Derby defense comes through in road win over defending 5A champions
Last year, Andale High’s Mason Fairchild flipped his commitment from South Dakota to Kansas, becoming the first Kansan to pledge under new Jayhawks football coach Les Miles.
Fairchild, a tight end who averaged more than 25 yards per catch as a senior, is just the latest example of Kansas kids getting a shot at one of the state’s two Division I football programs, Andale coach Dylan Schmidt said.
“To play Big 12 football, that takes a special kid, but we have special kids in this area, and we have special kids at Andale,” Schmidt said. “It looks like those coaches (Miles and fellow newcomer Chris Klieman at K-State) have been making a push, and I’ve been really pleased with their efforts so far.”
Not surprisingly, KU and K-State have been the two most popular landing spots for Wichita-area high school football players to continue their careers since 2000, according to data pulled from Rivals.com. But Fairchild is the first Andale kid to make it to either of the schools on a football scholarship in that time.
With new staffs leading the Jayhawks and Wildcats, Wichita-area coaches are hopeful for new opportunities for their players.
Last year, Wichita Northwest had a pair of All-Americans in defensive end Marcus Hicks and running back Breece Hall. Northwest coach Steve Martin said KU was late to the party, but he is starting to see that change.
“I think those coaches have made an investment where I think it’s been lax in the past,” Martin said. “How is Marcus Hicks getting his 12th offer from KU? How is Breece Hall getting his fourth offer from KU? How are they not your No. 1 guys?
“Breece is projected to start at Iowa State soon. For him to slip by KU, it’s pretty disappointing. I think the new staffs are doing a great job at identifying those guys.”
The bar has been raised for Kansas high schoolers to continue their football careers with the introduction of a rule change in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC), lifting restrictions on out-of-state commitments.
Junior college coaches in Kansas can recruit as many kids from Texas, Florida and California as they like, which leaves Kansas players looking for opportunities elsewhere or not at all if they don’t receive an offer from KU or K-State.
Before the rule change, Kansans made up about two-thirds of KJCCC rosters. Now it’s about 10 percent. That places a larger emphasis on the Division I dream in Lawrence or Manhattan.
Maize reached the Class 5A state semifinals last year but hasn’t had a player accept an offer from KU or K-State this century. Senior receiver Preven Christon was an All-Metro selection last year and has taken several trips to Manhattan but hasn’t received an offer.
“You just hope Kansas universities will do their job and take a good look at us before they go out-of-state,” Maize coach Gary Guzman said. “We’ve got some kids that can play at that level.”
Although Kansas kids staying in Kansas is the most frequent option if presented, Wichita-area players have made their way from coast to coast since 2000. Here is a look at all of the Division I programs that have welcomed Wichita-area players on scholarships since 2000, according to Rivals.com:
*Including 2020 verbal commitments
Since Miles and Klieman took over Kansas’ Division I programs, interest in some Wichita-area high school players has been rejuvenated.
At McPherson, Cody Stufflebean, a senior tight end and defensive end, has verbally committed to Kansas State. He is the first Wichita-area product to commit since 2017, when Hutchinson’s Josh Rivas, Trinity Academy’s Ben Adler and Newton’s Aidan Mills all accepted offers from KSU.
And although no Wichita area player has committed to KU’s 2020 class, Noah Bolticoff, a Rose Hill junior offensive lineman, received an offer Aug. 21. Players like Caden Cox, a Maize senior running back, and Scotti Easter, an Andale senior cornerback and All-Metro selection, went to the Les Miles Football Camp.
Easter said he loved his time at the camp and enjoyed talking with Miles, who allowed Easter to be himself. Easter said he believes Kansas kids have the right mindset to play for the state’s two biggest football programs, and that’s why Miles and Klieman shouldn’t turn away.
“In other states, Division I guys are the best athletes at their school,” Easter said. “Here, we’re all the same. We all work as a team. In Texas, there are thousands of those kids where it’s one kid they rely on. We rely on everybody here. We want championships. That’s all we want.”