Nicholl: Players to break out in 2015

Artwork by Joe Wachter & Andy Wachter,
By: Conor Nicholl for
Sep 1, 2015

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Just like teams that have massive one-season jumps, players can also achieve big gains in one season. Here are this season’s picks for breakout players on the western half of the state.

Breakout Players:

8-man II: RB Jarell Seals, Northern Valley

Northern Valley has long been a run-heavy offense under Chuck Fessenden, in his 39th year with the Huskies. Northern Valley has posted four straight winning seasons with 6-3, 7-2, 5-4 and a 6-3 mark last fall. The Huskies return just one starter (senior lineman Colten Bach), but expect the Huskies to again have a strong offense and contend for a winning record. Fessenden and his veteran staff of Brad Cox and Marvin Gebhard do a great job of finding new running backs in their Midway-Denton scheme. In the last four years, Northern Valley has averaged 36.4, 43.3, 45.6 and 42.1 points per contest.

The first three seasons, Northern Valley had Hunter Chandler, Jordan Baird and Philip Bryant in the backfield. Last year, Bryant and new quarterback Matt Stutsman led the offense and had 678 and 674 rushing yards, respectively. Northern Valley averaged 258 rushing yards a game and 7.6 yards a carry. This year, junior Jarell Seals will emerge in a leading role.

Seals collected 18 carries for 231 yards and four TDs last season. Seals also saw spot time as a freshman, including some key special teams plays in an important district win versus Natoma.

8-man I: QB Dylan Jacks and RB Pancho Banman, Kiowa County

Kiowa County has received plenty of attention in the Eight-Man, Division I rankings and are among the eight-man teams expected to move back up. While Maverick senior linemen Aaron Heft and Erik Torres have justifiably received plenty of attention, Jacks and Banman should have big years and vault Kiowa County up from a 4-5 mark in 2014.

Jacks should hit 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career provided he stays healthy – and has a chance to come close to the production of all-state quarterback Trever Powell, who cleared 2,000 rushing yards in 2013. Kiowa County receives a great Week 1 home test versus Hodgeman County.

Last season, Jacks passed for 432 yards with an 8/1 TD/INT ratio. He led the Mavericks with 137 carries for 915 yards and 14 rushing scores. Jacks had 100 yards in five contests but played in only seven. As a sophomore, he averaged 8.9 yards per carry for 471 yards and 10 scores. Banman had 99 carries for 561 yards and five TDs.

2-1A: OL/LB Dylan Haas and TE/DE Brendon Brenner, Ellis

Haas is a known commodity in Ellis, where he is the rock for a Railroader squad looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time in four years. Haas had 102 tackles, 39 more than any other Ellis player. Last year, he became the first Railer to exceed 100 tackles since Gideon Fuchs had 112 in 2008. He finished top-15 among juniors in tackles per game.

However, Haas was not named first team all-Mid-Continent League on either side of the ball; no Railer was first team. Seniors Haas (at LB) and Brenner (at TE) were the lone second team selections. Brenner, a huge matchup problem at 6-foot-5, should be the leading receiver for junior quarterback Easton Smith and is set for a big season at defensive end. Both players are among the best in the MCL – and should emerge as some of the best in 2-1A.

3A: QB Bo Hess, OL/DL Reid Flower, Jaime De La Rocha, Scott City

From 2008-14, Scott City has won double-digit games every year, collected one state championship and earned runner-up honors last fall. The Beavers are a collective 80-8 in that stretch with an average score of 38-9. Scott City graduated a big senior class, including quarterback Trey O’Neil and wide receiver Brett Meyer. But veteran coach Glenn O’Neil is a master at finding new players to fill holes. In 2007, the last non-double-digit winning season, Scott City went 7-5, but still allowed 12 points a contest. Several new faces will play key roles, especially junior quarterback Bo Hess, last season’s J.V. starter, and lineman Reid Flower and Jaime De La Rocha, a senior and junior respectively, are expected to step up as starters after missing time with injury.

4A-II: WRs Luke Avila and Levi Archer, Goodland

Goodland went 3-6 last season in the only year of the Josh Stephenson era. The Cowboys passed for 192 yards a contest, but those numbers could significantly raise this year under new coach Jeff Savage. An offensive mastermind, Savage has engineered turnarounds and set records with Quivira Heights, Central-Burden and Canton-Galva, among others, with his high-octane spread offense. Last year, Avila caught 61 passes for 926 yards and 11 scores as a junior. Archer, as a freshman, was second with 12 catches for 275 yards and a pair of TDs. Expect those numbers to drastically improve; Avila has a great chance to clear 1,000 yards. In addition to being the No. 2 wideout, Archer was the backup quarterback and saw limited duty.

4A-I: OLs Derek Hall, Jake Nikkel, TE Luke Stucky, McPherson

Tom Young, the second-winningest coach in Kansas history, turned around a long struggling McPherson football program. From 2006-14, the Bullpups won more than 70 percent of their contests and always averaged at least 30 points per game. In that stretch, McPherson’s scoring averages read: 32.8, 35.8, 34.5, 45.9, 46.1, 43.6, 38.5, 30.9 and 30.7. Former assistant Jace Pavlovich takes over for Young.

McPherson graduated all-state quarterback Kyler Kinnamon, its top four rushers and top seven receivers. However, the Bullpups are experienced along the offensive line. If McPherson is to return to the playoffs, the line will likely have to carry the way for the new skill players, led by senior running back Noah Jirgens. Hall is 6-foot, 212 pounds and returns at center. Stucky is 6-2, 210 and Nikkel is 6-2, 237. All three are seniors.

5A: RB Kade Remsberg, Newton

The state’s fastest player, Remsberg is the defending Class 5A 100 and 200-meter champion. Remsberg, a junior, was second team all-league at running back in 2014 with 610 rushing yards for a 2-7 Railer squad. Expect Remsberg to have a breakout statistical season in several facets, including rushing, receiving and the return game. He has ran a 4.3 40-yard dash and recently received his first offer from Kansas.

6A: WR/KR Kai Lemons, Derby

Derby enjoyed outstanding special teams in 2014 with kicker/punter Jacob Moeder and kick returners Darreon Jackson (Boise State signee) and Curtis Whitten, also one of the state’s best base stealers and an eventual St. Louis University baseball signee. Lemons, a junior, is expected to step into a bigger role at wide receiver and returner after Jackson and Whitten graduated. The 5-foot-10, 183-pound Lemons has received Division I interest. Lemons is able to make plays all over the field and has ran a 4.7 40-yard dash. Kansas State, Arkansas and Tulsa are among those following Lemons.


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