Dylan Downing - Bishop Miege
Senior, Linebacker/Punter, 6-2, 229 pounds
Downing capped an extraordinary career even by Miege standards with his fourth straight state championship in 2018 and the Stags’ fifth in a row.
Down finished the 2018 season with 131 total tackles, including 90 solo. He is a quarterback at linebacker who covers and fills space quickly. He had 13 tackles for losses, three sacks and a rushing touchdown he had been waiting on for four years. This marks his second straight Eagle Top 11 appearance.
“Every year I won a state title, and so just to keep it going is special,” Downing said. “Now the juniors have to keep it going.”
Mason Fairchild - Andale
Senior, Defensive End/Tight End, 6-5, 250 pounds
Fairchild was the top player on one of the top teams in the hardest classification in Kansas.
He was crucial to Andale’s second straight undefeated regular season and appearance in the Class 3A semifinals. He was crucial on both sides of the ball as he made his home in the opponent’s backfield and led the Indians at 11 yards per carry and 26.9 yards per catch.
“It wasn’t just me, it was everyone,” Fairchild said. “Everyone succeeded, and that made everyone else look really good. Everyone was doing their job.”
Caleb Grill - Maize
Senior, Quarterback/Punter, 6-3, 180 pounds
Grill proved to be one of the great multi-sport athletes in Kansas with a remarkable football season.
A South Dakota State basketball commit, Grill threw for 3,122 yards, good enough for second-best in Kansas. He helped Maize to its best season in school history with 10 wins and a spot in the Class 5A semifinals. He didn’t have to play football with his scholarship in hand, but he said he wanted to help his teammates.
“You only get this opportunity once,” Grill said. “I’ve heard stories of people quitting sports to specialize on one thing, and pretty much everyone says they regret it. I don’t want to have any regrets.”
Breece Hall - Wichita Northwest
Senior, Running Back, 6-2, 215 pounds
There wasn’t a more respected runner in Kansas.
Hall was named one of two High School All-Americans in 2018 after running for 2,127 yards, 38 total touchdowns and helping Northwest to its second state championship game in school history after bruising his ribs in the Grizzlies’ semifinal win over Maize. Hall, who is verbally committed to Iowa State, will go down as one of the greatest running backs in the illustrious history of the City League after making his second straight Eagle Top 11 appearance.
“We’re always going to be remembered around Northwest,” Hall said. “Our names are always going to be discussed with some of the best in Kansas football history.”
Hunter Igo - Derby
Senior, Quarterback/Safety, 6-0, 165 pounds
Many around the state consider Igo to be the best player in Kansas because of all he had to endure in 2018.
Igo was expected to play nothing but safety for the Panthers, but when starting quarterback Grant Adler suffered a broken arm in Week 4 at Bishop Carroll, Igo was forced to the other side of the ball. All he did was throw for 1,068 yards and 17 touchdowns and run for 931 yards with 24 more scores in just nine games as the starter, capping his career with an undefeated season and a Class 6A state championship victory.
“I just wanted to do the best I could for the team and give them my all wherever it is,” Igo said. “Coming back from last year since that exact same day, knowing how much work we put in and the feeling, I really don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”
Isaac Keener - Derby
Senior, Defensive End, 6-2, 245 pounds
Keener made the most of his one full season in Derby green.
Coming from Kentucky, Keener left a legacy as one of the great pass rushers in Panther history. He finished the 2018 season with 83 total tackles, 43 solo, 12 sacks and 25 tackles for losses. He was the catalyst behind the best defense in Kansas and one of the best in state history. He demanded double teams almost on a play-by-play basis, and that left many of his teammates free to fly to the ball-carrier.
“It was definitely one of the best defenses I’ve ever played on and definitely one of the best teams I’ve ever played on,” Keener said. “We’re like brothers, so we knew if someone messed up, we knew we had each other’s back.”
Graham Mertz - Blue Valley North
Senior, Quarterback, 6-4, 205 pounds
After transferring from Bishop Miege, Mertz spent just two years at Blue Valley North and became arguably the greatest quarterback in Kansas high school history.
Mertz threw for 96 touchdowns in his two years as a Mustang, including 51 as a senior. He led the state with 3,886 passing yards and helped lead BV North back to the Class 6A state championship game. Mertz is verbally committed to Wisconsin and holds offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Georgia. He said his time as a Mustang was everything he could have hoped for.
“I hear all the stats, and I immediately start thinking about (receiver) Cameron Burt and all my friends,” Mertz said. “It’s definitely crazy to take a step back and look at it all.”
Joe Michalski - St. Thomas Aquinas
Senior, Offensive Lineman, 6-6, 280 pounds
Of all the championship-winning teams coach Randy Dreiling has coached at Hutchinson and now at St. Thomas Aquinas, he says Michalski is the best offensive lineman he has coached.
Michalski has size to compete in the NFL now and the skill that has earned him a verbal commitment to Oklahoma State. He was the driver behind one of the most commanding offenses in Kansas that plowed its way to the Class 5A state championship. 2018 marks Michalski’s second straight Eagle top 11 selection.
“Winning the school’s first state championship, it will be cool going back years later and looking at that banner and knowing you’re part of the reason why,” he said.
Elliott Strahm - Sabetha
Senior, Offensive Lineman/Defensive Lineman, 6-2, 270 pounds
Sabetha has become one of the most respected names in Kansas high school football, and a lot of that is because of Strahm.
Strahm is excellent on both sides of the ball. He was named a unanimous Big 7 League offensive and defensive line first-team selection. He was part of the Bluejay defense that allowed just 8.3 points per game and helped Sabetha to its second straight undefeated championship-winning season in 2018.
“It’s a very big accomplishment,” Strahm said. “It relieves all that pressure that I think most everyone on the team was feeling, knowing 3A was stacked this year. Getting through that was amazing.”
Travis Theis - Pratt
Senior, Quarterback/Running Back/Linebacker, 5-9, 194 pounds
Theis is considered one of the most underrated players in Kansas history.
Holding no Division I offers, Theis is likely the strongest pound-for-pound player in the state, and that helped him to 2,608 rushing yards, 43 rushing touchdowns, 985 passing yards and 11 touchdowns through the air. He helped Pratt to the Class 3A state championship game where he ran for 143 yards and a score on a torn MCL, coach Jamie Cruce said.
“I really wanted to get 100 career touchdowns, and I got 101,” Theis said. “(Leaving a legacy) is something I always really wanted to do since I was little, so it’s a great feeling.”
Sophomore, Running Back, 5-7, 170 pounds
Only 15 years old, Young is one of the most promising athletes in Kansas sports.
Young was remarkable in his sophomore season, helping Aquinas to its first state championship in school history. He ran for 1,743 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2018. He set the school’s single game rushing record with 317 yards in a win over Bishop Miege and did it with class. Although he reached the pinnacle of Kansas high school football this season, Young said he isn’t done.
“I just want more,” he said. “I haven’t made it to the point where I wanted to be. It’s good to see I’m doing good now, but I want more for me and for my team.”
Randy Dreiling - St. Thomas Aquinas
Of the seven championship teams Randy Dreiling entered the season with, some still considered the his 2018 St. Thomas Aquinas team the best he had ever led.
Dreiling and the Saints came short in the 2017 Class 5A title game to Bishop Carroll and were back in the same game a year later. Dreiling helped Aquinas capture its first football state championship in school history with a 49-28 win over Wichita Northwest. It marks Dreiling’s eighth state championship.