Varsity Kansas

Football 2015: A look at the Central Kansas League

Halstead quarterback Eli McKee (5) returns for his senior season after helping the Dragons to last year’s Class 3A semifinals.
Halstead quarterback Eli McKee (5) returns for his senior season after helping the Dragons to last year’s Class 3A semifinals. Wichita Eagle

East Division


Coach: Jason Grider, second season, 10-3. 2014: 10-3. Top players: Blake Beckett, RB-LB, 6-0, 185, sr.; Eli McKee, QB-FS, 6-0, 175, sr.; Tate Kaufman, TE-DE, 6-6, 225, sr.; Zach Wright, 6-2, 235, FB-DL, sr.; Layke Heimerman, RB-LB, 6-2, 195, jr.

Notes: Halstead lost in the 3A semifinals in Grider’s first year. The Dragons return the 3A leading rusher from 2014, Blake Beckett, who rushed for 2,101 yards on 201 carries.

Schedule: Sept. 4, at Haven; Sept. 11, Hesston; Sept. 18, at Hillsboro, Sept. 25, at Smoky Valley; Oct. 2, Sterling; Oct. 9, Nickerson; Oct. 16, at Kingman; Oct. 23, at Garden Plain; Oct. 29, Hutch Trinity.


Coach: Scott L’Ecuyer, third season, 4-14. 2014: 2-7. Top players: Juan De Santiago, OL-LB, 5-10, 190, sr.; Kobe Ford, OL-DL, 6-3, 350, sr.; Mark Carney, RB-DB, 5-2, 150, jr.; Jeff Hendrixson, QB-DB, 5-2, 150, jr.; Eric Williams, RB-LB, 6-1, 185, sr.

Notes: The Wildcats lost three all-league selections to graduation. Hendrixson will fill the shoes of his older brother and all-class selection Tim at quarterback. Haven will rely on the leadership and experience of the offensive and defensive lines.

Schedule: Sept. 4, Halstead; Sept. 11, at Hillsboro; Sept. 18, Smoky Valley; Sept. 25, at Sterling; Oct. 2, Hesston;Oct. 9, at Larned; Oct.16, at Clearwater; Oct. 23, at Trinity Academy; Oct. 29, Andale.


Coach: Clint Rider, third season, 18-3. 2014: 10-1. Top players: Jon Weber, TE-DE, 6-0, 190, sr.; Garrett Roth, OL-DL, 5-11, 225, sr.; Austin Cheatham, OL, 6-2, 260, sr.; Zach Esau QB-FS, 6-0, 160, jr.; Scott Duerksen, WR-DB, 6-0, 160, sr.

Notes: Hesston will look for its third straight undefeated season in the Central Kansas League. The Swathers have been to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons. After losing a large group of seniors last year, they’ll be replacing most of the starters from a one loss season a year ago.

Schedule: Sept. 4, Smoky Valley; Sept. 11, at Halstead; Sept. 18, at Sterling, Sept. 25, Lyons; Oct. 2, at Haven; Oct. 9, Pratt; Oct. 16, at Hillsboro; Oct. 23, at Council Grove; Oct. 29, SE-Saline.


Coach: Lance Sawyer, fourth season, 15-14. 2014: 2-7. Top players: Carson Herbel, WR, 6-0, 150, jr.; Elliot Ollenburger, WR, 5-8, 120, so.; Tyson Reimer, RB-DE, 5-11, 160, jr.; Dusten Plenert, LB, 5-9, 150, jr.; Kaden Kleiner, QB, 6-0, 170, so.

Notes: Hillsboro will look to get back into the playoffs for the first time in three years, when they went 10-1 and lost in the second round. Coach Sawyer needs his team to be prepared mentally on both sides of the ball and physical for the Trojans to make a run.

Schedule: Sept. 4, at Sterling; Sept. 11, Haven; Sept. 18, Halstead, Sept. 25, at Hoisington; Oct. 2, Smoky Valley;Oct. 9, at Lyons; Oct. 16, Hesston; Oct. 23, at Southeast of Saline; Oct. 29, at Council Grove.

Smoky Valley

Coach: Tim Lambert, first season. 2014: 5-5. Top players: Caden Byers, OL-DL, 5-11, 210, sr.; Seth Nelson, DL, 6-3, 225, jr.; Kyle Anderson, WR-LB, 6-1, 175, so.; Riley O’Dell, LB, 6-0, 170, so.; Kaj Sjogren, RB-DB, 6-1, 175, so.

Notes: The Vikings will try to get back on track with Lambert, who has been around the game for 22 years. Smoky Valley lost a large quantity of starters and will rely on its sophomore and junior classes.

Schedule: Sept. 4, at Hesston; Sept. 11, Sterling; Sept. 18, at Haven; Sept. 25, Halstead; Oct. 2, at Hillsboro; Oct. 9, Hoisington; Oct. 16, at Nickerson; Oct. 23, Wamego; Oct. 30, at Chapman.


Coach: Tyson Bauerle, first season. 2014: 0-9. Top players: Zane Nichols, OL-DL, 6-0, 185, sr.; Brandon Frederick, OL-DL, 5-11, 210, jr.; Kenan Comley, QB-DB, 5-10, 145, so.; Blake Richter, WR-DB, 6-2, 165, so.; Edward Weiner, RB-LB, 5-11, 165, jr.

Notes: Bauerle looks to turn around the Black Bears season from what it was a year ago. With the majority of the team returning, they will look to build with experience and skill position players. The Black Bears will be learning a new offensive game plan under Bauerle. They will need to get better mentally and physically on the interior line for a successful season.

Schedule: Sept. 4, Hillsboro; Sept. 11, at Smoky Valley; Sept. 18, Hesston; Sept. 25, Haven; Oct. 2, at Halstead; Oct. 9, Kingman; Oct. 16, at Lyons; Oct. 23, at Hoisington; Oct. 29, Ellsworth.

West Division


Coach: Zach Baird, second season, 9-2. 2014: 9-2. Top players: Hunter Hanzlick, RB-LB, 5-11, 195, jr.; Steffan Dolechek, RB-WR-DB, 6-1, 175, sr.; Landen Urban, OL-DL, 6-0, 250, jr.; Tyler Spect, QB, 5-11, 165, jr.; Zade Sanders, LB, 5-11, 170, sr.

Notes: The Cardinals return eight offensive starters and seven on defense, which will make for a well-rounded team. Baird had an impressive first season with Hoisington last year. He’ll need his skill players to make big plays against a tough schedule.

Schedule: Sept. 4, Larned; Sept. 11, at Nickerson; Sept. 18, at Pratt; Sept. 25, Hillsboro; Oct. 2, Kingman; Oct. 9, at Smoky Valley; Oct. 16, at Ellsworth; Oct. 23, Sterling; Oct. 29, at Lyons.


Coach: Curtis Albin, fifth season, 18-20. 2014: 6-3. Top players: Cole Walters, OL, 6-2, 255, sr.; Caden Knoblauch, RB-NG, 6-1, 285, sr.; Joe Govert, G-LB, 6-0, 200, sr.; Adam Leroux, G-DE, 5-10, 235, sr.; Tal Hartley, TE-FS, 6-0, 195, jr.

Notes: Albin says his team has 25 to 30 players capable of playing varsity. It’s the most depth he’s had since arriving at Kingman.

Schedule: Sept. 4, Nickerson; Sept. 11, at Lyons; Sept. 18, Larned; Sept. 25, Pratt; Oct. 2, at Hoisington; Oct. 9, at Sterling; Oct. 16, Halstead; Oct. 23, at Hutch Trinity; Oct. 29, Garden Plain.


Coach: A.B. Stokes, fourth season, 14-14. 2014: 4-5. Top players: Evan Skelton, QB-SS, 5-8, 165, sr.; Landon Erway, RB-MLB, 5-9, 175, sr.; Tanner Madden, RB-OLB, 6-2, 190, sr.; Isiah Perez, WR-FS, 5-11, 180, sr.; Kolby Keith, WR-SS, 5-10, 170, jr.

Notes: The Indians look to get to the playoffs after missing out last year after an 0-3 finish. If the defense can hold its own, the Indians will be back to the playoffs for only the second time in 30 years.

Schedule: Sept. 4, at Hoisington; Sept. 11, Lacrosse; Sept. 18, at Kingman; Sept. 25, at Nickerson; Oct. 2, Lyons;Oct. 9, Haven; Oct. 16, at Holcomb; Oct. 23, Hugoton; Oct. 30 at Pratt.


Coach: James Johnston, fourth season, 8-19. 2014: 1-8. Top players: Tyler Edwards, QB, 6-0, 185, jr.; Cody Clark, RB-LB, 5-11, 175, sr.; Dylon Newill, OL-DL, 6-2, 240, jr.; Riley Kirkhart, DB, 6-1, 155, jr.; Kole Clark, DE, 5-11, 175.

Notes: The Lions regroup after a one-win season. Lyons will have to make some big plays and stay healthy for a successful season.

Schedule: Sept. 4, at Pratt; Sept. 11, Kingman; Sept. 18, Nickerson; Sept. 25, at Hesston; Oct. 2, at Larned; Oct. 9, Hillsboro; Oct. 16, Sterling; Oct. 23, at Ellsworth; Oct. 29, Hoisington.


Coach: Mike Vernon, first season. 2014: 1-8. Top players: Austin O’Toole, RB, 6-1, 180, jr.; Cody Curl, LB, 5-10, 215, sr.; Coleman Jordan, OL-DE, 6-2, 225, sr.; Camron Stewart, OL, 6-2, 225, sr.; Jayden Harvey, DT, 5-10, 220, sr.

Notes: The Panthers have not had a winning season since 2012. Vernon thinks this season will come down to how quickly the players pick up the new system.

Schedule: Sept. 4, at Kingman; Sept. 11, Hoisington; Sept. 18, at Lyons; Sept. 25, Larned; Oct. 2, at Pratt; Oct. 9, at Halstead, Oct. 16, Smoky Valley; Oct. 23, Chapman; Oct. 30, at Wamego.


Coach: Jamie Cruce, third season, 7-12. 2014: 5-5. Top players: Jerod Theis, OL-DL, 6-1, 225, sr.; Hunter Kaufman, SB-DB, 5-8, 155, jr.; Traik Peltier, OL-DL, 6-4, 210, jr.; Noah Myers, SB-DB, 5-9, 155, jr.; Devon Koehler, FB-LB, 5-11, 175, sr.

Notes: The Greenbacks will have a number of new faces on both sides of the ball as they replace eight offensive and seven defensive starters. Cruce says his team will be smaller in size than most of their opponents, so they will need to play hard, smart, and fast.

Schedule: Sept. 4, Lyons; Sept. 11, at Plainville; Sept. 18, Hoisington; Sept. 25, at Kingman; Oct. 2, Nickerson; Oct. 9, at Hesston; Oct. 16, Hugoton; Oct. 23, at Holcomb; Oct. 30, Larned.