Hunter Knoblauch played varsity basketball as a freshman at Andale and it would not have surprised him to encounter resentment from the upperclassmen. Sometimes it’s rough for a newcomer to insert himself into a senior-dominated roster.
“Those guys were really great to me,” he said. “There was never any jealousy. I learned that you always play harder when you have great leaders that are always there with you. That’s what Andale’s good about — they’re always there for you.”
Four years later, Knoblauch is a senior running back who is applying those leadership lessons for one of the top programs in Class 4A-Division II. The Indians went 11-1 last season, winning 11 games for the third straight season. A 24-14 loss to No. 1 Holton the quarterfinals ended the year and Andale expects to make another run toward a state title.
Expectations are always high at Andale, which won Class 4A titles in 2006 and 2007. That is why the weight room is filled with 54 athletes in the summer, the stands are full in the fall, the booster club raises money for new weights and Indians football is always the trending topic.
“You’re always dreaming of being out on that field as a kid,” senior linebacker Sander Hanson said. “You feel like there’s a lot of weight on your shoulders because the community has such a big role and helps us out so much. It’s crazy how much the town comes together.”
Knoblauch gained 1,753 yards and 24 touchdowns and earned third-team All-State honors from The Eagle and All-Metro honors as a defensive back. Coach Gary O’Hair is just as impressed with the humility and leadership that Knoblauch gained an appreciation for as a freshman.
“You would never dream he’s a great athlete,” O’Hair said. “He’s very compassionate, caring.”
Knoblauch ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at a camp at Kansas State this summer. He wants to play major-college football and the Wildcats are showing interest.
“We’ll be leaning on him a lot,” O’Hair said. “He’s a good receiver. We may throw more to him.”
Senior Luke Walstad takes over at quarterback for three-year starter Jared Smarsh. Walstad, a backup the past two seasons, is bigger than Smarsh and is a power runner who can throw deep. He attended camps at Oklahoma State and Kansas State and focused on his footwork and mastering the three-step drop.
“He’s been throwing routes with us every night,” Knoblauch said. “We’re losing a little speed at the quarterback position, but I think we can make that up with the throwing game because he has a really great arm.”
With Knoblauch, Hank Eck and Anthony Capul returning, the Indians are set in the backfield. Tight end Jeff Ast, an all-league pick as a sophomore, and split end Jason Hermreck will give Walstad two big targets. The concern is on the offensive line, where O’Hair must replace All-Class 4A lineman Trever Buckner and honorable mention selection Mike Maus.
O’Hair can pick from plenty of candidates. As always, there will be more than 100 players out for football at Andale.
TOP SKILL PLAYERS
|Sept. 12||at McPherson|
|Oct. 3||at Wellington|
|Oct. 10||at Mulvane|
|Oct. 17||at Trinity Academy|
Hank Eck on his team