Hayden embracing underdog role against Bishop Miege

By: Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Nov 26, 2014

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The Topeka Hayden Wildcats are well aware of which team is the favorite.

Bishop Miege has been the No. 1 ranked team all season and are pegged by many to be one of the best teams in Kansas regardless of classification.

Hayden (11-1) and Miege (12-0) will face off for the Class 4A Division I state championship at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka.

“When you look at it, Bishop Miege has been picked No. 1 all year long,” Hayden coach Bill Arnold said. “They ‘ve been talked about as one of the best teams in the entire state no matter what division it is. They’ve got Division I commitments. I don’t know how you couldn’t look at it as coming in as the underdog. I think our kids will just give it their best and go from there.

“This is kind of a David versus Goliath type situation.”

The Stags went 6-0 in an Eastern Kansas League that is full of quality 5A and 6A schools. Miege especially opened some eyes with a lopsided win over Blue Valley early in the season.

“That was a huge win for us. It was early in the season, which was good,” Miege coach Jon Holmes said. “It showed our kids that they could beat anybody in the state. Blue Valley is one of the top five teams in the state no matter what class they’re in every year … It gave our kids a lot of confidence.”

KU commit Ryan Willis leads the Stags at quarterback. He has passed for almost 2,700 yards with 32 touchdowns.

“As a pure quarterback, he’s the best one,” Holmes said of quarterbacks he’s coached during his time at Miege. “He’s been a quarterback his whole life. It’s what he does. He does all the camps in the offseason. As far as a pure quarterback, there’s not a throw on the field he can’t make. He’s shown that time after time. There are a lot of defenses that bait him to make throws, and he’s able to squeeze into real tight windows and make those throws.”

Junior Dawson Downing has rushed for more than 1,800 yards and 28 touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Jafar Armstrong has 45 catches for 985 yards and seven touchdowns. Middle linebacker Mark Ogren, who was named EKL Defensive Player of the Year, has 78 tackles and four sacks.

“They are blessed at every position,” Arnold said. “Their offensive line is huge. They’ve done a great job of protecting their quarterback all year long. They have two very good running backs and very good guys running routes on the outside. They are very explosive on the offensive side. And, like it or not, as good as their offense is you have to tip your hats to their defense. The defense often helps their offense start drives in the other team’s territory.”

The Wildcats aren’t exactly slouches either. Hayden also plays in a 5A and 6A heavy Centennial League, and its only loss came 23-30 to Class 6A’s Manhattan in Week 3.

Hayden is led by quarterback Jacob Head, who has completed 128 of 172 passes for 1,780 yards and 28 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He is the cousin of former major league baseball player Jerad Head.

“He’s a three-sport athlete,” Arnold said. “He’s very athletic. Any time in high school when you have a completion percentage of better than 74 percent, that’s pretty good. He spreads the ball around to a lot of different guys and runs the offense well in general. He’s a smart kid and makes good choices.”

Connor Schumacher leads the Wildcats in rushing with 827 yards. Sampson Huston, Cole Meier and Schumacker all have more than 400 yards receiving.

“Our biggest key is to get their offense off the field,” Holmes said. “If you look at their offense, they’re getting six or seven yards a play and then they’ll pop a big play-action pass over the top of you. I think we definitely have to limit what they do and get their offense off the field so that we can get our offense on the field.”

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Bishop Miege, Topeka Hayden