Coach: Jason Grider, first season.
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Top players: Blake Beckett, RB-LB, 6-0, 180, jr.; Eli McKee, QB-WR-FS, 6-0, 160, jr.; Casey Kohr, QB-CB, 5-7, 150, jr.; Zack Wright, RB-LB, 6-1, 215; Tate Kaufman, TE- DE, 6-5, 215, jr.; Joseph Myers, RB-LB, 5-10, 235, sr.; Joseph Stovall, TE-SS, 6-2, 210, jr.; David Loucks, OL, 6-3, 260, sr.; Dakota Eash, OL, 6-3, 260, sr.
Notes: The quarterback position is unsettled, as both Kohr, up from the junior varsity, and McKee, a wide receiver a year ago, will battle for the starting job. Last year’s quarterback, Beckett, has moved to running back. Myers and Wright will vie for the start at fullback. Kaufman returns at tight end. Many of the Dragons return from last season’s playoff team, and Grider is hoping that experience will help. Adjusting quickly to a new coach will also be helpful.
Schedule: Sept. 5, Haven; Sept. 12, at Hesston; Sept. 19, Hillsboro; Sept. 26, Smoky Valley; Oct. 3, at Sterling; Oct. 10, at Nickerson; Oct. 17, Kingman; Oct. 24, Garden Plain; Oct. 30, at Hutchinson Trinity.
Coach: Scott L’Ecuyer, second season, 2-7
Top players: Rian Borntrager, WR-DB, 5-9, 155, sr.; Tim Hendrixson, QB-DB,6-0, 165, sr.; Jacob Newcomer, WR-DB, 6-2, 175, sr.; Zach Teter, WR-LB, 5-8, 165, sr.; Juan DeSantiago, OL-LB, 5-10, 200, jr.; Kevin Nisly, OL-DL, 5-9, 200, jr.; Eric Williams, WR-DB, 6-1, 175, jr.; Mark Carney, WR-DB, 5-6. 150, so.
Notes: Haven has the luxury of an experienced quarterback at the controls, as Hendrixson will enter his third year as the starter. He was an All-CKL pick a year ago, as was Newcomer. Their senior leadership will be a key, L’Ecuyer said, along with contributions from fellow seniors Teter and Borntrager. The Wildcats are moving up to Class 4A-Division II from 3A. This year’s schedule is missing a familiar rival – Nickerson – which will not play Haven in the two-year cycle caused by the addition of Hoisington and Larned to the league.
Schedule: Sept. 5, at Halstead; Sept. 12, Hillsboro; Sept. 19, at Smoky Valley; Sept. 26, Sterling; Oct. 3, at Hesston; Oct. 10, Larned; Oct. 17, at Clearwater; Oct. 24, Trinity Academy; Oct. 30, at Andale.
Coach: Clint Rider, second season, 15-13
Top players: Tyler McCartney, WR-SS, 6-1, sr.; Grant Raleigh, QB-WR-CB, 6-1, 170, sr.; Justin Smith, WR-CB, 6-1, 160, sr.; Brad Simpson, TE-DE, 6-6, 200, sr.; Devon Wenger, OT, 6-2, 260, sr.; Christian Graber, RG-LB, 5-11,165, sr.; Chase Brown, C, 5-11, 180, sr.; Braden Weber, OG-DT, 5-10, 255, sr.; Garrett Roth, OT-K, 5-11, 227, jr.; Keith Wages, DT, 5-10, 190, sr.; Alexis Ramirez, LB, 5-9, 175, sr.; Zach Esau, QB-FS, 5-11, 160, so.
Notes: Graduation cost the Swathers some key personnel, but Rider has confidence that this group of players will give Hesston its 16th straight winning season and fifth straight playoff berth. The entire backfield graduated, so Rider is trying to find the right fits for success. Likewise, he remains confident in his defense as well.
Schedule: Sept. 5, at Smoky Valley; Sept. 12, Halstead; Sept. 19, Sterling; Sept. 26, at Lyons; Oct. 3, Haven; Oct. 10, at Pratt; Oct. 17, Hillsboro; Oct. 24, at Council Grove; Oct. 30, at SE-Saline.
Coach: Lance Sawyer, second season, 28-36
Top players: Justus Hilliard, RB-LB, 5-6, 190, sr.; Jesse Meier, OG-LB, 5-10, 190, sr.; Cody Craney, OG-DT, 6-0, 205, sr.; Levi Mendoza, OT-DT, 5-8, 185, jr.; Graham Pankratz, C, 6-1, 185, sr.; Josh Funk, OL, 6-0, 185, sr.; Jakob Hanschu, DB, 5-9, 160, jr.; David Dick, LB, 5-11, 165, jr.
Notes: The Trojans are hopeful of reversing last year’s record and getting back to the playoffs – a goal of Sawyer’s for this season. He especially likes the experience of his offensive players and the improvement from his defense. Hillsboro will try for a balanced running attack on offense, and the defense must limit big plays, create turnovers and improve tackling, Sawyer said.
Schedule: Sept. 5, Sterling; Sept. 12, at Haven; Sept. 19, at Halstead; Sept. 26, Hoisington; Oct. 3, at Smoky Valley; Oct. 10, Lyons; Oct. 17, at Hesston; Oct. 24, SE-Saline; Oct. 30, Council Grove.
Coach: Chris Hattabaugh, sixth season, 21-23
Top players: Cole Norberg, QB-FS, 6-3, 180, sr.; Stephen Klaasen, OL-DL, 6-4, 270, Greg Elvin, OL-LB, 6-0, 190, sr.; Nils Peterson, OL, 6-0, 200, sr.; Brix Brickey, DL, 5-10, 275, sr.; Kirk Barnes, LB, 5-10, 200, sr.; Benton VanDerWege, CB, 6-0, 170, sr.; Aaron Taylor, RB, 6-0, 175, sr.
Notes: The Vikings boast a lot of size at both the skill positions and on the lines. Norberg is a formidable target at quarterback, but he also was an all-league free safety. Taylor moves from the slot to running back. Hattabaugh calls him a tough runner with size and speed. Klaasen, Brickey, Tim Ruble (6-2, 250) and Seth Nelson (6-3, 225) give size on the defensive line.
Schedule: Sept. 5, Hesston; Sept. 12, at Sterling; Sept. 19, Haven; Sept. 26, at Halstead; Oct. 3, Hillsboro; Oct. 10, at Hoisington; Oct. 17, Nickerson; Oct. 24, at Wamego; Oct. 31, Chapman.
Coach: Matt Hendricks, sixth season, 24-47
Top players: Jordan Proffitt, TE-LB, 6-6, 226, sr.; Henry Weiner, OG-LB, 6-0, 180, sr.; Collin Anderson, WR-CB, 5-10, 150, sr.; Cody Salazar, S, 5-6, 145, sr.; Edward Weiner, RB, 5-10, 160, so.; Brandon Fredrick, LB, 5-11, 205, so.
Notes: Sterling will be looking for a return to the state playoffs and will try to advance past the first round, where last year’s run ended with a loss to Smith Center. Hendricks said the Black Bears have many open positions available and that he will be looking for contributions from players coming up to varsity from JV. He will look for leadership from his returning seniors and likes that group in particular.
Schedule: Sept. 5, at Hillsboro; Sept. 12, Smoky Valley; Sept. 19, at Hesston; Sept. 26, at Haven; Oct. 3, Halstead; Oct. 10, at Kingman; Oct. 17, Lyons; Oct. 24, Hoisington; Oct. 31, at Ellsworth.
Coach: Zac Baird, first season
Top players: Brandon Ball, WR-CB, 5-7, 145, sr.; Nolan McCurry, RB-CB, 5-8, 165, sr.; Seth Owen, OL-DL, 6-1, 285, sr.; KC Stephens, TE-LB, 6-0, 205, sr.; Steffan Dolechek, WR-RB-FS, 6-0, 170, jr.; Chris Wright, OL-DL, 6-2, 215, jr.; Hunter Hanzlick, RB-OLB, 5-8, 175, so.; Landen Urban, OL-DL, 5-10, 215, so.; Justin Bradley, OL-DL, 5-7, 205, so.
Notes: First-year coach Baird will take Hoisington into its CKL debut season with seven returning starters and 11 returning varsity athletes. Senior Brad Reif (5-8, 155) and sophomore Tyler Specht (5-9, 165) are vying to be the Cardinals’ starting quarterback.
Schedule: Sept. 5, at Larned; Sept. 12, Nickerson; Sept. 19, Pratt; Sept. 26, at Hillsboro; Oct. 3, at Kingman; Oct. 10, Smoky Valley; Oct. 17, Ellsworth; Oct. 24, at Sterling; Oct. 30, Lyons.
Coach: Curtis Albin, third season, 46-47
Top players: Parker Maloney, QB-S, 6-0, 190, sr.; Cody New, RB-CB, 5-8, 140, sr.; Jordan Campbell, DE, 6-0, 205, sr.; Adam Leroux, OL, 5-10, 225, jr.; Nick Giefer, FB-LB, 6-0, 180, jr.; Wyatt Beat, TE-LB, 6-1, 185, sr.; Cole Walters, OL-DL, 6-3, 245, jr.; Caden Knoblauch, OL-DL, 6-0, 270.
Notes: Kingman must find replacements at quarterback and middle linebacker if it is to repeat the success of last season, but Albin is confident that his group of juniors – some of whom pressed last year’s seniors for playing time – is up to the task. Maloney has already received interest from Division II colleges, Albin said, and New is as quick of a player as he has coached. Albin said he likes Giefer’s speed, vision and toughness, and projects a great year for him. The steady Leroux and Walters will anchor the strong side of the Eagles’ line.
Schedule: Sept. 5, at Nickerson; Sept. 12, Lyons; Sept. 19, at Larned; Sept. 26, at Pratt; Oct. 3, Hoisington; Oct. 10, Sterling; Oct. 17, at Halstead; Oct. 24, Hutchinson Trinity; Oct. 30, at Garden Plain.
Coach: A.B. Stokes, second season, 10-9
Top players: Ty O’Neill, OL-LB, 5-11, 210, sr.; Jeromy Bartz, RB-LB, 5-8, 190, sr.; Gage Stude, RB, 5-9, 175, sr.; Landon Erway, RB, 5-8, 175, jr.; Tyler Stelter, LB, 5-10, 190, sr.; Evan Skelton, SS, 5-8, 160, jr.; Trey Kraisinger, FS, 6-1, 165, sr.
Notes: The Indians will have to adjust to the challenge of a new league, Stokes said, but will face them with a senior-heavy lineup. “We will work to get better each week and let the rest take care of itself,” he said.
Schedule: Sept. 5, Hoisington; Sept. 12, at LaCrosse; Sept. 19, Kingman; Sept. 26, Nickerson; Oct. 3, at Lyons; Oct. 10, at Haven; Oct. 17, Holcomb; Oct. 24, at Hugoton; Oct. 31, Pratt.
Coach: James Johnston, 27th year, 162-98
Top players: Grady Kirkhart, TE-LB, 6-3, 195, sr.; Jake Buckman, WR-DB, 5-9, 145 sr.; Eddie Landeros, WR-DB, 5-8, 140, sr.
Notes: The Lions, although returning a number of starters and lettermen from last season, will have to find replacements at running back, quarterback and kicker, Johnston said.
Schedule: Sept. 5, Pratt; Sept. 12, at Kingman; Sept. 19, at Nickerson; Sept. 26, Hesston; Oct. 3, Larned; Oct. 10, at Hillsboro; Oct. 17, at Sterling; Oct. 24, Ellsworth; Oct. 31, at Hoisington.
Coach: Max Heinlein, eighth season, 25-50
Top players: Ethan Belden, WR-CB, 6-1, 170, sr.; Ben Berridge, RB-CB, 6-3, 185, sr.; Casey Goble, RB-S, 5-8, 170, sr.; Wyatt Henson, WR, 6-0, 170, jr.; Jordan Lehman, RB, 5-11, 190, jr.; Braden Stewart, QB, 6-3, 165, so.; Luke Hertel, C-DE, 6-1, 225, sr.; Coleman Jordan, OG-DE, 6-3, 210, jr.; Cody Casey, S, 5-6, 140, jr.; Bailey Daniels, LB, 5-7, 165, jr.; Austin O’Toole, LB, 5-11, 160, so.; Jayden Harvey, NG, 5-8, 190, jr.; Sam Berridge, LB, 6-0, 170, sr.
Notes: The Panthers return 20 players and are hopeful that the experience gained last season will translate into success this season. Heinlein said he is excited to get the season started and see how his team matches up. The Panthers aren’t especially deep, so avoiding injuries will be crucial, he said.
Schedule: Sept. 5, Kingman; Sept. 12, at Hoisington; Sept. 19, Lyons; Sept. 26, at Larned; Oct. 3, Pratt; Oct. 10, Halstead; Oct. 17, at Smoky Valley; Oct. 24, at Chapman; Oct. 31, Wamego.
Coach: Jamie Cruce, second season, 30-41
Top players: Brandon Ruckle, QB, 6-2, 165, sr.; Derek Barnard, Slot-CB, 6-0, 165; Hunter Kaufman, Slot-CB, 5-8, 140, so.; Sean Noel, FB-LB, 5-11, 185, jr.; Adam Bartel, OL-DL, 6-3, 250, sr.; Jerod Theis, OL-DL, 6-1, 225, jr.; Chance Henke, OL-DL, 6-0, 225, sr.; Tyler Skaggs, S, 5-8, 155, sr.
Notes: Ruckle returns to lead the Pratt offense at quarterback after passing for 1,314 yards and 12 touchdowns as well as rushing for 219 yards and four scores. A key target is Barnard, who caught 24 passes for 416 yards and five touchdowns as a junior.
Schedule: Sept. 5, at Lyons; Sept. 12, Plainville; Sept. 19, at Hoisington; Sept. 26, Kingman; Oct. 3, at Nickerson; Oct. 10, Hesston; Oct. 17, at Hugoton; Oct. 24, Holcomb; Oct. 31, at Larned.