Hesston, SE of Saline to battle for District 12 title

Southeast of Saline QB Cody Schlesener will lead the Trojans against Hesston. (by Courtney Sager)
By: Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Oct 29, 2014

Share This Story:

When the Hesston Swathers and the Southeast of Saline Trojans match up Thursday night at Gypsum, the Class 3A District 12 championship will be on the line.

But win or lose, the Swathers and the Trojans both know they have already secured a spot in the playoffs.

“I think it allows you to play a little more free and a little more loose,” Hesston coach Clint Rider said. “Sometimes when you play too tight or have that fear a loss will end your season, it can lead to mistakes. Obviously, we want to win. Home field in the playoffs and a district championship, there’s a lot at stake pride-wise for both teams. It doesn’t change our approach. It may change some thoughts in the back of the mind. But as far as the way we approach it, we’re going to approach it with the same amount of tenacity and preparation as any other game. Neither team is OK with coming in and being second.”

Southeast of Saline coach Mitch Gebhardt shares similar thoughts.

“We’ve really tried to emphasize to our kids that we want to get better each week,” he said. “With as much work and time you put in, you want to win every week. With that said, we do know that we get to play next Tuesday.”

Hesston (8-0) has mostly rolled through its first eight games. The Swathers are winning by an average score of 50-14.5. Hesston won its two district games against Hillsboro and Council Grove by a combined score of 115-16.

The Swathers’ spread offense averages more than 400 yards.

“Hesston is a very good football team,” Gebhardt said. “We’re going to have to play our best game against Hesston, because they do a lot of things very well.”

The Swather offense is led by senior quarterback Grant Raleigh. A wide receiver the past two seaons, Raleigh also has been an All-State basketball player. This season, he has completed 90 of 139 passes for 1,366 yards and 24 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 1,284 yards and 19 touchdowns on 149 attempts.

“He’s extremely smart and super competitive,” Rider said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a kid more competitive than Grant. He has great preparation. Especially at the quarterback position, that’s so very important. He’s one of those kids that you only have to tell him something once. He makes very few mistakes.”

Hesston has three receivers with more than 300 yards. Junior Scott Duerksen has 20 catches for 372 yards and nine touchdowns. Ty McCartney has 19 receptions for 370 yards and seven touchdowns. Sophomore Zach Esau follows close behind with 24 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think our balance in our abilities has been key,” Rider said. “From the line to our skill positions, I think we’re talented in almost every position group. We’ve broke in some new players at quarterback, running back and wide receiver this year, but I think the biggest help was that we got back four of our five offensive linemen. The offensive line has done really well. I don’t think there’s a position group I can look at and say they haven’t done their job in the first eight weeks.”

Southeast of Saline (7-1) also has mostly rolled through its competition. The Trojans’ lone loss was to a quality Beloit team.

Southeast of Saline has won its seven games by an average score of 42.7-8.8. The Trojans have won their two district games by a combined score of 97-14.

“They are definitely the toughest team we’ve played,” Rider said. “They are similar to us in a lot of ways. I don’t think they have any weak positions.”

Quarterback Cody Schlesener leads Southeast of Saline with 763 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. He also is the team’s leading rusher with 917 yards and 13 touchdowns on 117 attempts.

Running back Kayden Besher has 716 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kyler Sager has been the team’s top receiver with 25 catches for 385 yards and five touchdowns.

Senior Aidan Murray leads the defense with 14 tackles per game.

“Our offensive and defensive lines have been our biggest keys, especially early,” Gebhardt said. “They kind of set the tone for us. We had some younger kids who hadn’t played a lot of varsity at other spots. They’ve gotten a lot better as our season progressed. But I think everything starts with our offensive and defensive lines.”

The winner of Hesston and Southeast of Saline will be at home Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs against the District 11 runner-up. The loser will go on the road against the District 11 champion, which will likely be Hutchinson Trinity (2-0 in district). Halstead and Kingman enter the final week of District 11 competition with 1-1 records. 

Use your Facebook account to add a comment or start a discussion. Posts are subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.