dime safety last year. He played on long yardage situations and did play on special teams. Svendsen delivered 22 tackles last season. This year, he has 18 stops, including five versus Miege. He has picked off a pass.
“This year, it’s been like he’s a three-year starter for us,” Terrell said. “The guy has been so active in our offseason and knows our scheme so well, and it’s just worked extremely hard to be there. It’s like he’s always been a starter for us.”
Baylor Bowen, senior WR at Lawrence HS, has emerged as one of the biggest playmakers in the Sunflower League this season after moving from Texas. Bowen, the son of Chesty Lion and former KU longtime assistant Clint Bowen, has great size at 6’4″ 180 pounds. Through the first four weeks Bowen was averaging close to 100 yards per game but official stats after week six weren’t yet available. He has emerged as one of the top 6A players in the state this season.
6A: Sebastian Lopez, Garden City, OC
Garden City has an experienced offensive line, paced by senior Kaden Whitehurst, the unit’s vocal leader. Sophomore Sebastian Lopez has stepped in at center. Garden City coach Brian Hill has had several linemen with Division I offers, notably Trey Nuzum and the Elliotts, DeMarcus and Terrell. Hill believes Lopez is in that mix. Hill said Lopez is “beyond” his sophomore year.
“He definitely has that makeup,” Hill said. “Like a lot of the kids that we have had, he’s a hard worker. He’s good in the classroom. He’s a high-character kid. He is not going to let any kind of success early on here in his young career go to his head. He is also looking to try to better, and that to me is what’s going to help propel him over the next couple years.”
Last winter, Lopez went 25-5 and finished third in Class 6A at 285 pounds. He earned All-American status this summer. Generally, the 285-pound state champions in wrestling are elite football players.
Recent champions include Lakin’s Hadley Panzer, Mill Valley’s Ethan Kremer, Manhattan’s Damian Ilalio, and Garden City’s Fuji Chairez. Panzer and Ilalio are at Kansas State, Chairez had committed to Missouri Southern State, and Kremer was the Kansas Player of the Year for football last fall. Hill said Lopez is expected to have a “great future” with Garden City. GC is 4-2 and has substantially improved its offense in the first year of the flexbone.
Hill called Lopez a great competitor.
“It’s really just his overall strength,” Hill said. “I mean, he has the strength of a 17 or 18 year old kid, and that’s what allows him to play and wrestle and be as good as he is at this age. He’s just extremely strong. He’s got a great head on his shoulders. He is not someone who gets high or too low. He’s very level-headed, and just a competitor.
“He loves to wrestle,” Hill added. “He plays football, but he also plays baseball at 285 pounds, and really does a great job of doing that. I love the multi-sport athlete, because it really, to me, shows that a kid loves to compete. It doesn’t matter what the sport.”
5A: Truman Griffith, Mill Valley, DL/Sam Parks, Maize South, K, Fletcher Pankey, Spring Hill, QB, Omari Elias, Kapaun, RB, Dylan Dunn, BV Southwest, Soph. QB
This summer, Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee told SIK that he expected sophomore DL Truman Griffith to enjoy a breakout season. Griffith is 6-3, 222. He has 18 tackles, and 4.5 sacks, second-best on the squad in the first five games. In addition to Griffith, we wanted to give a shoutout to first year starting QB Hayden Jay who has stepped in nicely for Cooper Marsh after graduation. Jay has passed for 1,210 yards (11 TD/4 INT) and is very much an under-the-radar player that is starting to become more known across the state as MV looks for their fifth state title under Applebee. MV has a lot of first year starting players that could all deserve shoutouts as the program doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.
“Well advanced,” Applebee said.
As well, Maize South sophomore kicker Sam Parks is quietly becoming one of Kansas’ top specialists. Currently, the top-three kickers are all seniors, each with Division I-esque legs: Blue Valley’s Weinrich, Dodge City’s Emmanuel Aguilar, and Maize’s Cole Segraves. All three have kicked at least a 50-yard field goal this season.
Parks, who carries a 4.0 GPA, went 3 of 4 on field goals and 33 of 34 on extra points as a freshman. He was second team all-league in AVCTL Division I last fall. He had a long of 31 yards. This season, Parks is 30 of 33 on extra points, 5 of 7 with field goals, with a long of 42. Parks has 14 touchbacks.
Fletcher Pankey has emerged as a breakout players this season for 6-0 Spring Hill. He has passed for 1,035 yards (15 TD/ 2 INT) while completing 66 percent of his passes. Pretty solid for a player that had zero Frontier League honors last season.
Elias is a well known name now in Wichita as he has emerged as one of the backs in the city with 1,027 yards in six games. However from a statewide perspective, not many knew of him coming into the season with just 103 rushing yards as a freshman last fall. Elias will be a household name in the state of Kansas the next three football seasons.
While Dunn isn’t on a team that is ranked or making headlines across the state he has emerged as one of the better passing QBs in 5A with a classification leading 1,295 yards (12 TD/5 INT). He also has Zach Atkins, an all-state candidate at 5A at WR. Dunn is just a sophomore and in his first year as a starter for BVSW.
4A: Chase Cottam, Wamego, WR, Eric Erbe, Chanute, QB, Jayden Sundgren, El Dorado RB
Wamego (5-1) is well-known for quarterback Hayden Oviatt, who paced the North Central Kansas League in rushing and passing yards last year. Oviatt has delivered another big season with 1,050 passing. Multiple sources mentioned Wamego junior wide receiver Chase Cottam has a key underrated player. He has 382 receiving yards for a Red Raider offense that has averaged 38.3 points per game under coach Weston Moody. Wamego has played in three OT games, two off what is believed the national record, per SIK research.
Last year, Wamego went 6-5 and delivered 27.4 points a contest. Cottam was not among Wamego’s top-two receivers last season and this is his first year as a starter. Last Friday, Wamego beat K.C. Schlagle on Senior Night, 48-14. He caught seven passes for 135 yards and four TDs. Per Butler County Gazette’s Chuck Chaney team statistics, Wamego is No. 1 in 4A in overall offense (380 yards/game) and No. 1 in pass defense (53 yards allowed). Cottam was also a Week 4 team captain as voted on by his teammates.
Erbe isn’t exactly under the radar but injuries also have a little to do with that. If you followed the camp/combine circuit this summer and our page then you were somewhat aware of Erbe. But he deserves a mention because he’s been a breakout player in SEK this season. The 6-2 195 pound junior has passed for 995 yards (10 TD/ 3 INT) in leading Chanute to five straight victories. This team is as hot as any team right now on both sides of the football.
Sundgren has rushed for 977 yards this season after having just 384 yards last season. He has emerged as one of the solid backs in the Wichita metro for the 2021 season. He just broke El Dorado’s single game rushing record.
3A: John Burk/Andrew Reynolds, Prairie View, OL/Chapman duo, Luke Niggemann, Girard QB/Girard Skill Players/OL, Luke Grace, Cheney, WR, Isiah Tyson, Parsons
Both Chapman and Prairie View (5-1) are known for their physical, run-heavy styles.
Prairie View coach Kyle Littrell called 5-foot-9 junior strong tackle John Burk’s story amazing.
“I haven’t seen a kid kill it in the weight room like he kills in the weight room in a long, long time,” Littrell said. “…He is more of put your feet in the ground guy and try and move bodies.”
Burk and senior Andrew Reynolds have been highly instrumental on Prairie View’s line.
“Andrew is kind of the guy that never gets first team all-league or never gets all-state mentions or anything like that, but Andrew has probably been our most important player for the last three years as far as the offensive line goes,” Littrell said.
Burk did not play middle school football. Littrell noticed Burk’s strong frame and could move some. Littrell talked Burk into playing football. Within the first three weeks of practice, Burk decided to stop playing. Last year as a sophomore, Burk had limited confidence.
“He stayed out,” Littrell said. “And he made himself tougher by just going out in practice everyday and taking a beating, and then we had a scrimmage one time. And to me, if you are not early, you are late. And we were all walking out to the field to get ready for this scrimmage this Saturday morning and saw him pull up in his car.”
Burk saw the team out on the field, though PV hadn’t started yet. Burk drove through the parking lot and went back home. On Monday, Littrell asked Burk why he didn’t come to the scrimmage.
“He said, ‘Coach, I know what you would say if I was late,’” Littrell said. “So he said, ‘I will just take the (butt) chewing on Monday instead of the (butt) chewing on Saturday.”
After Christmas break last year as a sophomore, Littrell said “something clicked” with Burk.
“He started hitting the weights like you wouldn’t believe,” Littrell said.
Burk finished the year with the team’s highest squat at 529 pounds.
“That just shot the kid over the moon, and it gave him that kick start of, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” Littrell said. “’I can really do this.’”
Burk was still a backup, and Littrell did not expect him to play varsity this year. However, when senior Colby Garretson went out with injury, Burk stepped.
“John is our smartest lineman,” Littrell said. “He’s just come in and he’s just gotten better every week, and I am just so happy for the kid. I am very proud of him, because he is a fantastic kid. Just fantastic.”
Chapman stands at 4-2 with two wins by a combined three points. The Irish have 29.7 points per game in its run-heavy offense. Last year, the Irish posted a 4-3 record in a COVID-19 wrecked year. Chapman tallied 30.1 points a game.
The Irish returned senior Eli Riegel, who missed most of last season with injury and has never earned all-league honors. Riegel is on the short list for top 3A running back. He has 140 carries for 1,023 yards and 12 scores. Chapman has averaged 324 rushing yards a game and 6.6 yards per carry. Additionally, Chapman junior Brayden Lexow (5-7, 220) is the starting center and recently squatted 470 pounds.
Luke Niggemann, junior 6-4 190 QB, emerged on the scene last season as a sophomore as he helped the Trojans get an upset victory over the Columbus Titans in the playoffs. He was not the starter until the end of the season. Coming into the year, we had an idea that he would be a very solid player from what we saw and talked to him at camps/combines. But projecting and doing it are two different things. He is now leading one of the top 3A teams in the Eastern part of the state with a perfect 6-0 record as they could be a major, major factor on the 3A East Playoffs.
Many know of linebacker Brecken Troike returning but other than that Girard was a big question mark heading into 2021. That’s not the case now as the Trojans and their very underrated offensive line have a perfect record entering week seven. Girard features some of the best skill pieces in Southeast Kansas. Wyatt Foley, Ethan Davidson, Beau Harris, Ethan Merrell, Aidan Damman, Cordell Searan, Ryan Jarbo, Caleb Combs, Arrick Williams, Justin Ferguson and Alex Coester have the Trojans offense clicking this season.
Grace earned all-league honorable mention last season as the primary target was Logan Bartlett last season for the Cardinals. This season it has been Grace who has emerged as one of the best receivers in 3A football with over 500 yards receiving (11 TD) in the first six weeks for one of the top QBs in all of Kansas in Harrison Voth. Cheney is looking for its first double-digit winning season this year in program history. The receiving corps of Grace, Dayton Higgs, and Jack Voth is one of the best in 3A Kansas.
Isiah Tyson of Parsons HS has emerged as one of the best defenders in Southeast Kansas this season and likely 3A. He is a physical specimen at 6’2.5″ 225 pounds. He did 12 reps at 225-pounds at the Sharp Combine this summer and has registered 44 tackles from his defensive end spot this season along with 7 QBH and 3.5 sacks. Tyson is going to make someone a very nice player at the next level. Jeff Schibi has the Vikings producing and believing in themselves as they are off to a great 4-2 start in 2021.
2A: Kolton Hagans/Kendall Walker, Thomas More Prep-Marian, DL, Wyatt Drouhard, Chaparral, Legend Robinson, Hoisington RB, Keller Hurla, St. Mary’s
Last season, Thomas More Prep-Marian delivered a surprise 5-1 start with a pair of close wins versus Mid-Continent League rivals Plainville and Ellis. TMP permitted 186 passing and 243 rushing in a one-score loss to Oakley in Week 1.
Plainville finished with 228 rushing yards. Ellis recorded 212 passing and 251 rushing versus the Monarchs. Plainville and Ellis returned running backs Kyle Werner and Mason Gottschalk, a duo who each exceeded 100 rushing yards versus TMP and 900 for the year.
This season, TMP returned its well-known trio of QB Kade Harris, RB Bryce Seib and WR Jace Wentling. But the Monarchs are 5-1 and have delivered four straight shutouts in part from its sophomore defensive tackles Kolton Hagans and Kendall Walker. TMP has historically had all-conference quarterbacks, though has had trouble developing talented linemen.
Last year, Hagans was an honorable mention selection as an offensive guard. Walker collected no league honors.
“Motivation to just help keep my team on top, just not taking a play off. Because if you take a play off, it’s hurting everybody else,” Walker said. “Just every play, I am getting after that.”
In the last 50 years, TMP has never shut out more than two opponents in a row. Overall, the Monarchs have allowed 36 points this season after 71 versus the same teams last year. TMP has started a new tradition where the team gets Monday donuts from well-known Hays establishment Daylight Donuts if it delivers a shutout.
“They take up a lot of offensive linemen,” Seib said. “Last year, they were thrown out there, and they were just freshmen, so they didn’t have any experience, but this year, they have really shown something and really Kendall and Kolton have picked it up and carried our defense this year.”
TMP has allowed 3.6 yards per carry and 99 rushing yards a game. The Monarchs have held teams to 17 of 53 for 163 yards with one passing score against five interceptions. Plainville had 176 yards of total offense, Ellis finished with 74. TMP shutout Plainville, a 3-3 squad whose losses have come against teams a combined 17-1.
“It really showed that we are actually made of something this year,” Seib said. “Like last year, people kind of thought we were a fake team, didn’t play any competition. But it really showed what we are made of.”
Overall, opponents have 3.4 yards per play. Last season, they both recorded 33 tackles and combined for six tackles for loss. Normally one is at nose guard, the other one an inside shade.
“They just love it in there, and it’s fun to have those guys that want to be in there battling in the trenches,” coach Jay Harris said. “It’s fun to have (those) guys, and fun to coach them.”
Entering Friday’s huge district road matchup at Cimarron, Hagans has 18 tackles, three for loss. Walker has delivered 28 tackles with a team-high nine for loss.
“We could not block them,” Southwestern Heights coach Matt Bell said Friday.
While we did highlight and think Robinson would be a breakout player coming into the season, we still need to show what kind of season he is having a huge senior year with 1,283 yards (10.1 ypc) along with 16 TDs for last seasons 2A state runner-up. 2A west seems to be pretty open with several contenders. Can Hoisington make another deep run under Zach Baird? Robinson had less than 100 career yards entering the season and is now one of the top backs in the state after registering 48 tackles last season on defense.
St. Mary’s is an under the radar team to begin with as it often gets overshadowed by state powers Rossville and Silver Lake. However Keller Hurla has stepped up big into the spotlight this season as a junior with 910 yards (8 TD/ 1 INT) along with 270 yards and seven touchdowns. 15 combined touchdowns in six games for the Bears who have a very solid victory over Nemaha Central. Their losses: Riley County (by 3), Silver Lake (by 1) and Rossville. They’ve won three in a row and are undefeated in their district. Team that nobody is talking about but needs to be! Defensively Austin Marshall, Abe Huracha, Coby De Donder and Greg King lead the way.
2A: Memo Flores, Southwestern Heights, RB, Wyatt Drouhard, Chaparral QB
Southwestern Heights senior running back Memo Flores looked at various preseason player to watch lists, both for 2A and for western Kansas, and didn’t see his name. The 5-foot-7, 198-pound Flores delivered 171 carries for 786 yards and seven scores as a junior.
While SWH has struggled to a 1-5 start, Flores has again put up big numbers with 157 carries for 762 yards and a score. He’s also up to 84 stops this fall, 280 in his career. Flores has delivered a 500-plus squat in the weight room. He has exceeded 100 rushing yards in four contests.
“He takes some things personally,” Bell said. “There’s some publications out there that did not list him as one of the better players in western Kansas. I think every team we’ve played as had as a kid that has been on that list. I would say more often than not, he is probably the best player on the field. It doesn’t help we don’t win very many games, so he doesn’t get much recognition.”
While Drouhard isn’t really under-the-radar anymore as he has emerged as an all-state caliber quarterback, he deserves a spot on this list because he hasn’t played football since the 8th grade. Who would have known that he would go on to throw for 1,583 yards (24 TD/3 INT) over the first six weeks with a 6-0 record. Last season Chaparral was 2-6. Drouhard’s favorite target has been Jackson Swartz (640 yards, 7 TD). While not under-the-radar now, nobody knew of him coming into the season from the outside.
1A: Dawson Mannebach, Inman, OL/DL
Inman could have several selections on this list after a 6-0 start and just three points allowed, the fewest in Kansas. However, Inman senior Dawson Mannebach was honorable mention all-district offensive line in 2020. Inman was second in the district and eventually earned a 1A state semifinal appearance. Ten offensive linemen in a seven-team district were selected before Mannebach. He had no defensive honors after he delivered 37 tackles, seven for loss.
This year, Inman has outscored teams, 354-3. Mannebach is arguably the best lineman in 1A football this year. Mannebach (6-2, 205) is the most athletic lineman Inman has had in the Lance Sawyer era. He moves extremely well and made big weight room gains. Mannebach was also on the 400- and 1,600-meter state relay teams.
Mannebach is part of an offensive line that has not permitted a sack. He has helped Jace Doerksen complete 74 percent of his passes for 837 yards with 12 scores against one interception. Inman has rushed for 288 yards a game.
“They are just a bunch of hard workers that they will do anything for you,” sophomore Tanner Heckel told SIK. “They will go get your blocks. If they miss a block, they take it personally, and go get the next one.”
Mannebach has already recorded 22 tackles, seven for loss and four sacks on defense.
8-Man I: Cole Feldt, WaKeeney-Trego, ATH, Maison Slater, Clifton Clyde
WaKeeney-Trego is 6-0 and has already enjoyed a five-win improvement from 2020. One of Kansas’ top stories, Trego has experience and athleticism across the board. Notably, junior quarterback Owen Day and junior running back/returner James Kriegh are on various statewide leaderboards.
Senior Cole Feldt, who coach Pat Haxton calls “our No. 1 leader,” plays in an extremely versatile all-purpose role. Feldt is the team’s backup quarterback. In the signature 42-40 Week 3 road win versus Victoria, Feldt scored a rushing touchdown when Day exited for a play. He started at quarterback last week when the Golden Eagles, No. 4 in Eight-Man, Division I, beat Oberlin. Day did not play in the contest.
Overall, Feldt is believed to be the only Kansas player this year to: complete five passes, rush at least 10 times, catch at least 10 passes and record 50 tackles.
Overall, he is 5 of 7 passing for 54 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Feldt has 18 carries for 113 yards and four scores. He has 11 catches for 77 yards. Defensively, he has recorded 50 tackles, two tackles for loss, an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Feldt did not any all-league recognition last season in the four-team MCL eight-man league. Kriegh was the lone Golden Eagle recognized when he was first team all-league special teams.
“He makes everybody else around him better, and that’s the best thing about Cole,” Trego coach Pat Haxton said. “As you have seen watch Cole grow and develop over the last five or six years, he’s just become a really nice athlete because of the effort, and the work he’s put in. … He’s a great kid, he’s our best locker room guy. He’s our leader, and we are going to go the way he goes most of time.”
Slater has emerged as a ball-hawk in 8-man football this season in five games with eight interceptions.
8-Man II: Braden Polifka, Quinter, OL/DL; Max Neeley, Dighton, QB
Quinter is 5-1 and will be favored in its final two contests versus Wallace County and Logan-Palco. Quinter has not won more than six games since a 12-1 mark and state title in ’09. Junior lineman Braden Polifka (6-0, 250) put together a nice summer. He was an honorable mention all-league selection in 2020. Polifka is part of a group that Jeff Savage has enjoyed coaching. Savage, in his 42nd year, has announced his retirement at the end of this season. He travels home near Emporia and comes back to Quinter each week.
“Just awesome,” Savage said. “Awesome kids. They are very high character kids. As high of a character kid as I have ever coached, and it’s just fun to be around them. I make a 270-mile drive every week to coach them, and it’s been a blessing to coach these kids.”
Dighton junior Max Neeley was an honorable mention all-league selection in 2020. Dighton entered this season on a 2-16 stretch. This season, Dighton is 5-1, including a quality 32-20 win versus Coldwater-South Central last week. Neeley has continued an impressive last five months. He won the 1A pole vault title last May. Neeley posted 14 feet, 3 inches at regionals and won the title with a 13-6 clearance.
Neeley has delivered a huge year with 37 of 69 passes for 481 yards with eight touchdowns against four interceptions. Neeley has 111 carries for 753 yards and 17 scores.
Six-Man: Lane Purvis, Weskan, OL/DL; Lane Halderson, Cunningham, End
Last season, Weskan lineman Lane Purvis was not named the Six-Man coaches all-state team. Cunningham end Lane Halderson collected an honorable mention all-state selection. There were 14 players (some named twice) to various first team all-state positions. All but three went to seniors.
Purvis and Halderson have been among those who have elevated play to a first team all-state status. In the summer, Weskan coach Brett Clow told SIK that Purvis was “one of our top returners.” However, Purvis hadn’t received the same recognition across the league yet.
Weskan stands at 4-2, 3-2 in league play and will be heavily favored in the regular season finale versus Deerfield this week. The Coyotes have three wins by a combined 24 points, including a 37-33 victory versus Bird City-Cheylin on Sept. 24.
“O-line played the best they have all year,” Clow told SIK after the Cheylin win. “Lane Purvis had a very good game up front.”
Cunningham has well-known sophomore quarterback Luke McGuire, who has accounted for 16 scores. Halderson has emerged as the top receiver with 11 catches for 228 yards and seven scores. He paces with 37 tackles. Cunningham is 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in 6-Man.
“The one everybody is watching is Lane Halderson probably,” Cunningham coach Lance McGuire said. “He is physical. He has got great hands.”
Last year, he delivered 57 tackles, along with 39 catches for 478 yards and seven scores.
“We have set our bar a little higher,” McGuire said. “We don’t just want to win games. We want to win the big games.”