How 11 QBs shaped the 2015 season

Bishop Miege soph QB Carter Putz led the state in passing. (David Jackson,
By: Conor Nicholl for
Dec 1, 2015

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The 2015 football season will always be remembered for the death of Wallace County three-sport standout Luke Schemm, who passed away shortly after he collapsed on the field in the Wildcats’ first round Eight-Man, Division II playoff win against Otis-Bison.

As well, the lasting impact of the 2015 season – from 6A’s best all-around season in more than a decade, to multiple state records, to the rise of 5A Mill Valley, to a standout freshman signal caller, to the two quarterback set at Victoria, to what happened in the first Wallace County game after Schemm’s passing – can be told through 11 quarterbacks that shaped the last three months.

Nine quarterbacks played for the eight state championship teams, while the other two were Will Bruna of Eight-Man, Division I’s two-time runner-up Hanover and Wallace County senior Eric Gfeller, a longtime teammate and friend of Schemm.

6A: Brady Rust, Derby (Sr.)

Freeman Ratings, which compiles all of the team statistical data for Max Preps, has tracked classification records since 2003. One of the prevailing opinions of 2015 was the standout play from 6A. The statistics backed the anecdotal evidence. Class 6A went 54-40 (58 percent) against non-6A teams. Last year, 6A was 38-56 versus non-6A teams.

This season marked the best winning percentage by 6A since Freeman started to track the statistic, besting a 46-36 mark in 2012. One of the main reasons came from an uptick in offense, especially among the best teams. Derby, which defeated Blue Valley, led the way at 46.5 points and a 6A-best 605 points. Last year, Derby was 9-2 and averaged 38.3 points per game.

In the semifinals, Derby’s win against Free State and Blue Valley’s victory versus Olathe North knocked the Sunflower League out of the state championship game for the first time since KSHSAA created the modern playoff system in 1969.

While Derby had great defensive efforts in the last two rounds versus Free State and Blue Valley, the Panthers’ main reason for its second state title in three years came from Rust, the senior quarterback.

Rust, known for his faith and leadership, had to take on a bigger load after senior running back Garrett Xanders went down with a season-ending knee injury. Brody Kooser, the fourth-stringer at the start of the season, logged significant playoff carries.

In the last six games – all against teams that won at least five contests – Rust completed 42 of 81 passes for 760 yards with a 7/4 TD/INT ratio. He rushed 146 times for 1,178 yards and 19 scores.

In Weeks 8, 9 and the first round, Rust had 16, 13 and 17 carries. In the last three games, when Derby needed him most, he had 35 carries for 292 yards, 32 carries for 109 yards and 33 carries for 309 yards.

5A: Logan Koch, Mill Valley (Sr.)

Like Rust and Rossville’s Tucker Horak, Koch was a dual threat. He helped Mill Valley go from 5-5 to 12-1 and win the 5A crown. The Jags, ranked No. 5 in the preseason, defeated Aquinas in Week 1, never lost against a Kansas school and won the first state title in school history.

Class 5A isn’t known for parity. Mill Valley became the first 5A squad since Blue Valley in 2003 to lose in the first round of the playoffs and come back to win the title the following season. Mill Valley ranked No. 68 nationally by Max Preps.

Mill Valley went from 33.2 points in 2014 to 42.8 points this season. The Jags were the only team to defeat Derby. Panther coach Brandon Clark and Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee are longtime best friends and cousins, a subplot throughout the year.

Koch and senior all-purpose threat Christian Jegen held up a running game that lost starter Tristan Milne after six games. Last year, Koch rushed 150 times for 1,167 yards and 13 scores. He completed 76 of 139 passes for 1,042 with a 9/6 TD/INT ratio.

This season, he rushed 145 times for 781 yards and 13 scores. He completed 145 passes for 220 yards for 2,483 yards with a 32/8 TD/INTratio.

4A-1: Carter Putz, Bishop Miege (So.)

At the start of the season, Miege’s coaches decided between Putz and Landry Weber for quarterback. Putz won the job, and Weber became a standout safety. Putz led the state in passing and helped Miege tally 742 points, one behind Rossville for Kansas’ best.

Miege, arguably the state’s top team, finished 12-1, rolled over Andover Central for the 4A-I title, and eclipsed last season’s offense behind Ryan Willis, the starter at KU as a true freshman this season.

The Stags had plenty of offensive support, but Putz engineered the offense that averaged 57 points a contest, up from 45.8 in 2014. Miege went wire-to-wire in the polls and a key difference was the Stags’ smooth transition from Willis to Putz, a Notre Dame baseball commit.

“Just so calm back there,” coach Jon Holmes said. “Because a lot of times as a sophomore quarterback, you are getting blitzed, you are facing teams that there is no way that you played against last year, just the speed of the game is so much faster, but he is able to process everything so fast.”

4A-II: Trey Teeter, Holcomb (Sr.)

Teeter represents several rarities: a four-year starter at quarterback who started for two programs (Goodland and Holcomb two seasons apiece) and won a state title with his dad, Kent, as the head coach. The Teeter family collected the first state crown in any sport, and Holcomb’s first football state title. Holcomb soundly defeated powers Andale and Holton in the final two rounds.

Trey Teeter, known more as a passer, completed 158 of 233 passes for 2,558 yards with 35 scores against six interceptions. For his career, he completed 501 passes for 871 yards for 7,578 yards with 90 scores against 38 interceptions. In each season, Teeter and his team improved.

“Really had a good year last year,” Coach Teeter said. “Then, this year has been his best year. Every year, his TD to INT ratio has improved and his pass completion has improved and his yards have improved. He is a coach out there. The kid has been going to all different kinds of practices since he was old enough to walk, and he has picked up on so much, not just from me, but from other coaches.”

In addition, the change to Holcomb allowed the Teeters to learn more about their family history.

Two years ago, the Teeters moved from Goodland to Holcomb. Before Goodland, Teeter served as an assistant for one year in Great Bend and eight years as the Hays High head coach where he coached three of his nephews. This season, he has coached his son and his nephew, sophomore Kaden Tichenor.

“Trey and Kaden have always been really close,” Coach Teeter said. “…That was a really neat thing getting those guys together on the same team.”

Teeter’s wife, Dixie, had her father pass away at a young age. He was the head football coach at Holcomb. The Longhorns hadn’t won many games. In his first season, he had a winning season and did well. He coached for several years before his passing.

“Now my kids are getting to hear stories about their grandfather that they had never met,” Coach Teeter said. “…So that was a really good thing.”

3A: Tucker Horak, Rossville (Sr.)

In Kansas Pregame magazine during the summer, Rossville coach Derick Hammes said he didn’t want Horak to shoulder the entire burden of the Bulldogs’ offense. That didn’t happen.

The result was the most prolific individual season in state history and the Bulldogs’ second straight title, their only football crowns in school history.

Horak helped wrestle control of 3A East away from War on 24 rival Silver Lake, became the first player in Kansas history with 2,000 rushing and 2,000 passing in a single season and finished No. 6 all-time in American high school annals for career total yards.

He is the state’s all-time leader in total yards.

Horak completed 141 of 178 passes for 2,043 yards with 30 scores against three interceptions. He rushed 176 times for 2,705 yards and 45 TDs. Rossville broke a state record with 540 total yards per game.

In his career, he threw for 5,483 yards with a 67/22 TD/INT ratio and rushed for 6,790 yards for 109 rushing scores. Rossville has won 28 straight contests, currently the state’s best mark.

2-1A: Trey Sides, Phillipsburg (Fr.)

Sides became an ultimate rarity: a freshman quarterback to win a state title.

It is widely believed, through research from KPreps, MaxPreps archives, Kansas-sports and other sources, that Sides is the first freshman 11-man quarterback to win a state title.

Coach J.B. Covington said several times how Sides made few mistakes, rare for a freshman. The speedy signal caller ran the option well and helped the run-heavy Panther attack grind out its first state title with a 30-29 victory versus Troy.

Sides solidified the state title when he ran a hard count on 4th-and-3 from the Troy 43-yard line with under 90 seconds left. Troy jumped, the Panthers earned the first down, and ran out the clock.

Sides completed 28 of 67 passes for 549 yards with eight scores versus four interceptions. He collected 66 carries for 292 yards and three touchdowns, including the eventual game-winning 36-yard score in the quarterfinals versus Meade. Sides took just three sacks and played in the secondary.

“With this team, I know anything is possible,” Sides said. “So I just had to have confidence in these guys, and we pulled it out.”

8-man I: Nathan Stein, Spearville (Sr.) & Will Bruna, Hanover (Jr.)

Technically, Nathan Stein is listed as a running back on the Lancers’ roster. He is often the lead blocker for running plays. However, Stein, who is the primary passer, has piloted the Lancers’ single wing attack for the last three years.

This season, he helped Spearville finish with one of the most efficient offenses in state history at 9.91 yards per play and just one turnover. No defense has been able to solve the single wing, rarely seen at the eight-man level, in the last two years. Spearville is 23-1 in the last two falls.

On the other hand, Hanover, with no offensive starters back, completely reversed its offense, went pass-heavy and went back to state. Bruna broke eight-man state records for passing yards (3,452) and pass TDs (56).

8-man II: Brady Dinkel (Sr.) & Joe Dortland (Sr.), Victoria; Eric Gfeller, Wallace County (Sr.)

The story of Dinkel and Dortland is one of the prevailing memories of 2015. Dinkel had severe internal organ issues following a Week 1 victory. Dortland, who had never played quarterback before, stepped in and went 9-0 as the starter. Dinkel returned in Week 9 as an all-purpose player.

In the sub-state championship game at Wallace County, Dortland broke his collarbone in the first two snaps. Dinkel led Victoria to two wins, including a 56-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-1 with two seconds left to beat Argonia-Attica for the state crown.

After Dinkel accounted for five scores against Wallace County, Wildcat athletic director Larry O’Connor found the signal caller in the celebration. O’Connor told Dinkel, “You’re a heckuva player. Glad everything worked out.”

As a junior, Dinkel amassed 1,052 rushing yards and 20 scores, and threw for 976 yards and 19 touchdowns. Dinkel/Dortland combined for 986 rushing yards and 21 scores, and 961 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, too.

“Joe did good, too, when (Brady) was hurt,” senior lineman Eric McAlonan said.

Gfeller, Wallace County’s standout quarterback, delivered a seminal performance in the quarterfinals versus Ingalls. Just three days after Schemm passed away, Gfeller guided the Wildcats to a 74-58 road win versus Ingalls.

Gfeller rushed 38 times for 296 yards and five scores. He also completed 9 of 17 passes for 115 yards and three touchdowns against one interception.

“Eric had a very heavy heart going into the game along with the rest of the boys, and every time Eric touches the ball, something special can happen, and he trusts all of his teammates around him,” coach Jeff Hennick, a Wallace County alum, said.

“He knew that he was going to have to step up his game a little bit (versus Ingalls), and he rose to the challenge, and he made one comment to me after he scored on a long run, he said, ‘Coach, Luke was running right there with me and I said, ‘You know he was.’ He is everywhere with them still,” Hennick added.

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