Andale coach Gary O’Hair can usually count on around 20 seniors on his roster. With that number, as Andale’s winning clip of 84 percent over the past 13 seasons demonstrates, the Indians are in good shape.
This season, nine seniors are out for football. That doesn’t mean the Indians, defending Class 4A-Division II champions, are lowering their expectations. Andale opens against 4A-I semifinalist Buhler, then plays 4A-I playoff team McPherson and 3A quarterfinalist Collegiate. How the Indians survive the first month may provide a clue to their postseason success.
“We’re not going to have as many upperclassmen,” O’Hair said. “This class has some real good kids in it, but it’s always been a class that was low on numbers.”
Andale, 13-0 last season and owning three state titles since 2006, remains plenty talented. It won its four playoff games by an average score of 50-12 in 2014.
Honorable mention All-Class 4A-II tight end Jeff Ast and linebacker Bo Knoblauch, also an honorable mention pick, are back. Second-team All-AV-CTL offensive linemen Mark Hageman and Daniel Bergkamp and junior Cameron Cothran, honorable mention all-conference, return.
Anthony Capul, an All-Class 4A-II defensive lineman as a sophomore, will not play this season, instead concentrating on healing a shoulder injury for wrestling. Capul’s absence also deprives the Indians of a talented running back.
“I think we could be better on the line of scrimmage than we were last year,” O’Hair said. “We were good up there, but we do have some kids returning who were real solid.”
Ast, who also plays defensive end, is an NCAA Division I recruit who is also one of the nation’s top track and field athletes. His javelin throw of 226 feet, 2 inches in April ranked first nationally and is the state’s third-longest. He is leaning toward the throws in college, but is open to seeing what develops with football.
While surgery on his right elbow limited his work in the summer, Ast was cleared in mid-August to practice and will play with a brace.
“I was kind of worried,” he said. “I didn’t know about those first couple of games.”
Knoblauch is fast enough to play tailback and may get a shot there. At fullback, he is a powerful blocker.
“He’s an explosive athlete,” O’Hair said. “Our fullback is mainly a blocker and that’s what he’s best at. He’s a collision guy.”
O’Hair is searching for replacements for Wichita Eagle Top 11 running back Hunter Knoblauch, who gained 3,832 rushing yards in three seasons, and All-Class 4A-II quarterback Luke Walstad. Junior Taylor Richter (5-11, 160 pounds) served as Walstad’s backup last season and ran on Andale’s 400-meter relay team. He will compete with Jace Stuever (5-10, 150), also a junior, at quarterback.
“We’ll work them both in their equally,” O’Hair said. “Taylor’s been there more than Jace, so probably Taylor has the upper hand right now. But I know Jace is a good-enough athlete we want to take a look at him.”