By CONOR NICHOLL & CHET KUPLEN
Sports In Kansas continues with its positional breakdowns: QB, RB, WR/TE, OL, DL and LB have already been published. DBs are headlined by Wichita Collegiate’s Wesley Fair, Canton-Galva’s Jett Vincent, and the overall units at Mill Valley, Southeast of Saline, Bishop Miege and Rock Creek.
Regarding non-seniors, Blue Valley Northwest junior Trey Ridley is a top-100 safety nationally and has been offered by Iowa State.
All interviews, scoring defense and pass defense statistics from Conor Nicholl, Sports In Kansas, with research from multiple databases: Prep Power Index, KPreps, Hudl and MaxPreps. This is not a ranked list or in any specific order. For a premium player evaluation from Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas – email [email protected]
Wesley Fair, Wichita Collegiate
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Wesley Fair is one of Kansas’ most well-known football players with back-to-back huge seasons as Wichita Collegiate’s dual threat quarterback. Fair is the No. 6 Class of 2023 recruit for Kansas and has committed to K-State. Fair is listed an Athlete on his recruiting page, though is listed primarily a safety on his Twitter. Collegiate finished 8-2 and permitted 15 points a game, seventh-best in 3A.
Per SIK research and Hudl boxscores, Fair finished with 37 tackles and an interception. Overall, Collegiate held teams to 79 of 181 passing (43.6 percent) for 974 yards with seven touchdowns against nine interceptions, per SIK research and Hudl boxscores. Collegiate’s opponents included 4A Mulvane, pass-heavy 3A Hesston and Cheney, single wing Pratt and 3A state champion Andale. Collegiate’s opponents scored 31.5 points a game when not playing the Spartans. WCS held the opponents 16.5 points a game under their season average. Fair is a dynamic multi-sport athlete and was also a conference defensive player of the year in basketball. Although he may not be utilized as much on defense this season he is one of the best defensive backs in the state of Kansas and will play that in college.
Jett Vincent, Canton-Galva
Canton-Galva senior Jett Vincent has a strong chance to break the all-time all-classes interceptions record. Vincent spent his first three years playing for his dad, Jesse, at Wheatland-Grinnell. Jett’s brother, Trey, was the standout quarterback. W-G had its three consecutive best seasons in school history, including an Eight-Man, Division II state runner-up to Axtell. Vincent is 6-3, 185 with a 35-inch vertical.
Vincent has transferred to Canton-Galva after his dad took the C-G principal job. Vincent has multiple Division II offers, including Chadron State and Missouri Southern, along with offers at the NAIA level. Vincent is the reigning Sports in Kansas Eight-Man, Division II Defensive Player of the Year. He was the lone ‘21 DPOY in any class who was a defensive back. W-G was ninth in Division II with 19.9 points allowed a contest.
Vincent is on the short list for best eight-man WR/DB in the last 15 years, along with Canton-Galva’s Tyson Struber and Central Plains’ Layne Bieberle. Vincent recorded 125 tackles, nine passes defended, six interceptions and five forced fumbles. He paced all eight-man players in receiving with 67 catches for 1,341 yards and 18 scores. In his career, Vincent has 256 tackles and 28 INTs. The all-time eight-man interceptions mark is 31, the all-classes in 32.
Vincent’s ’21 defensive numbers grow even better when strength of schedule is included. Opponents scored 37.5 points a game when not facing W-G. Overall, the Thunderhawks allowed around five yards per pass attempt, an excellent number.
Dontrell Harris, Wichita Northwest; Ben Heidebrecht, Wichita Northwest
The two combined for eight interceptions last season for the Grizzlies who moved up to 6A. Expect them to be two of the better defensive backs in the City League for 2022.
Adrion Seals, Eudora
Seals is a dynamic athlete that can fit into a lot of spots. He was a first team all-non senior and all-state pick in 4A last season. Eudora returns quite the cast of players including multiple with Division I offers.
Jase Hoover, Louisburg
Hoover earned first team all league honors in the secondary of the Frontier League one season ago. He was the lone non-senior to have the honors at the position. Louisburg finished 4-5 and permitted 25.1 points per game, which ranked No. 17 out of 32 4A squads.
Isaiah Holthaus, Tonganoxie
Although more of a receiver that could have a breakout year on that side of the ball there is a lot you can do with Holthaus with his size and length. He can play in multiple spots on the defense whether that’s OLB/SS/S/DE. He is a hybrid type player that could be one of the best in the Frontier League this season with his sub 4.5 HH 40 speed at 6’3” 185 pounds. It may not be a bad idea to look at Holthaus as a outside backer or safety at the next level if he doesn’t end up as a receiver.
Ty Smith, Circle
Smith was a first team all-state selection at defensive back for Circle who was a team that had a breakout season one year ago. Several return for a team to look out for on the 4A West.
Micah Geary, Olathe Northwest
Olathe Northwest senior Micah Geary is 6-1, 165 with a 4.62 40-yard dash, along with a 400-pound squat and 10-foot broad jump.
He collected second team all-Sunflower League defensive back and honorable mention all-league receiver. Last season, SIK projected ONW as a breakout team. Northwest improved to 6-4 and allowed 23.6 points per game, No. 13 in 6A. Geary has a Benedictine offer and has terrific ball skills. He has strong MIAA interest. Geary is a three-year starter at cornerback and started one game as a freshman.
Geary will be one of the state’s best defensive backs and top two-way 6A players. In Northwest’s run-heavy offense, Geary led with nine catches for 175 yards and two scores, all team-bests. For the season, Northwest completed 22 passes for 400 yards and four TDs.
Defensively, Geary allowed just two completions all season. He finished with 11 tackles and two TFLs. Olathe Northwest’s coach Lorne Clark, who is starting his first year as a head coach. Clark was the defensive coordinator last year and has been on Northwest’s staff since it opened. Last season, Northwest’s pass defense held six of 10 opponents under 110 passing yards, per SIK research and Hudl boxscores.
Geary has helped with sizable defensive improvement for Northwest.
Two years ago, Northwest permitted 20.4 points per game. Three years ago, ONW was 1-8 and allowed 40.7 points a contest. Last season marked the most wins for the Ravens since 2015.
Caleb Wiese, Garden City
Wiese was a first team all-WAC selection last year as a junior. He was one of two juniors to make the list in the secondary last season.
Mikey Bergeron/Holden Zigmant/Dylan Massey, Mill Valley
Mill Valley has probably the state’s best defense and always has good secondary players.
In the last four seasons, Massey Ratings, which accounts for points allowed and strength of schedule, has MV has the fourth, second, first and first best defenses for all Kansas 11-man teams.
MV finished 12-1 and won its third straight 5A state championship. The Jaguars, under longtime coordinator Drew Hudgins, permitted just 13.8 points a game, No. 2 in 5A. MV returns its top-four tacklers. Mill Valley is loaded with talent at all three defensive levels. MV has a strong case for the best group of defensive backs with Mikey Bergeron, Holden Zigmant and Dylan Massey, all seniors. Bergeron was first team all-league, and Zigmant an honorable mention selection. Bergeron is considered a possible MIAA player.
All three players will be at safety. Longtime coach Joel Applebee called Zigmant “the quarterback” of the defense and one of the best safeties MV has ever had. Zigmant tied for third with 77 tackles.
“He is a little smaller in stature, but he’s probably one of the most physical safeties that we have had there at Mill Valley, too,” Applebee said. “Because he loves the game, and he loves to play physical, and he’s not afraid of making a big hit.”
Bergeron paced MV with 97 tackles and delivered six TFLs. Massey had 37 tackles. The Jaguars picked off 12 passes, defended 27 and forced 10 fumbles.
“He’s a very, very smart football player,” Applebee said of Bergeron. “Loves preparing for games, loves preparing for opponents, loves everything about film study, loves practice, wants to improve every single day, and really ultimately every single rep that he has, whether it’s an individual rep or a 7-on-7 rep or a team rep.”
Massey is 6-1 with plenty of room to fill out. Massey is good in coverage and very effective blitzer.
“His instincts are right up there with some of the best we’ve had as far as understanding what we need to do,” Applebee said. “And understanding what the offense is wanting to do as well, too. So I guess that would probably be the No. 1, and he’s a really athletic kid. Combine those two, having high instincts and athleticism, I think that’s really what makes him a really good player.”
Against its seven hardest opponents – Gardner-Edgerton, Lawrence and Olathe West in the regular season, and playoff contests against Shawnee Heights, Blue Valley Southwest, Aquinas and Maize – Mill Valley continually held passing offenses in check, per SIK research and boxscores. Those teams combined for a modest 100 of 176 passing for 1,109 yards with six scores against four interceptions. That group included Lawrence’s Truman Juelsgaard, a Shrine Bowler, and two of the state’s top-five passers with Blue Valley Southwest’s Dylan Dunn and Maize’s Avery Johnson, the state’s top recruit.
Southeast of Saline
Southeast of Saline finished 11-1 and lost to Andale in a competitive game in the 3A state semifinals. SES allowed 7.5 points per game, also second in 3A to Andale. SES is highly experienced at defensive back with twins Luke and Jake Gebhardt and Michael Murray. SES moved to Class 2A and is a significant state favorite. Murray has a Northwest Missouri offer and has Emporia State interest. The Gebhardts combined for 57 tackles. All three defensive backs picked off at least one pass. Luke Gebhardt was first team all-state and first team all-state. Jake and Michael were second team all-league.
“Awful fortunate to have some good athletes back there,” SES coach Mitch Gebhardt said.
Johnny Martinez, Pratt
A player many may not know about but Coach Hoelting expects him to have a big year on both sides of the football in 2022 as well as a return man. He was an all-state honorable mention pick in 3A at defensive back last season.
Dillon Marshall, Aquinas
Marshall is expected to have a breakout year for Aquinas and could turn into a major prospect this season. The junior has great size at 6’2” and 185 pounds.
Pablo Bermudez, Bird City-Cheylin/Luke McGuire, Cunningham
Both are superb six-man players.
Bird City-Cheylin junior Pablo Bermudez has started since he was a freshman for the Cougars. In 2020, he and Logan McCarty were starters on the undefeated Cheylin six-man state championship team. Cheylin dropped to a 3-5 season last year with multiple close losses and is a trendy breakout team in the first fall of KSHSAA six-man sanctioned football. Bermudez is a tremendous athlete and cleared 40 feet in the triple jump. Last season, Bermudez delivered 34 tackles, five passes defended and four interceptions. In his career, Bermudez has delivered 83 stops, 12 INTs. Cheylin was fourth in six-man defense with 28.9 points allowed a contest. The Cougars’ opponents scored 45.1 points a contest when not playing Cheylin. Cheylin held teams 16.2 points under their scoring average, an excellent rate.
Cunningham is the defending 6-man state runner-up and will likely open No. 1 in 6M this fall. McGuire is part of Cunningham’s two starting quarterbacks and was a first team all-state DB las season.
Chapman’s Ian Suther and Wamego senior Dawson Tajchman
Both Chapman’s Ian Suther and Wamego’s Dawson Tajchman earned first team all-conference North Central Kansas League honors. Chapman finished 7-3 and allowed 25.1 points a contest, No. 28 in 3A. Wamego finished No. 13 in 4A with 22.9 points allowed a game. Suther is 6-2, 170 with a 4.0 GPA and great burst. Tajchman has offers from Bethel and Missouri Southern.
Stryker Hake, Concordia
Concordia’s Stryker Hake recorded a huge junior season with 76 tackles, six interceptions and four for loss. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Hake has set a school record with 13 INTs. Concordia went 8-3 and finished No. 24 out of 48 3A teams with 24.2 points allowed a contest.
Mason White and Cooper Tabor, Andover Central
Andover Central narrowly lost to St. James Academy in the 4A state championship game. AC senior Mason White has offers from NAIA’s Bethel, Doane and Nebraska Wesleyan. White delivered 57 tackles, three interceptions and 2.5 TFLs.
Tabor is one of the state’s top wide receivers and returners. He also delivered 31 tackles, three interceptions, including a pick-six. Tabor was a consensus all-state honorable mention selection. Andover Central allowed just 139 passing yards and just 12.4 points per game. AC finished second in 4A in scoring defense.
Remy Stull, Hays High
Hays High posted an 8-3 record, its best season since 1995. HHS graduated its highly talented group, including Top 11 all classes Jaren Kanak and Gavin Meyers. The Indians are heavily senior-laden this fall, especially with DB Remy Stull. Highly athletic, Stull has offers from Division I New Mexico State and Division II national power Northwest Missouri State. Stull was hurt part of his sophomore year and enjoyed a nice season last fall. Hays High permitted 22 points a game, No. 13 in 5A. Stull is 6-2, 195.
Sunflower League HM defensive backs (non-Mill Valley):
Eli Blazic, Gardner-Edgerton; Zane Hall, Olathe South; Grant Jennings, Shawnee Mission South; George Kopp, Shawnee Mission East; Jason Parrish, Olathe North; Cameron Porter, Gardner-Edgerton; Brandon Roupsouay, Olathe West; Sean Swearingen, Olathe West;
Of the 6A Olathe schools, only Olathe North ranked in the top-12 in 6A in scoring defense. ON ranked second in 6A with 15.5 points allowed a contest. The Parrishes have delivered huge football and track seasons for the Eagles in the last couple of years. Jason Parrish placed eighth in the 110-meter hurdles. He won the 300-meter hurdles state championship. He ran on the 1,600 relay that finished third.
Jack Schneider/Drew Ryan, Blue Valley West
Blue Valley West finished 7-5 and went to the 6A state semifinals. Jack Schneider is among the state’s most versatile athletes. He was first team all-conference, and Luke Ryan was second team all-league. West permitted 23.5 points a contest, No. 12 in the classification. Ryan picked off four passes. Schneider (6-0, 175) delivered 176 passing, 103 rushing and 188 receiving yards. He finished with 32 stops.
Alonzo Morgan, Blue Valley North
Blue Valley North’s Alonzo Morgan was a second team all-league Eastern Kansas League selection. BVN opened 3-0 last fall. Massey Ratings noted the Mustangs had the hardest strength of schedule for all 11-man teams.
Aidan Wing/Isaiah Coppage/DeAndre Beasley, Bishop Miege
Bishop Miege has a pair of excellent defensive backs with Aidan Wing and Isaiah Coppage, both honorable mention all-league selections. Miege won five state championships and has made the 4A East semifinals both of the last two seasons. Wing is a 6-3, 200-pound safety. Coppage is 6-1, 195 and led Miege in tackles last fall. De Andre Beasley stands 5-11, 180. Beasley is a three-star with a 4.57 40-yard dash and 4.09 pro agility He has committed to Northern Iowa.
Avrey Albright, Kingman
Kingman has been terrific on defense with the 3-3 Havoc look. Avrey Albright was a first team all-league selection for the Eagles. Kingman finished third in 2A scoring defense with 10.3 points allowed a contest. The Eagles finished 10-2, advanced to the state semifinals with their best showing since 1972. Kingman has collectively allowed under 14 points in the last three years and regularly ranks as top-10 defense in its classification. Albright won the 3A state title in the 400 dash this spring. He also finished sixth in the 400, relay, fourth in the 1,600 relay and seventh in the open 100. He had placed fourth in the 800 at ’21 state. Albright delivered 54 tackles, broke up four passes and intercepted two.
Trey Ridley, Blue Valley Northwest
Blue Valley Northwest junior Trey Ridley is a rising three-star prospect from the reigning 6A state champion. He is rated as the No. 55 safety nationally in the Class of 2024, per recruiting site 247 Sports. Ridley was offered by Iowa State.
Yanci Spiller/Maddox Ibarra, Rock Creek
Rock Creek is a strong 3A contender and has two first team all-league picks with Yanci Spiller and Maddox Ibarra. Rock Creek finished 7-4 and allowed 24.7 points a contest, No. 26 out of 48 3A squads. Spiller has been one of the state’s top DBs the last two years. His dad, Monte, played at Kansas State and is a RC assistant coach. Spiller is 5-11, 185. He finished with 90 tackles, three forced fumbles, nine touchdowns and 531 receiving yards. Ibarra is 5-10, 160. Spiller and Ibarra are both team captains. As a junior, Ibarra finished with 100 tackles, 16 pass breakups and three interceptions.
Jack Francis, Chaparral
Last season, Chaparral coach JC Zahradnik was highly complementary of Jack Francis in a SIK interview. Chaparral had a big turnaround to 8-2 last fall. The Roadrunners allowed 15.8 points a contest, No. 10-best in 2A. Chaparral basically halved its scoring defense from a two-win season in ’20. He was a second team all-conference defensive pick as a sophomore when he recorded 74 tackles.
This season, Francis again played on both sides. Francis is known for being a hard hitter, and Zahradnik called him “as tough as nails.” Francis had three interceptions in a key Week 5 win. Francis is 5-foot-7, 145. In his career, Francis has 950 rushing yards and 15 offensive scores. He has 2,302 all-purpose yards. Defensively, Francis has 194 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 11 passes defended and seven INTs.
Kelby Eck, Andale/Cody Parthemer, Andale/Tegan Orth, Andale
Andale has won 38 straight games and set school records of scoring offense, scoring defense and scoring margin. Coach Dylan Schmidt told SIK this summer that Eck will move to safety. Eck paced Andale in tackles and also returned four special teams kicks for scores. Andale permitted 5.2 points a contest. Parthemer was first team all-league last season while Orth earned second team honors. Andale has so many athletes that can play at so many spots on the defensive football.
Eli Oliver/Logan Clark, Wabaunsee
Wabaunsee finished 7-3 and allowed 15 points a game. The Chargers are a preseason 1A top-10 team after they enjoyed its top season since the ‘90s last fall. Oliver had 51 tackles, three for loss and two interceptions. Senior Logan Clark (two INTs) and had seven passes defended. Oliver defended eight passes.
Kaiden Seamster, Chanute
One of the more underrated players in 4A and should double as one of the better two way players in his class. Starting since his freshman year the junior has the ability to play all over the field. The Blue Comets should have one of the best defensive football teams in 4A.
Mario Menghini, Frontenac
Frontenac senior Mario Menghini helped the Raiders to a 10-3 mark and 3A state runner-up to Andale. The Raiders were No. 10 in 3A with 15.6 points allowed a contest. Menghini significantly helped Frontenac’s defense.
He delivered 942 rushing, 345 receiving, 42 tackles and six interceptions. Last year, Frontenac finished plus-12 in turnover margin and allowed 4.3 yards per play. Frontenac allowed 47 percent pass completion with 10 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. Two years ago, Frontenac was plus-3 in turnover margin with seven TDs against eight INTs.
Kade Harris, Thomas More Prep-Marian
Thomas More Prep-Marian is 15-5 in the last two seasons, its top-two showings since 2002. Last year, TMP delivered four straight shutouts, the first time the Monarchs have ever accomplished the feat. TMP allowed 13 points a game, sixth-best in 2A. Harris has started at quarterback since his freshman year. He will move to running back this fall. Harris was first team all-Mid-Continent League defensive back and is expected to play outside linebacker this season. Harris has 4.4 time in the 40 and a 36-inch vertical. In his career, Harris has 5,296 total yards, 273 tackles and four interceptions.
Zane Turner, Galena
A junior, Galena’s Zane Turner finished second team all-league. Galena went 8-2 and allowed 18.5 points a contest, No. 14 in 3A out of 48 teams. Galena should again be a strong 3A contender. The Bulldogs have posted a winning season every year since 2003. Turner is also expected to have a big year at the QB position for the Bulldogs.
Chase Steinert, Hoisington
Hoisington’s Chase Steinert collected first team all-league. The Cardinals finished 8-2 and permitted 21.1 points per game, No. 19 in 2A. Steinert paced Hoisington with 47 tackles. Hoisington returns seven of its top-nine tacklers. Steinert picked off two passes.
Brayden Uphaus, Nemaha Central
Nemaha Central’s Brayden Uphaus is one of Kansas’ most versatile players. He played in a variety of roles for the Thunder last season, including quarterback after Zac Kramer suffered injury. He will play safety for a 7-3 squad that permitted 12.7 points a game, fourth-best in 2A. Uphaus has great athleticism. He will start at safety. NC is highly considered for the preseason No. 1 2A squad.
“His running ability, he’s a very shifty kid,” NC coach Michael Glatczak told SIK thus summer.
Bentley Montgomery/Jason Desbien, Smith Center
SC coach Darren Sasse told SIK earlier this summer that Bentley Montgomery would have played as a freshman if he was big enough. He has played ever since and will be a three-year starter. The Redmen will again will be a top-5 1A contender. Smith Center went 9-2 and finished fifth in 1A with 13.2 points a game. Montgomery is a returning first team all-league player. Desbien moved from linebacker to defensive back last season. Longtime defensive coordinator Brock Hutchinson leaves a lot of the checks into the safety’s hands as far as the coverages.
Montgomery easily led SC with 92 tackles. Desbien delivered 60 tackles as a sophomore. In his career, the 5-foot-7, 166-pound Montgomery has 198 tackles.
“You just get 100 percent out of him with everything he does,” SC coach Darren Sasse said of Montgomery. “And we do lean on him more this year as being a vocal leader, and he has even done a great job stepping up that way.”
Jason & Joshua Parrish, Olathe North
Parrish twins were standouts in track and field last season for Olathe North. Older brother, Jacob, is going to see some playing time as a true freshman at Kansas State in the secondary. A lot of upside with his speed.
Dez Winton/Dylan McCarty, Wellsville
Wellsville’s Dez Winton was a breakout player for the Eagles last fall. He upped from 110 to 130 pounds. Wellsville finished 10-1 and permitted 8.8 points per game, second-best in 2A. Wellsville will move to 3A this year. Winton collected honorable mention all-state. Winton picked off six passes for 134 interception return yards and had five passes defended. McCarty, also Wellsville’s starting senior quarterback, picked off five passes and defended five.
Michael Nance, Bishop Carroll/Austin Ruda, Kapaun Mt. Carmel
The Holy War rivals each return an honorable mention all-league selection with Bishop Carroll’s Michael Nance and Kapaun’s Austin Ruda. KMC finished third in 5A in scoring defense with 15.1 points allowed a contest. BC was 7-3 and finished No. 11 in 5A with 21.6 points per game.
Big 7 first team all-league selections: Matt Lierz, Holton; Gunnar Ball, Perry-Lecompton; Treyson Murata, Royal Valley; Ashton Rockey, Hiawatha, Marcus Bauman, Sabetha, Monthan Renyer, Sabetha
The Big 7 has multiple key defensive backs returning. Holton’s Matt Lierz is a terrific quarterback, defensive back and kicker. Lierz recorded 18 offensive touchdowns. He collected 38 tackles with two interceptions.
Gunnar Ball, also P-L’s dual threat quarterback, finished with 63 tackles. He picked off two passes. Holton ranked fifth in 3A in scoring defense with 12.3 points allowed a contest. Perry-Lecompton finished 6-4 and finished No. 21 out of 48 teams in 3A with 21.8 points a game.
Bauman is a standout receiver but could be depended on both sides of the ball and should be one of the better athletes in the league after earning first team all-league honors at WR at a sophomore in 2021. Jonathan Renyer also returns as a top defensive back for Sabetha
Cole Heitmann, De Soto
De Soto finished 6-4 and was No. 14 in 5A with 22.5 points allowed a contest. He collected first team all league as a sophomore.
Christian Sicard, Haysville Campus
Haysville-Campus’ Christian Sicard was a first team all-league player. Campus has three straight one-win seasons.
Cody Hughbanks/McKinley Jones, Maize
Maize is known for its offense, though has several key defensive players back. Maize’s Cody Hughbanks is second team all-league. McKinley Jones is honorable mention all-league. Hughbanks qualified for the 5A state wrestling championships at 152 pounds.
Demaria’e Baker, Derby
A junior, Derby’s Demaria’e Baker was second team all-league. The 6A defending state runner-up Panthers have long enjoyed strong defensive back play. Derby was No. 10 in 6A with 22.3 points allowed a contest.
Callen Barta, Topeka Seaman
Topeka Seaman has enjoyed multiple strong defensive backs with the last name of Barta. He was honorable mention all-league as a sophomore.
Tucker Harrell, Colgan
Harrell is pound for pound one of the strongest small school players in the state with a 300 pound clean at 175 pounds along with 4.5 HH speed in the 40. The junior had over 70 tackles at safety last season as a sophomore. With Cooper Simmons being an all-state caliber linebacker and Harrell an all-state caliber defensive back, the Panthers defense could make some noise this season in 1A if they are good up front.
Kade Perine, Rossville
With the Dawgs graduating nearly all of their all-state players its time for new names to lead the way. Perine is expected to be a breakout player on both sides of the ball for the back to back 2A state champions.
Maison Slater, Clifton-Clyde
Clifton-Clyde was third in Division I with 14.4 points allowed a contest and posted a 7-2 record under longtime coach Russ Steinbrock. Senior Maison Slater paced Kansas in interceptions for all classes last year. He picked off 12 passes, which set both the C-C individual and career marks. C-C has won at least seven games for six straight years.
Keiondre Smith, South Sumner
Caldwell and South Haven now co-op to form South Sumner in its first year and one of the most exciting players in 8-man is Smith. He had five interceptions on defense and is also one of the best offensive players in 8-man football.
Gradyn Stapleton, Meade
Stapleton was an all-state pick in 8M-I for the state champions last year as well as All-SPIAA first team. Gone are a lot of star players but they do return Brady Papay on the line, Brayden Norris at linebacker and Stapleton at the defensive back.
Bryson Turner, Madison/ Mitch Budke, Chase County/ Braxton Lafferty & Braden Young, Little River/Axtell’s Brandon Schmelzle & Isaac Detweiler
These four and Vincent are likely eight-man’s best returning skill players. While some will likely play more defensive back than others, these are hybrid-type players who are excellent defensively and in pass coverage. All four have been heavily featured on SIK on the offensive side. Budke and Lafferty will play LB, while Turner and Schmelzle will be more at DB.
Madison senior Bryson Turner is a back-to-back 100-meter dash track champion. Turner broke the 1A state 100 record that had stood for 27 years. Turner helped Madison to a 10-1 record and just 9.1 points allowed a contest, tops in Eight-Man, Division I. Turner is also among the state’s best running backs. In 2021, Turner recorded 31 tackles and picked off four passes on defense.
Chase County finished 8-2 and allowed 24.2 points a contest, No. 10 in Division I. LR won the state championship in ‘20 and was state runner-up last year. The Redskins were seventh in Division I with 18.8 points allowed a contest. Budke, who could also double as a LB, registered 137 tackles. He has played defense significantly since his freshman year.
Schmelzle led all 8-man freshman nationally in touchdowns last season and helped Axtell to a 13-0 mark and Division II state title. He delivered 49 tackles with 10 interceptions. Teammate, and 8M-II OPOY, Isaac Detweiler, had 8 interceptions from his linebacker spot and could see some time at DB as well. Lafferty recorded 90 tackles and intercepted three passes. His teammate, senior Braden Young, is back after six interceptions and five passes defended. LR forced 24 turnovers.
Matthew Heckman/Dane Winters, Burlingame
Winters finished second for Burlingame with 76 tackles. Burlingame was 6-3 and was fifth in Eight-Man, Division I with 17.3 points allowed a contest. In his career, Heckman delivered 46 tackles, three interceptions and two passes defended. Heckman is a 6’10” high jumper in T&F.
Koy Myers, Waverly
Waverly moves down to six-man football this season after a 7-2 mark. Waverly ranked No. 10 in Division II with 20 points a game.
Max Neeley, Dighton
Neeley was an all-state defensive back last year and will be a standout player on both sides of the ball in 2022. He’s also one of the best pole vaulters in the state of Kansas.
Dylan Bice, Thunder Ridge
Thunder Ridge finished 10-1 and lost to eventual champion Axtell in the state semifinals. TR ranked third in Division II with 15.8 points a contest. Bice is an elite quarterback and defensive player. He has 283 tackles, eight for loss.
Ryan Kuckelman, Macksville
Although listed at linebacker as well and also a standout QB this is a breakout athlete that has a lot of speed and can play multiple spots. The senior stands 6’5” and won the 400 meter dash at the state meet in 1A back in 2021 as a sophomore. He’s also an All-1A caliber basketball player.
Taylor Anderson, Victoria
Victoria’s Taylor Anderson earned first team all-league. Victoria finished 10-2 and was an Eight-Man, Division II state semifinal team. The Knights were seventh in Division II with 19.2 points allowed a contest. Anderson finished with 83 tackles, three for loss and two interceptions. His teammate, Thaddeus Wohler, is also back after four interceptions. Wohler will start at quarterback.
Briggs Jewell, Kiowa-South Barber
South Barber finished 9-2 and allowed 17.4 points a game, fifth in Division II. Briggs Jewell recorded 42 tackles.
Grayson Shoemaker, Lebo
Lebo finished 9-2 and ranked second in Eight-Man, Division II and allowed 13.8 points per game. The Wolves were fifth in the final KPreps rankings. Lebo should again be a leading East contender. Shoemaker would be a top returning DB, though suffered a torn ACL at the end of basketball.
Other Top DBs to Watch Across Kansas:
Garrett Aills, Salina South; Kaden McDaniel, Augusta; Trenton Davis, Mulvane; Pierce Probasco, Rose Hill; Jonathan Reyner, Sabetha; Michael Boganowski, Junction City; Fred Jackson, Emporia; Isiah Kincade, Topeka High; Kellan Spruce, Highland Park; Dante Walters, Manhattan; Donque Williams, Junction City; Kason Williams, Washburn Rural; Michael Andry, Blue Valley; Jacob Bittner, St. Thomas Aquinas; Josh Boone, St. James Academy; Blake O’Brien, St. Thomas Aquinas; Emmitt Peters, Blue Valley Southwest; Trey Thomas, Blue Valley Southwest; Alec Wombolt, Blue Valley; Wyatt Harris, Tonganoxie; Jacob Wassall, Jaren Heim – Blue Valley, Ethan Vasquez – Blue Valley, Wichita North; Christopher Atkinson, Wichita Southeast; Jeremiah Harris, Wichita Northwest; Tray’Shun Higgins, Wichita West; Omari Wishom, Wichita East; Isaac Allphin, Pratt-Skyline; Emilio Ibarra, Hutchinson Central Christian; Brody Hayes, Clay Center; Rook Williams, Marysville, Caleb Wiese – Garden City, Wyatt Harris – Tonganoxie, Kaden McDaniel – Augusta, Kale Hammerschmidt – Eudora, Cadon Clark – Ark City, Treyson Murata – Royal Valley, Colton Warthen – Santa Fe Trail, Logan Arasmith – Beloit, Brice Lee – Atchison County, Miguel Hernandez – Sublette, Caden Parker – Valley Heights, Landyn Plummer – Oakley, Lane Runkle – Elkhart, Tanner Heckel – Inman, Boden Benitz – Troy, Kaleb Atkins – Hill City, Cashten Cummings – Yates Center, Brady Jones- Hoxie, Colter McDaniel – A&A, Dustin Montgomery – West Elk, Jaden Racagno – Bennington, Jake Wiens – Goessel, Rogellio Ibarra- Macksville, Cade Johnson – Wallace County, Preston Witzel – St. Francis, Ian Kresin – Lakeside, Blake O’Brien – Aquinas, Garret Aillis – Salina South, Marcus Terry – Augusta, Mekhi Hastings-Ybarra – Wellington, Trenton Davis – Mulvane, Pierce Probasco – Rose Hill, Fred Jackson – Emporia, Kellan Spruce – Highland Park, Dante Walters – Manhattan, Kason Williams – Washburn Rural, Donque Williams – Junction City, Isaiah Kincade – Topeka, Michael Boganowski – Junction City, Brady Hope – Larned, Taylor Anderson – Victoria, Lake Ryan – Blue Valley West, Michael Andry – Blue Valley, Jacob Bittner – Aquinas, Josh Boone – St. James, Emmitt Peters – BVSW, Trey Thomas – BVSW, Alec Wombolt – Blue Valley, Dontrell Harris – Wichita NW, Ben Heidebrecht – Wichita NW, Jacob Wassal – Wichita North, Michael Nance – Carroll, Austin Ruda – Kapaun, Omari Wishom – Wichita East, Jeremiah Harris – Wichita NW, Tray’Shun Higgins – Wichita West, Christopher Atkins – Wichita SE, Emilio Ibarra – Hutch Central Christian, Quinn Eilert – Beloit, Brody Hayes – Clay Center, Rook Williams – Marysville, Tate Stewart – West Elk, Aaron Tunstall – Coffeyville, Camedon Julian – Independence, George Kopp – SM East, Grant Jennings – SM South, Eli Blazic – Gardner Edgerton, Brandon Roupsouay – Olathe West, Sean Swearingen – Olathe West, Zane Hall – Olathe South, Cade Burdette – SE Cherokee, Jacob Robinson – Leavenworth, Kaleb Scott – Basehor Linwood, Ryan Heiman – Garden City, Connor Dreiling – Hays, Luke Schroeder – McPherson, Joe Ord – Chaparral, Carson Hoeme – Pratt, Romeo Terriquez – Wichita Co., Jace Goodman – Council Grove, Kayden Cox – Columbus, Dakota Slocum – Humboldt, Mason White – Andover Central, Griff Eaton – Labette Co., Matthew Garber – Sabetha, Baker Moore – Central Heights, Damon Mesa – Holcomb, Jason Robinson – Hoisington, Daniel Cramer – Dighton, Dylan Massey – Mill Valley, Jaedon Granere – Marmaton Valley, Dagim Reed – Cunningham, Simon Everhart – Cair Paravel, Ryan Golden – Crest, Britt Grigsby – Ashland, Spencer Coup – Solomon, Austin Apelu – Rolla, Evan Benjamin – Spearville, Alec Carlson – Pawnee Hts, Cade Johnson – Wallace Co., Ryan Shaw – Hoxie, Thaddeus Wohler – Victoria, Trey Peters – St. Paul, Landon Grimmett – Lebo, Chase Bruna – Hanover