Top 11 state football team. Front row: Bishop Carroll's Zeke Palmer, Lawrence's Brad Strauss, Shawnee Mission West's Brett Sterbach, Gardner-Edgerton's Trae Wrench, Topeka's Will Geary. Back row: Scott City's Drew Kite, Bishop Carroll's Zach Befort, Lawrence Free State's Cody Stanclift, Conway Springs' Tanner Wood, Olathe South's Braden Smith, Holton's Trent Tanking and Bishop Carroll's Coach Alan Schuckman. (November  26, 2012)

Top 11 state football team. Front row: Bishop Carroll's Zeke Palmer, Lawrence's Brad Strauss, Shawnee Mission West's Brett Sterbach, Gardner-Edgerton's Trae Wrench, Topeka's Will Geary. Back row: Scott City's Drew Kite, Bishop Carroll's Zach Befort, Lawrence Free State's Cody Stanclift, Conway Springs' Tanner Wood, Olathe South's Braden Smith, Holton's Trent Tanking and Bishop Carroll's Coach Alan Schuckman. (November 26, 2012) Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle | Buy this photo

VarsityKansas.com’s 2012 Top 11 football team

Published Dec. 1 at 2:41 p.m. | Last updated Nov. 8 at 1:37 p.m.

Selection process

Top 11 and All-Class football teams are selected by The Wichita Eagle with the help of coaches across Kansas.

Every coach in the state is mailed a ballot to return to The Eagle, by mail or online, by the end of the season. Coaches may nominate their own players and players from other teams. They also are asked to supply statistics and comment on players they nominate.

The teams were selected by Joanna Chadwick. She tabulated nominations from the ballots and received additional input from coaches and other media members.

Top 11 teams are selected regardless of position, while All-Class teams are selected by position.

Zach Befort

Bishop Carroll

6-3, 250, sr., DL

•  Had a team-high 83 tackles, 28 for loss with six sacks.

•  Had seven tackles, three for loss, and two sacks in the Class 5A title game, a 60-21 win over Bishop Miege for the Eagles’ first title since 1978.

•  Befort controlled the line of scrimmage, allowing Carroll’s inexperienced linebackers to make plays.

Coach Alan Schuckman: “Zach was a strong, relentless player up front. He controlled the line of scrimmage with his strength and his power. Last year I said, ‘Zach, you’re a good player one out of four plays. You need to be a good player every play. I really challenged him on doing those things, not taking plays off…. This year, you better know where he lined up because he was a physical presence. He could be a two-gap player, occupying two or three linemen because you had to account for him with more than one.”

Will Geary


6-1, 305, sr. OL-DL

•  Topeka had a prolific offense, averaging 37 points with 3,451 rushing yards, 1,409 passing – and most of the time, the plays started behind Geary.

•  Geary, who led Topeka to the 6A semifinals, had 104 tackles from the noseguard position, 41 which were solo and had 15 for loss and four sacks. Was a four-year defensive starter.

•  Ridiculously strong, Geary, a power-lifting champ who runs a 4.9 40-yard dash, cleans 380 pounds, squats over 600. He won the 285-pound weight class in the 6A wrestling tournament.

Coach Walt Alexander: “He’s pretty special. We can’t replace him.… Because of his speed and strength, he requires a lot of double teams. If they don’t double team him, he’ll get behind the line of scrimmage. Most teams simply run away from him. If you run at him, he makes the play at the line of scrimmage.… In one game, we counted 15 knockdowns.”

Drew Kite

Scott City

6-4, 215, sr., TE-LB

•  Had 137 tackles, including 53 solo tackles, an average of 10.5. Also had five sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Had 11 touchdowns on 26 catches.

•  Led Scott City to a Class 3A title that included a comeback from down 21 points. Caught the winning touchdown in the title game.

•  Kite was a key blocker for Scott City’s potent running game.

Coach Glenn O’Neill: “Drew’s the type of kid who does a couple things. He keeps everybody loose with his sense of humor and his personality. The alter ego is his intensity as being our No. 1 hitter, as far as our intimidator. He can deliver the big hit. He’s right in the middle of our action in the 4-4 (defense) so there’s an opening and they have to go through him. He’s athletic enough to go sideline to sideline and track runners down and deliver that blow.”

Zeke Palmer

Bishop Carroll

6-2, 210, sr., QB

•  Palmer did not play an entire game all season because Carroll’s closest game was a 24-point win in the Class 5A semifinals. Yet he completed 158 of 221 passes for 2,333 passing yards, 22 TDs and two interceptions.

•  Palmer, who ran like a fullback, was Carroll’s third-leading rusher with 533 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

•  Palmer, a two-year starter, led Carroll to a 13-0 record and its first Class 5A title since 1978, a 60-21 win over Bishop Miege.

Coach Alan Schuckman: “He’s got incredible numbers, but he has an ability to lead. He’s just a quiet leader. What I think is sometimes lost is he has the ability to make people around him play at a higher level…. He’s the guy who can make all the throws, the deep ball, intermediate ball, short balls. And when he runs, he’s a physical runner, a smart runner who is hard to tackle. He’s always moving the chains.”

Braden Smith

Olathe South

6-6, 282, jr., OL-DL

•  Considered one of the top offensive linemen in the country, Smith has scholarship offers from so many Division I colleges — and has made a visit to Alabama — that it’s easier to count what schools haven’t offered him.

•  Olathe South ran behind Smith 62 percent of the time.

•  He plays low to the ground and is flexible and strong, which allows him to play at a low level against opponents.

Coach Jeff Gourley: “When he visited Alabama, a coach asked him how many snaps do you play a night. ‘Do you play offense and defense?’ ‘Yeah.’ His dad said he plays 140-180 snaps a night. They were flabbergasted. At 280 pounds playing that many snaps. He is not the unique big guy. He’s an athlete who happens to be big…. He can move. He’s 6-6 and he just engulfs people. He’s just tenacious. He finishes every block.”

Cody Stanclift

Lawrence Free State

6-2, 245, sr., OL-DL

•  Stanclift was a two-way starter who seemed to play better and stronger late in games.

•  A two-year starter both ways, Stanclift also started for three years on the defensive line, the position that was his strength because he could use his physical ability most effectively.

•  Led Free State to a 9-2 record and had 51 tackles, nine for loss. Stanclift, a right tackle, also blocked for the Firebirds offense, which gained more than 4,000 yards.

Coach Bob Lisher: “This season, he was relentless. He was one of those guys who played hard on every snap on both sides of the football. He has a nose for the football and a great drive to get to the ball. His strength had something to do with how good he was, but he has great instincts to do things correctly after he made his final reads.”

Brett Sterbach

SM West

5-7, 160, sr., RB

•  Had 2,228 yards on 322 carries and 22 touchdowns and just one lost fumble for SM West, which finished 12-1.

•  Preferred to run between the tackles, but was just as dangerous when he went outside.

•  Led SM West to the Class 6A title, scoring on a 75-yard run in the title game against Hutchinson and finished with 273 rushing yards.

Coach Tim Callaghan: “Never once was he a guy who stepped out of bounds and just went out. He had that desire to get the extra yard. Many times he’d get past the first hit and get the extra yard. He’s not the fastest, not the biggest, he’d get that extra yard…. He possessed that ability every game to get that one long run. We always knew we were going to get positive yards with him having the ball in his head. But he was a home run threat, too.”

Brad Strauss


6-1, 185, sr., QB-DB

•  A Kansas commitment, Strauss completed 163 of 267 passes for 2,278 yards and 24 TDs. Strauss, a three-year starter, had 743 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

•  Had 5,1239 career passing yards and 47 touchdowns, and 30 career rushing touchdowns.

•  Also a defensive back, Strauss had 55 tackles and two interceptions. On special teams, he was a punter, punt returner and blocked one point-after attempt.

Coach Dirk Wedd: “He’s probably as much old school as anyone I’ve ever been around. This summer we figured that we didn’t have a punter, so I gave him a bag of balls and told him to teach himself how to punt. You think he should be wearing a leather helmet…. He’s the best player I’ve coached since Prince McJunkins (at Wichita State). He took the program on his back and took it to the next level, and that’s what Brad has done here in three years.”

Trent Tanking


6-2, 220, sr., FB-LB

•  Had 85 tackles, nine for loss and led Holton to a 14-0 record and the Class 4A title, a 21-0 win over Eudora.

•  Had three interceptions, caused three fumbles and recovered three fumbles, and had five sacks. Had 427 rushing yards on 48 carries, finishing with 10 touchdowns.

•  Was so athletic, his coaches were comfortable putting him at any position. Caught the game-winning touchdown in the Class 4A semifinal game.

Coach Brooks Barta: “He knows when the make the plays that he’s not supposed to make. Most defenses play with rules. We’re a rule-oriented defense, and I think great linebackers and great players really know when to give up your shade or your fit and go make your play. They’re the guys who smell out reverses. If a running back bounces a play, they’re there when he bounces or cuts back. He has a feel for playing linebacker and getting into position.”

Tanner Wood

Conway Springs

6-5, 240, sr., RB-LB

•  Whether he was running the ball or making tackles at linebacker, Wood rarely left the field. Was the Cardinals’ punter and on the kicking team.

Had nine touchdowns in a win over Chaparral, when he set a Kansas record with 659 rushing yards on 36 carries.

•  The Kansas State commitment had 2,709 rushing yards, 43 touchdowns and 110 tackles.

Coach Matt Biehler: “When he was a freshman and sophomore, he pushed himself to be with those guys who were the leaders. I think that helped him develop through all those years. When he was running, he did some things we knew he could do. We knew he had the power to run through the tackles and if he was hit he’d keep moving and run through them. But he also showed elusiveness. To be 6-5, 240 and be able to avoid collisions and move his body into different positions like smaller backs can.”

Trae Wrench


6-1, 191, jr., RB

•  Had 2,269 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns on 256 carries. In his career, Wrench has 4,826 rushing yards and 63 touchdowns.

•  Was injured the first half of the season with turf toe and rushed for more than 1,600 yards in the final five games, more than 300 yards per game. Had 361 yards and five touchdowns in one game.

•  Runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and as a sophomore already was offered scholarships by Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State.

Coach Marvin Diener: “He’s a real patient runner, and he has a great top end. He’s strong enough to break tackles. He can run inside and outside. He hated pushing people around when (his toe) hurt like that. He played when he shouldn’t have been playing at all. He wasn’t able to practice, and he got in bad shape. It took him through the playoffs to get back in that shape. Yet when he was sore, he was rushing for over 200 yards.”

Coach Alan Schuckman

Bishop Carroll

•  In the 15 years before Schuckman took over at Carroll, the Eagles were 46-92. In the 18 years under Schuckman, the Eagles are 152-40 and have had 17 straight winning seasons.

•  Schuckman won his first Class 5A title, 60-21 over Bishop Miege, completing a 13-0 season.

•  It was Carroll’s first title since 1978. Carroll also played in the 2007 and 2010 5A title games.

Quarterback Zeke Palmer: “He has this process in place, and it’s worked for many yeas. Everything came together this year, and that’s what made us successful. We all bought into our motto of ‘all in,’ and we all believed in it and he made us believe in ourselves. That’s what made us succeed.

“It’s his determination and his will to succeed. He’s done so much for the program, weight-lifting wise, game-planning, making everything about the program top notch.”

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