Goddard defensive coordinator talks move across town to Eisenhower
Everyone knows Derby is a football favorite in Kansas Class 6A and Wichita Northwest is eyeing the 5A title, but there are a few under-the-radar teams in the Wichita area, too.
Here are the top five sleepers heading into the 2019 season as determined by The Eagle and Varsity Kansas.
1. Maize South
Maize South was the hottest team in the area at the end of last season.
The Mavericks started 0-3, with a 23-13 road loss to Valley Center included. Then, after picking up a win in Week 4, Maize South won five more in a row. The Mavs beat Goddard, the 4A runner-up, 23-22 in overtime at home, then topped Andover 21-17 in the first round of the postseason.
The run ended when Maize South was humbled in a 5A regional championship game. Going on the road to face crosstown rival Maize, the Mavs lost 35-0.
If Maize South can start 2019 as hot as it finished last season, this will be a tough group to beat. The Mavs bring back Division I tackle Cody Fayette, All-League cornerback Trevion Mitchell and a dynamic pair in quarterback Colin Shields and running back Mason Edwards.
2. Wichita West
Last year, West’s freshman team went undefeated and outscored its opponents 350-14.
Add in 13 returning starters from a team that went 6-4 and finished fourth in the City League, and West might be looking at its best season in more than a decade.
Overall, the City League figures to be down this season. Carroll lost almost all of its scorers. Kapaun might be the youngest team in the league, or second to West. Northwest will be a title contender, but there is little reason the Pioneers can’t finish at least in the top three.
West brings back a stout defense that features potential All-Metro selections like linebackers Jeremiah Brown and Quentin Saunders.
The Pioneers were close last year, losing 6-0 at Kapaun, putting up 52 combined points against Carroll and Northwest, and losing 36-25 to 6A semifinalist Manhattan.
Eisenhower felt like a spread team running an option offense last year.
Big-armed quarterback Collin Mackey will be under center, his skill-set showcased in first-year coach Darrin Fisher’s offense. Throw in play-makers like senior running back Parker Wenzel and senior receiver Chance Omli, and Eisenhower might even beat the team across the street, Goddard.
Last year, Eisenhower started the season with a 44-7 road loss to Salina Central. A week later, the Tigers beat Andover Central 21-14. Eisenhower had great pieces but couldn’t find consistency, finishing 3-6.
The Tigers contended against Goddard, losing 12-3 in a defensive coach’s dream, but that felt like one of the best performances of the year against a team that won 11 games.
Eisenhower faces one of the strongest schedules in the area, drawing AVCTL II and non-league foes like Salina Central and Newton, but the Tigers have the talent and a new coach to lead them.
Andover was one of the youngest teams in Kansas last year, starting eight sophomores and a few freshmen.
Now the Trojans are expected to start turning the corner after a 3-6 season. Andover scored some big wins, like a 30-22 victory at Eisenhower and 20-3 win over Maize South, but the Trojans had major losses, too.
Andover lost 13-10 to Valley Center, 16-14 to rival Andover Central, 33-26 to Kapaun and 21-17 to Maize South in the first round of the postseason.
Junior quarterback Eli Fahnestock returns healthy after missing time last season. As a freshman, he threw for 1,753 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 509 more yards with 11 scores. He will work alongside Division I-bound running back Peyton Henry.
The Trojans bring back a strong defense with a well-rounded linebacker core and a few pass rushers, like Connor Hall.
5. Garden Plain
All eyes of the Central Plains League are on Conway Springs, but Garden Plain cannot be forgotten, either.
The Owls went 6-4 last year and lost to Conway Springs 28-7, but they bring back a lot of senior talent this season, including 10 starters.
Garden Plain started the season high with a 15-12 win over rival Cheney but struggled against the top teams, losing twice to Hutchinson Trinity and 30-21 to Chaparral.
The Owls have the experience to beat some of the top teams in Class 2A. They beat Douglass twice last season, the Bulldogs’ only two losses last year.