Varsity Football

Kansas one of last states to adopt high school football jamborees, but is it too late?

Bishop Carroll takes Holy War in the Varsity Kansas Game of the Week

Bishop Carroll beat Kapaun 28-14 on Friday to clinch the 20th straight season that has happened. The Golden Eagles and Crusaders put on a show at Cessna Stadium.
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Bishop Carroll beat Kapaun 28-14 on Friday to clinch the 20th straight season that has happened. The Golden Eagles and Crusaders put on a show at Cessna Stadium.

Many Wichita-area high school football coaches voted “yes” but acted “no.”

April 26, the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) ruled Kansas football programs would have the option of adding a preseason inter-squad scrimmage to their schedules. Kansas was one of the last states to allow them.

The jamborees enable three or four teams to meet during Week 8 of the KSHSAA calendar, which in 2019 falls one week ahead of the start of the regular season on Sept. 6. Teams must have completed at least 10 days of practice, and individual players must have participated in nine.

Offenses are allowed 36 snaps with no special teams or kicking.

The vote passed 62-3. But few programs in the Wichita area acted on it.

Only 27 schools out of about 50 in the area will meet up with other programs Friday and Saturday. Some of the remaining coaches said it’s just not worth the risk and comes too late in the game.

At Bishop Carroll, coach Dusty Trail said there is no way his program could do away with its intra-squad scrimmage. Players are split into two teams and community members come out and watch the team and interact with the players. It’s a staple of the Golden Eagles’ culture.

“I love the idea of it, but we’ve done things a certain way for so long,” Trail said. “If we could figure out a different day to put it on, we would definitely do it, but it just didn’t work out for us.”

Bishop Carroll high school football: Gunner Lynch
Bishop Carroll senior receiver Gunner Lynch leads the Golden Eagles onto the field for their game against Derby on Friday. (Sept. 21, 2018) Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

At Andale, coach Dylan Schmidt is gearing up for almost an identical event: Black and Gold Night. Every fall sports program holds an intra-squad scrimmage to build excitement in a controlled environment. Schmidt said he asked his athletic director to vote “yes” in favor of the jamborees at the KSHSAA board of directors meeting in April, but that wasn’t so much for him as it was for everyone else.

Schmidt said he talked with a lot of coaches in the lower classifications of Kansas high school football and learned that many programs can’t get a good preseason test because they have fewer players, and their junior varsity teams aren’t at the same level of competition yet.

“But that’s not the case for us,” Schmidt said. “We have a ton of guys we want to look at. At our scrimmage, I script the plays to see how these two quarterbacks run the ball, throw the ball, throw on the run. Well, I can’t do that as well in a jamboree. Here, I can talk to Tim Fairchild, my defensive coordinator, and ask for a specific look.

“We’ve always been ready Week 1 and never felt under-prepared.”

Of the Wichita-area programs competing in jamborees this fall, three come from Class 6A, six hail from 5A, 10 are 4A, six are 3A and three are 2A. Here are their jamborees:

  • Garden City, Maize at Wichita Heights (Friday)
  • Andover, Mulvane, Wichita Southeast at Augusta (Friday)
  • Andover Central, Winfield at Rose Hill (Friday)
  • Douglass, El Dorado at Trinity Academy (Friday)
  • Conway Springs, Hesston, Garden Plain at Halstead (Friday)
  • Kapaun Mt. Carmel, McPherson, Newton at Valley Center (Saturday)
  • Clearwater, Wichita East at Arkansas City (Saturday)
  • Circle, Nickerson, Pratt at Cheney (Saturday)

These went 20 games under .500 last year. One made a state championship game. Nine won a playoff game.

Maize was one of those nine. The Eagles went 10-2 last year and had their best season in school history. Quarterback Caleb Grill was named to the Eagle’s Top 11 team, and two other players earned All-Metro honors. They reached the Class 5A state semifinals.

Maize is the Wichita area’s best returning team in Kansas’ top two classifications to sign up for a jamboree. Coach Gary Guzman said this is something coaches in Kansas have been asking about for years.

“I think it’s important to get a good idea about what you’ve got before you get to that first game,” Guzman said. “Once we go up against Garden City and Heights, I think we’ll know what we need to fix before that first game or at least have a better idea.

“To me, 36 plays will tell you something. I grew up in Texas, and we had full preseason games, and that was really valuable to us, even though they didn’t affect the record.”

Maize high school football
The Maize Eagles run onto the field. Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Wichita Northwest, the team that beat Maize in the semifinals, won’t go to a jamboree. The Grizzlies are coming off a Class 5A championship game appearance in which they lost to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Coach Steve Martin said when you lose your best players over the summer, that can have a major impact in the fall and into postseason.

“We want to work on ourselves,” Martin said. “There is a lot of stuff where we need to get our kinks out. People say, ‘What better way to do that than against another team?’ I can’t control another team. I can’t blow the whistle. I can’t take care of my players the same way. You could put your backups in, but that’s not the point. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time.

“I voted yes. I believe everyone should have their opinion on whether they do it or not. We just chose not to.”

Maize South coach Brent Pfeifer’s Mavericks are a team on the rise in Class 5A after going 6-4. With college prospects on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as at cornerback, quarterback and running back, they bring back a lot of talent. The last thing they need is to lose one of their best players, Pfeifer said.

“For me, all this is just a little too late in the game,” Pfeifer said. “For a team of our size, it doesn’t really benefit us to go see someone else for 36 snaps. At our scrimmage, we’re going to have 150 snaps; 36 does me nothing.”

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