Nicholl: Extra points from the 2012 season

By: Conor Nicholl
December 6, 2012 - 5:14 AM

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Was Ness City the best eight-man team of the past five years? Past 10? Ever? I have thought about that question multiple times throughout the year. The Eagles went 13-0 and won the Eight-Man, Division I state title under third-year coach Chris Bamberger. Ness City won every game by at least 30 points and outscored opponents 639-71.

Since started tracking scoring offense and defense numbers in 2006, Ness City easily had the best scoring defense in eight-man football. The Eagles beat Mankato-Rock Hills in 40-8 in the title game.

Using a statistical formula, MaxPreps ranked Ness City No. 2 nationally among eight-man programs. Freeman Ratings also has Ness City second behind Throckmorton (Tex.) a powerhouse that finished 11-1 this year with an 80-76 loss and has been a top-five team nationally for years. Freeman Ratings date back to 2007 and Ness City’s 90.1 ranking is the highest among any Kansas team; Hanover had an 87.7 in 2008.

In my five years in Kansas, Ness City is the best eight-man team I have seen. They’re certainly not the biggest, but their speed, experience and discipline was far too much for any team.

More impressively, Ness City earned plenty of respect throughout northwest Kansas and the state. After state, Victoria took out an ad in The Hays Daily News to congratulate the Eagles on the title. Many observers of Kansas high school football and other coaches complimented Bamberger – a former Jetmore and Kansas State player and a protégé of current Sharon Springs coach Kevin Ayers – on his team.
For whatever reason, whenever I hear a list of the state’s top coaches, I rarely hear Kensington-Thunder Ridge’s Jerry Voorhees. I don’t know why. It’s very difficult to consistently win in the eight-man ranks, esp ecially after graduating a large senior class. In 2011, Voorhees went 13-0 and won the Eight-Man, Division II state title. Then, he graduated six starters on both sides of the ball. This year, Thunder Ridge retooled and finished 11-2 with a Eight-Man, Division II runner-up finish to B&B. Voorhees is now 63-14 in six years as a head coach.
Bishop Carroll and Scott City had posted many great seasons, but neither team had won a state championship under its current veteran coach. That changed last Saturday when Carroll rolled over Bishop Miege in the 5A finale and Scott City edged Silver Lake in the Class 3A title. Both squads finished undefeated. Alan Schuckman is now 152-40 in 17 years at Carroll, while Glenn O’Neil is 63-10 with the Beavers. O’Neil, also Scott City’s boys’ basketball coach, has two state crowns in back-to-back seasons on the hardwood, while the Beavers are also the Class 3-2-1A defending wrestling champions.
-It’s always interesting to see which teams surprise. This year, the two biggest surprises arguably came from Class 6A Topeka High and Weskan, one of the smallest schools in Eight-Man, Division II. Topeka delivered arguably the best season in school annals, went 9-2 and won the first playoff game in school history. Weskan had just seven wins in the previous four years, but finished 8-2.
Both squads had playmaking quarterbacks that could pass and run effectively, at least one great wideout and a strong defense. Topeka High quarterback Raymond Solis rushed and passed for 1,359 yards apiece; 667 of those yards went to sophomore Alec Beatty.  Solis collected Centennial League offensive player of the year honors, while Will Geary (14 tackles for loss) earned Centennial League defensive player of the year for the second straight season.
Weskan, located just a few minutes from the Colorado border, had senior quarterback Sam McKinney. He delivered a rarely-seen stat line especially at the eight-man level: 69 of 138 passing for 1,402 yards with a 30/2 TD/INT ratio. In two seasons, McKinney collected 44 touchdown passes against six interceptions. Junior Hayden Walker had 37 receptions for 937 yards and 20 scores. Walker finished seventh nationally among eight-man players in receiving TDs, according to Weskan’s defense forced 20 turnovers and finished plus-13 in turnover margin.

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