It's been a banner year for area teams

By Steve Sell
October 25, 2018

McPherson High is enjoying a football season for the ages, but the Bullpups aren’t alone.

It’s been a banner year for the McPherson area teams and hopefully there are many more highlights to come.

The six area schools I cover have combined for a 35-13 record (73 percent) and five of them have winning seasons.

Leading the way have been Smoky Valley, Little River and Canton-Galva, which are a combined 22-2.

• Smoky Valley — The Vikings had to replace quarterback Brett Heitschmidt, 1,500-yard rusher-linebacker ace Kyle Anderson (also a Shrine Bowler) and rugged two-way standout Riley Odell among others, so I wasn’t sure if they could approach last year’s 9-2 record.

But Lane Schrag has stepped in for Heitschmidt and has been even more of a running threat, while Tim Lambert has assumed Anderson’s production. Cort Elliott has been a sledgehammer at fullback.

What really makes the Viking offense go is a big-and-nasty offensive line that moves people around, led by Nate Grosland, Ethan Wampler and Konrad Peterson.

Defensively, the Vikings have been solid as in five of their eight games they have allowed single digits. Chapman scored 22, though its final touchdown was very late. It’s a balanced defense, with Blake Heble having an especially good year.

The Vikings are 8-0 and survived three close games as they know how to rally.

I have a feeling Smoky Valley and Pratt will see each other down the road.

• Little River — The Redskins in a way remind me of Smoky Valley — some key offensive operatives running behind a big, physical line.

Their lone loss came to potential state champion Central Plains. I know coach Chad Lafferty thought his team could give the Oilers a better game than the 46-0 outcome, but he used that as a learning experience.

The only close game the Redskins played this year was last week’s 48-46 escape of Moundridge.

The Redskins’ Graham Stephens is having a great year, along with Hunter Thomas. Lafferty has some horses up front that open up big holes.

Little River has a tough bracket, with Hodgeman County looming in the second round.

• Canton-Galva — To me, Canton-Galva is the story of the year when you consider where the Eagles were just 3 years ago.

After going 1-8 and 2-7 (with a threadbare roster that featured few subs) in 2015-16, the Eagles were 4-5 in Shelby Hoppes’ first year in 2017 as he started to change the culture. But with no seniors, nobody could have foreseen a 7-1 season, which started with a loss to Little River, but it’s been nothing but wins since then.

And really, none of those seven games have been close. In six of those, C-G scored at least 48 points.

Quarterback Landon Everett has been the pinwheel at quarterback, but he’s had a lot of help. Brayden Collins and Brandon Huff have been immense, along with freshman Tyson Struber. Nick Pearson is the veteran presence in the line.

I like the fact the Eagles are on the East side of the playoff bracket. The West generally holds the power in 8-Man, led by Central Plains.

It will be interesting to see how far this young team can go.

• Inman — If Canton-Galva isn’t the story of the year, that distinction belongs to Inman.

The Teutons fell off the planet last year with an 0-9 season. But they have rebounded tremendously with a 5-3 record, one of the biggest single-season improvements I can remember in this area.

The losses are to three of the state’s best — Trinity Catholic, Ell-Saline and Sedgwick.

The Teutons’ playoff road suffered a pothole when their top player, Matt Ramey, was lost with a torn ligament in his elbow. If they can get past Johnson County this week, that would set up a matchup with undefeated Elkhart, coached by former Smoky Valley coach Chris Hattabaugh. Since a season-opening 27-20 win over Cimarron, the Wildcats have smoked every team on their schedule, the closest game being 45-14 against Southwestern Heights.

• Hesston — It was a dark start for the Swathers, who had to go the first three games without potential All-State quarterback Cameron Cox, who had a knee injury. His backup Jacob Eilert went down as well and All-State running back Parker Roth was lost for a game with a concussion.

The Swathers have been a track meet team, getting involved in a lot of shootouts. But Cox and Roth are as gifted as any two players in 3A and they are protected by a big line.

But what a road for the Swathers coming up. If they’re fortunate to get past Wichita Collegiate this week, they’ll most likely face Smoky Valley, which already owns a 28-0 victory over the Swathers.

• Moundridge — It’s been a whole new ballgame for the Wildcats, who have been making the transition to 8-Man.

While they are 3-5, they could easily have been 5-3. They lost 28-22 to Bennington and last week against Little River were up with 5.6 seconds to go before giving up the winning TD pass.

Cody Hazelton has been an All-Star for the Wildcats on both sides of the ball, including last week when he rushed for 328 yards and came up with 14 tackles.

The Wildcats face an uphill climb tonight as they take on Hodgeman County.