In 2017, when Sedgwick lost twice to rival Ell-Saline, quarterback Lance Hoffsommer was a 5-foot-9 eighth-grader hoping to one day be the Cardinals’ next quarterback.
Under then-starter Hooper Schroeder, Sedgwick set school records and broke them again the following year when Schroeder was a senior. But in 2017, the Cardinals lost 44-41 to Ell-Saline in the first round of the postseason.
On Monday, after a four-day postponement because of a lightning delays, Sedgwick beat Ell-Saline for the first time since 2016 with a 31-13 road victory. Ell-Saline hadn’t allowed a point through the first three weeks.
“When you win a game like this, it sets you up to have a great season,” Sedgwick coach Jeff Werner said. “We want to run the table. To have an undefeated season is our goal now.”
Hoffsommer is now the starter as a sophomore. Hoffsommer said Schroeder took him under his wing last season and taught him a lot about how to play the quarterback position. He said Schroeder still comes to some of the games and talks about how to improve afterward.
It has helped, said Hoffsommer, who has 1,101 passing yards and 18 touchdowns through four games. He threw for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Ell-Saline.
And he’s now 6-1 after a four-inch growth spurt. Sedgwick coach Jeff Werner said that added height could be a season-changer.
“I grew so fast that it took time to get used to everything,” Hoffsommer said. “I was really kind of slow and had to work on my speed a little bit. If I grow to 6-3 and gain some muscle weight, college football could be a possibility.”
Sedgwick scored a pair of touchdowns on reverse passes from tight end Mason Lacey to put Monday’s game away. Add in a dominant defensive performance, and the Cardinals showed they belong in the Class 1A state title conversation.
Over the past few years, some have called Sedgwick “gimmicky.” The Cardinals pass more than almost any team in Kansas’ lower classifications. They don’t rely on an option offense and stack the line with farm kids.
But that has also bitten them on the opposite end. Sedgwick has given up 125 points over its past three postseason games. Monday’s victory, allowing 13 points to a rival on the road, showed this year’s team could be different.
The win over Ell-Saline puts Sedgwick in outstanding position to finish the regular season undefeated with a third straight district title. It would be the Cardinals’ first undefeated regular season since 2011, when they competed in Class 3A.
Sedgwick’s remaining opponents have an average of one victory this season.
Given the district format in Class 1A, Sedgwick can expect a quarterfinal matchup against the two-time defending state champion, Smith Center.
Over the past three seasons, including the first four games of 2019, Smith Center has lost two games — both to Class 2A champion Phillipsburg. In fact, outside of Phillipsburg and Plainville, Smith Center hasn’t lost a game since Oct. 17, 2014.
Last season, Smith Center beat Sedgwick 61-27 in the sectional round of the 1A playoffs. It was Smith Center’s closest game of the postseason.
Werner knows his team will likely have to go through some Kansas giants to make school history with its first state title. The staff has spent a long time creating a game plan for the pistol wishbone offense — the system that both Ell-Saline and Smith Center run.
“They are just one of those elite programs,” Werner said. “Each classification seems to have one or two of them, but I think (beating Ell-Saline) gives us hope. ... If we can force them to play shootout football, that’s kind of where we want it and where we hang our hat.”