The Central Kansas League
Coach: Marc Svaty, seventh season, 29-27
Top players: Steve Black, OL, 6-2, 200, sr.; Kody Keiser, OL, 6-0 200, sr.; Jerry Black, OL-DL, 5-9, 200, sr.; Joseph Myers, LB, 5-9, 190, jr.; Blake Beckett, LB, 6-1 175, so.
Notes: Halstead will be solid on the line on both sides of the ball as all of its starters return. The skill players on offense will all be new, so Svaty isn’t sure what to expect. Defensively, the Dragons will blitz and move players around because of their inexperience. Some growing pains might be expected early, but Svaty hopes for growth throughout the season.
Schedule: Sept. 6, at Hesston; Sept. 13, Lyons; Sept. 20, Smoky Valley; Sept. 27, at Sterling; Oct. 4, at Pratt; Oct. 11, Kingman; Oct. 18, Marion; Oct. 25, at Moundridge; Oct. 31, at Hillsboro
Coach: Scott L’Ecuyer, first season
2012: 5-5, lost in first round of 4A playoffs
Top players: Austin Fritzemeier, RB-LB, 6-0, 180, sr.; Issac Ensz, OL-DL, 6-1, 190, sr.; Caleb Hopkins, OL-DL, 5-10, 220, sr.; Tim Hendrixson, QB-DB, 5-10, 160, jr.; Zach Froese, OL-DL, 5-11, 200, sr.; Reed Oxley, WR-DB, 5-10, 165, sr.; Riley Waggoner, OL-DL, 6-0, 200, jr.
Notes: From 2004-11, Haven won a combined 13 games, including four seasons of going winless. Last season’s five wins and playoff appearance took most people by surprise. With many starters returning, that might be just the beginning for the Wildcats. The junior class is especially deep.
Schedule: Sept. 6, at Eureka; Sept. 13, Pratt; Sept. 20, Hesston; Sept. 27 at Smoky Valley; Oct. 4, Belle Plaine; Oct. 11 at Nickerson; Oct. 18, at Garden Plain; Oct. 25, Kingman; Oct. 31, at Hutchinson Trinity
Coach: Clint Rider, first season
2012: 5-5, lost to first round of 4A playoffs
Top players: Wyatt McKinney, QB, 6-6, 210, sr.; Grant Raleigh, WR-DB, 6-0, 160, jr.; Tyler McCartney, WR-DB, 6-1, 180, jr.; Justin Smith, WR-DB, 6-0, 150, jr.; Ryan Shadler, RB-DB, 5-11, 180, sr.
Notes: Hesston has several weapons at its disposal for McKinney. There is plenty of athleticism at the skill positions. Finding enough size on the offensive line will be crucial for the team’s success.
Schedule: Sept. 6, Halstead; Sept. 13, Nickerson; Sept. 20, at Haven; Sept. 27, at Hillsboro; Oct. 4, Kingman; Oct. 11, Pratt; Oct 18, Circle; Oct. 25, at Maize South; Oct. 31, at El Dorado
Coach: Lance Sawyer, sixth season, 25-31
2012: 10-1, lost in second round of 3A playoffs
Top players: Evan Ollenburger, WR-DB, 5-11, 145, sr.; Jesse Brown, DB, 5-11, 165, sr.; Cody Delk, DL, 6-1, 160, sr.; Preston Nelson, RB-LB, 5-10, 175, sr.; Jordan Faul, WR-DB, 5-10, 175, sr.; Chase Meisinger, OL-DL, 6-2, 275, sr.
Notes: The Trojans return five starters from last season’s team that went undefeated in the regular season. The skill positions are set, but there is plenty of uncertainty with both lines. With Marion and Halstead in its district, Hillsboro will have its hands full getting back to the playoffs again.
Schedule: Sept. 6, Lyons; Sept. 13, at Sterling; Sept. 20, at Nickerson; Sept. 27, Hesston; Oct. 4, at Smoky Valley; Oct. 11, at Remington; Oct. 18, Moundridge; Oct. 25, at Marion; Oct. 31, Halstead
Coach: Curt Albin, second season, 2-7
Top players: Mitchell Packard, QB-DB, 6-1, 160, sr.; Braxton Bangert, RB-LB, 5-8, 155, sr.; Zach Anderson, RB-DB, 6-1, 215, sr.; Ryan Ybarra, OL-DL, 5-11, 240, sr.; Ryan Boroughs, OL-LB, 5-11, 195, sr.
Notes: The Eagles return nine starters on both sides of the ball and also have plenty of depth. Albin thinks the overall team speed will be improved, so expect to see a heavy workload in the running game.
Schedule: Sept. 13, Smoky Valley; Sept. 20, at Pratt; Sept. 27, Nickerson; Oct. 4, at Hesston; Oct. 11, at Halstead; Oct. 18, Hutchinson Trinity; Oct. 25, at Haven; Oct. 31, at Garden Plain
Coach: James Johnston, second season, 2-7
Top players: Mitchell Vincent, OL, jr.; Ryan McClure, QB-DB, sr.; Angel Holguin, WR-DB, sr.; Grady Kirkhart, TE-DL, jr.; Jonathan Ortiz, OL, jr.
Notes: The Lions return three key offensive linemen, which will be a nice foundation for McClure and the running game. The defense was solid last season and with five starters back on that side, it should again be a strength.
Schedule: Sept. 6, at Hillsboro; Sept. 13, at Halstead; Sept. 20, Sterling; Sept. 27, Pratt; Oct. 4, at Nickerson, Oct. 11, Smoky Valley, Oct. 18, Ellsworth, Oct. 25 at SE-Saline, Oct. 31, Sacred Heart
Coach: Max Heinlen, eighth season, 25-42
Top players: Cade Hawyer, OL-DL, 5-11, 245, sr.; Nate Hiatt, OL-DL, 6-1, 220, sr.; Conner Childs, P, 6-2, 200, sr.; Austin Caswell, K, 5-9, 150, sr.; Bryon Young, RB-DB, 6-1, 170, sr.
Notes: With only six starters returning, the Panthers are in a rebuilding year. In order for Nickerson to have a shot at the playoffs, its young players must step up. Heinlen thinks as many as 11 underclassmen have a chance to start right away.
Schedule: Sept. 6, at Pratt; Sept. 13, at Hesston; Sept. 20, Hillsboro; Sept. 27, at Kingman; Oct. 4, Lyons; Oct. 11, Haven; Oct. 18, at Cheney; Oct. 25, at Andale; Oct. 31, Buhler
Coach: Jamie Cruce, first season
Top players: Shawn Ramos, WR, 5-9, 170, sr.; Ryan Landry, WR, 5-10, 150, sr.; Bryson Cruz, OL, 5-10, 230, sr.; Brett Forshee, OL, 5-10, 240, sr.; Taylor White, OL, 5-9, 180, sr.
Notes: Cruce has had deal with more than football in his first year, as junior quarterback Drake Evert was killed in an automobile accident last month. On the field, 16 lettermen return for the Greenbacks, which missed out on the playoffs by one point in a loss to Hugoton.
Schedule: Sept. 6, Nickerson; Sept. 13, at Haven; Sept. 20, Kingman; Sept. 27, at Lyons; Oct. 4, Halstead; Oct. 11, at Hesston; Oct. 18, Hugton; Oct. 25, at Ulysses; Oct. 31, Larned
Coach: Chris Hattabaugh, fifth season, 14-22
Top players: Spencer Bird, OL-LB, 5-10, 180, sr.; Ethan Loder, QB, 6-4, 200, sr.; Cody Hopkins, OL, 6-0, 210, sr.; Mason Weiss, RB-DB, 5-9, 150, sr.; Blake Mitchell, OL, 6-0, 205, sr.
Notes: The Vikings have a solid building block in Loder, who was an all-league performer last season. To go along with Loder, Smoky Valley returns three receivers who contributed, as well as three offensive linemen. On defense, Bird has been all-league the past two seasons at linebacker and recorded 120 tackles last year.
Schedule: Sept. 6, Sterling; Sept. 13, at Kingman; Sept. 20, at Halstead; Sept. 27, Haven; Oct. 4, Hillsboro; Oct. 11, at Lyons; Oct. 18, at McPherson; Oct. 25, Chapman; Oct. 31, Abilene
Coach: Matt Hendricks, fifth season, 20-21
2012: 4-7, lost in second round of playoffs
Top players: Tannar Stallings, OL-DL, 6-1, 260, sr.; Hunter Hewitt, OL-DL, 6-2, 270, sr.; Jed Dierkson, OL-DL, 6-1, 265, sr.; Luke Schweitzer, OL-DL, 6-4, 220, sr.; Tommy Shea, RB-DB, 5-8, 165, sr.; Austin Myers, RB, 5-9, 170, sr.
Notes: Blocking and containing the run won’t be an issue for the Black Bears as they return four starters on the offensive line. The key for Sterling will be finding skill players, although Myers played a key role last year for the Black Bears’ postseason performance.
Schedule: Sept. 6, at Smoky Valley; Sept. 13, Hillsboro; Sept. 20, at Lyons; Sept. 27, Halstead; Oct. 4, at Ellinwood; Oct. 11, Medicine Lodge; Oct. 18, at LaCrosse; Oct. 25, Inman; Oct. 31, Stanton County