By CONOR NICHOLL
Sports In Kansas concludes with its eighth positional breakdown: Specialists. All previews available at sportsinks.com. Check out SIK’s social media platforms for interviews by Bethany Bowman.
The specialists include multi-faceted players such as Derby’s Dylan Edwards, Highland Park’s Tre Richardson, Marysville’s Peyton Smith, Andale’s Kelby Eck, TMP’s Kade Harris and Girard’s Luke Niggemann. Top K/P’s include Atchison’s Aidan Battle and Tonganoxie’s Jackson McWilliams. Holton’s Jayden Fletcher has a strong case for the state’s best long snapper. This list is not ranked.
Aidan Battle, Atchison
Kohl’s Kicking, the nationally recognized kicking evaluation organization, noted Atchison’s Aidan Battle as a Future Star. A senior, Battle is a 4.5-star kicker. He was 46 of 46 on extra points for 8-2 Atchison. As well, he had 16 touchbacks and 35.3 yards per punt. Battle has a Benedictine offer.
Kentan Laughman, Mill Valley – Alex Allemang, Emporia – Chase DuPont – Kapaun, Tanner Treschal – Olathe NW – Sam Parks, Maize South, Jackson McWilliams – Tonganoxie, Derek Larsen, SM Northwest
All of these players shined in the off season in the class of 2024. All have opportunities to be some of the best kickers in the state. Some which have their own capsule below.
Tyler Antle, Frontenac, Davis Barr, De Soto
Antle put in a lot of work this off season and shined working with Punt 21 camps. We expect him to be one of the top punters in 3A this season. Barr is looking to be one of the better punters in the KC area for 2022 season.
Aidan Battle, Atchison, Teagan Cobb, Noah Ficke – Wamego, Dayton Smoot – Washburn Rural, Jayce Quirin – Parsons, Layne Rylas – Louisburg, Jackson McKechnie – Pittsburg, Jackson Garrett – BV Southwest, Aidan Field – Junction City, Braxton Frey – Manhattan, Matt Seibolt – Aquinas, Kacen Smith – Holton; Isaac Saye, Andover Central
All of the players in the class of 2023 listed above (some with their own capsules) highlight this list across the state and have a opportunity to be some of the best kicker
Dylan Edwards, Derby
Derby senior running back Dylan Edwards is a consensus top-3 recruit in Kansas. Edwards is the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year and 6A Offensive Player of the Year. He rushed for more than 2,500 yards and was a dynamic returner. Edwards had 13 returns for 510 yards and two punt returns for TDs. Edwards rushed for 38 scores. Derby is preseason No. 1 in 6A and the defending state runner-up. Derby led 6A with 52.2 points a contest, by far the classification best.
Jackson McWilliams, Tonganoxie
Tonganoxie’s Jackson McWilliams earned first team all-league kicker as a sophomore. The Chieftains finished 4-5 and delivered 25.3 points a contest, No. 16 in 4A.
McWilliams has delivered big freshman and sophomore seasons. As a freshman, he went 48 of 50 on extra points, along with 3 of 4 on field goals. Last season, McWilliams did not miss: 29 of 29 on extra points and four of four on field goals.
Tre Richardson, Topeka-Highland Park
Highland Park’s Tre Richardson was a first team all- Centennial league returner and one of the state’s best athletes. Richardson has committed to New Mexico State. Richardson won the 5A 200-meter dash at state track in the spring. He finished second in the triple jump with 46-9 leap.
Peyton Smith, Marysville
Possibly the state’s best punter, Marysville’s Peyton Smith is a multi-time first team all-state punter. Smith delivered 39.7 yards per punt on 26 punts with 10 inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Smith plays middle linebacker and tight end. In his career, he has 137 tackles, 21 for loss and nine sacks. In the last two seasons, Smith has averaged 41.6 yards a punt. He cleared 55 feet in the shot put. Smith has a Highland CC offer.
Sam Parks, Maize South
Maize South’s Sam Parks has delivered back-to-back strong seasons and was part of SIK’s All-Underrated team last fall. He was honorable mention all-league and honorable mention all-state. A junior, he finished 46 of 49 on extra points and five of nine on field goals with a long of 42. Parks delivered 19 touchbacks. Maize South finished fourth in 5A with 38.1 points a contest.
Luke Niggemann, Girard
Girard’s Luke Niggemann was first team all-league and first team all-state punter and second team all-league quarterback. He has a Pittsburg State offer. Niggemann is 6-3, 205. Girard enjoyed a breakout season en route to 10-1 last fall. Girard had the No. 4 defense in 3A with 11.9 points permitted a game. Although he is a rising QB prospect he could also find himself as a collegiate punter.
Collin Hershberger, Newton
Newton’s Collin Hershberger is an all-state soccer player who has excelled in several high level summer programs and leagues. He picked up second team all-conference AVCTL Division I for kicking and punting. He was also second team all-league in ’20 for Newton.
Dayten Smoot, Washburn Rural
Washburn Rural’s Dayten Smoot was first team all-league punter in the Centennial League. Rural finished 8-2 and is loaded with talent, including QB Branton DeWeese, LB Ty Weber and WR Amr Sabarrini. Rural finished No. 5 in 6A with 17.5 points allowed a contest. Like several others on this list, Smoot has worked with Punt 21 kicking services in the Manhattan and Topeka area. He is listed as a 4.5-star kicker by Kohl’s.
Kade Harris, TMP
One of the state’s best all-around players, Thomas More Prep-Marian senior Kade Harris will be a four-year starter and has helped turn around the Monarchs. TMP has enjoyed its best seasons since ’02 the last two falls. Harris was first team all-Mid-Continent League as a quarterback, defensive back and returner. He is likely to switch to running back and outside linebacker this year. TMP has made huge improvements on both sides, including the No. 6 scoring defense in 2A with 13 points allowed a game.
Carson Werth, Victoria
Victoria’s Carson Werth is a dynamic all-purpose threat for the Knights, preseason No. 5 in Eight-Man, Division II. He was second team all-league at kicker and returner and was all-conference as a running back. Victoria finished 10-2 and ranked seventh in the classification with 19.2 points a game. The Knights were fourth with 48.9 points a game. Werth delivered 117 rushes for 1,108 yards and 16 scores. He delivered 36.4 yards per punt and finished with 327 return yards. Plus, he had six touchbacks and was 5 of 6 on extra points.
Jose Arevalo, Burlingame
Burlingame’s Jose Arevalo was unanimous first team all-league. Burlingame finished 6-3 and scored 39.3 points a game, No. 23 in the classification. The Bearcats were a top-five Eight-Man, Division I defensive team with 17.3 points allowed a contest. As a sophomore, Arevalo recorded 25 touchbacks on 53 kicks. He had seven punts for a 36.1 yard average.
Malik O’Atis, SM Northwest
One of the best football athletes in the state that will shine at multiple spots offensively and is one of the best return guys in Kansas.
Southeast of Saline’s Michael Murray
Murray and twins Jake and Luke Gebhardt front the Trojans, a 3A semifinalist last year and the preseason No. 1 2A this season. Murray was second in the 3A 100 and third in the 200 at state track in the spring. Murray has a Northwest Missouri State offer.
As well, junior kicker Wyatt Boyd and junior punter Luke Obermeyer are back. Boyd averaged 41 yards a kick. On 20 punts, Obermeyer averaged 35.6 yards a punt and had two inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Murray had 15 returns for 251 yards. He returned one punt and one kick for scores.
Jayden Fletcher, Holton
Holton’s Jayden Fletcher is a talented long snapper. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Fletcher has a Sterling College offer. He can squat 435 and bench 275. In July, he attended the national kicking, punting and snapping showcase by Kohl’s Kicking. He has a 4.18 pro agility and 34-inch vertical.
Kelby Eck, Andale
Andale’s Kelby Eck returned four special teams touchdowns last year. He will play safety on defense. Eck is one of many returning standouts for Andale, the three-time defending 3A state champions and on a state best 38-game winning streak. Last season, Andale set school records for scoring offense, scoring defense and average margin of victory.
Dagim Reed, Cunningham/Brayden Berens, Pratt Skyline
Both Cunningham’s Dagim Reed and Pratt Skyline’s Brayden Berens were first team all-league selections. Reed was six-man’s first team all-state kicker as a freshman. Cunningham is the preseason No. 1 team in 6-Man. Cunningham paced six-man with 17.2 points a game. The Wildcats were fourth with 53 points scored a contest.
Nolan Freund, Kingman
Kingman’s Nolan Freund helped the Eagles enjoy its best season since the ‘70s with a 2A state semifinal showing. He was all-conference quarterback, first team all-league kicker and unanimous first team all-league punter. Kingman opens as the No. 5 team in 2A.
Jackson Henry, Clay Center
Clay Center’s Jackson Henry earned first team all-conference as a sophomore kicker. CC finished 4-5 and scored 29 points a game, No. 19 out of 48 3A squads. Henry finished four of five on field goals and 21 of 23 on extra points.
Juan Delgado, Bishop Ward
Delgado was an all-state honorable mention pick in 3A last season for Ward at kicker
Blaise Hoover, McPherson
Hoover was a 4A all-state honorable mention selection at kicker last season.
Daegan Jensen, Bishop Miege
The Miege product was an All-4A honorable mention pick for the Stags at kicker in 2021.
Isaac Saye, Andover Central
The Andover Central senior was a first team 4A all-state pick at punter as a junior in 2021. he averaged more than 38 yards a punt.
Matt Seibolt, St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas senior Matt Seibolt collected second team all-league honors at kicker. Aquinas finished 6-5 and scored 32 points a contest. He finished 38 of 43 on extra points and kicked a field goal. Seibolt is listed as 4.5-star kicker by Kohl’s.
Malcom Russell, St. James Academy
Russell was a first team all-state pick as a sophomore last fall for the SJA Thunder on their way to winning back to back state titles.
James Kriegh, WaKeeney-Trego
WaKeeney-Trego’s James Kriegh is one of eight-man’s speediest players and top offensive weapons. Trego enjoyed a sizable improvement, finished 8-2 and scored 51.6 points a game, seventh-best in the classification. In nine on-field games, Kriegh recorded 165 carries for 1,449 yards and 24 scores. He delivered 16 touchbacks on 47 kicks. Plus, Kriegh delivered 12 kick returns for 265 yards, plus a kick return for a touchdown.
Noah Bruce, Andale
Not that Andale will have to punt a lot but if they do they have a big leg in their all-state hopeful tight end Noah Bruce.
Matt Lierz, Holton
Holton quarterback Matt Lierz is part of a deep group of returners for the Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in 3A. In the last two seasons, Lierz has kicked last-second game-winning field goals to beat Nemaha Central in the season opener. This year, NC opens No. 2 in 2A. Holton and NC will again face each other in Week 1. Lierz recorded five touchbacks on 68 kickoffs. He finished 45 of 50 on extra points, including 2 of 4 on field goals.
Creyo Koop, West Elk
West Elk’s Creyo Koop delivered a huge freshman season. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the Patriots and was a first team all-league returner. WE finished 8-2 and scored 44 points a game, No. 13 in the classification. Koop delivered 10 returns for 283 yards. He rushed 155 times for 1,272 yards and 24 scores.
Bryson Turner, Madison
Madison’s Bryson Turner is on the short list for best eight-man player. He broke a long-standing 1A state 100-meter record in May. He was a first team all-conference selection. Turner rushed 90 times for 1,523 yards and 29 scores. He caught 27 passes for 674 yards and 14 TDs. Turner recorded 11 punt returns for 330 yards and three TDs.
Adrion Seals, Eudora
Adrion Seals is part of a deep group of high-level athletes for Eudora. The Cardinals went 6-3 and scored 33.7 points a contest, sixth-best in 3A. A junior, Seals was an all-state wide receiver and posted a 4.18 in the pro agility. He had more than 750 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Sam Parks, Maize South
Parks has the ability to be one of the best in the state this season and really shined working with Punt 21 as a kicker this summer. He’s just a junior.
Daegan Jensen, Bishop Miege
Bishop Miege’s Daegan Jensen was a first team all-league kicker. Miege finished 5-7 and ranked No. 15 in 4A offense with 27.4 points per game.
Blaise Hoover, McPherson
McPherson’s Blaise Hoover was an honorable mention all-state kicker. McPherson is preseason No. 4 in 4A. The Bullpups scored 33.4 points a contest, seventh-best in 4A. Hoover had 51 touchbacks and three punts. He finished 29 of 34 on extra points and five of six on field goals.
John Randle, Wichita Heights
Maybe one of the top specialists in the country and he has about every offer out there at the RB position. Expect a big year for the four star recruit Randle.
Teagan Cobb, Rose Hill
Rose Hill senior Teagan Cobb was a second team all-conference selection. He is listed as 4.5-star kicker by Kohl’s. The 6-2, 190-pounder was honorable mention all-state kicker, two-time all-state soccer and one-time all-state track.
Jeffrey Neill, Buhler
As a sophomore, Buhler’s Jeffrey Neill was a first team all-league punter. Neill is a highly talented baseball player.
Jackson McKechnie, Pittsburg
McKechnie should be one of the top specialists in the southeast Kansas area as a kicker.
Tate Meyer, Lawrence
Lawrence’s 6-foot-2 senior Tate Meyer is an impressive long snapper and lacrosse player.
Jacob Grant, Baxter Springs
Baxter Springs’ Jacob Grant was first team all-CNC as a freshman at kicker.
Austin Bryant, Winfield
Winfield senior Austin Bryant was a first team all-league AVCTL Division III pick at kicker.
Johnny Martinez, Pratt
Pratt’s Johnny Martinez was a first team all-league returner. He recorded nine returns for 226 yards.
*Pedro Arantes was an all-state kicker last year for Rossville but will not be on the team this season.
Justin Stephens, Maize
There’s not much Stephens can’t do and he will be one of the best return men in the state.
Aitor Curto, Lakin
2A all-state honorable mention pick last season.
Aiden Amrein, Hill City
In addition to being a standout position player, hes also a standout kicker earning 8M-I all-state honors last season
Others top specialty players
Xavier Oldham, Hiawatha; Aiden Field, Junction City; Devyn Braun, La Crosse; Malcolm Russell, St. James Academy; Zane Busick, KC Piper; Brayden Souter, Wichita Northwest; Brayton Bittel, Plainville; Leon Rowe, Sacred Heart; Noah Ficke, Wamego; Josiah Smith – Osage City, John Greenwood, Beloit-St. John’s; Jorge Lupercio, Montezuma-South Gray; Derek Alcala, Spearville; Ty Walker, Oswego; Landon Beachner, St. Paul; Brock Reinecke, Centralia; Trenton Talley, Centralia; Chase Dieker, Mulvane; Noah Bruce, Andale; Chase Frey, Sabetha; Solomon Goforth, Lyons; Layne Ryals, Louisburg; Logan Russell, Ellis; Kyle Werner, Plainville; Luke Obermeyer, Southeast of Saline; Luke Bates, Beloit St. John’s-Tipton; Pedro Nieto, Hillsboro; Ryan Kuckelman, Macksville; Bentley Montgomery, Smith Center; Dylan Bice, Thunder Ridge; Andrew Bowman, Bucklin; Jasen Grammar, De Soto, Jackson Henry – Clay Center, Dawson McConnell – Inman, Jaehne Moritz – Ellinwood, Braylon Bittell – Plainville, Jose Arevalo – Burlingame, Russ Smith – Central Heights, Kacen Smith – Goessel, Luke Bates – St. Johns Tipton, Eli Wilkinson – Dighton, Austin Bryant – Winfield, Luke Schroeder – McPherson, Teagan Cobb – Rose Hill, Chase Dieker – Mulvane, Pedro Neito – Hillsboro, Devyn Braun – La Crosse, Layne Ryals – Louisburg, Jouse Navarro – Ottawa, Damon Mesa – Holcomb, Brayden Berens – Skyline, Silas Jones – Norton, Logan Russell – Ellis, Keller Hurla – St. Marys, Samson Waggoner- Riley County, Leon Rowe – Sacred Heart, Jackson Henry – Clay Center, Noah Fields – Wamego, John Greenwood – St. Johns Tipton, Zane Hoback – Burlington, Russ Smith- Central Burden, Jorge Luperico – South Gray, Austin Hornug – Spearville,