It's No. 1 Bishop Miege vs No. 2 DeSoto in 4A-I showdown

By: Conor Nicholl for
Oct 20, 2017

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Bishop Miege sophomore wide receiver Daniel Jackson didn’t have a catch his freshman season. He learned from his cousin, Stag wideout Jafar Armstrong, who set the Kansas record for career receiving touchdowns, earned multiple accolades and signed with Notre Dame.

Miege head coach Jon Holmes and the staff talked with Jackson for the 2017 season. They envisioned Jackson replacing Armstrong as the No. 1 wide receiver. The Stags showed him Armstrong’s sophomore year numbers: 53 catches for 1,205 yards and nine scores.

Bishop Miege had no returning player that had more than seven catches in 2016. However, Jackson has capably replaced Armstrong with 26 catches for 710 yards and five scores. He had one of the season’s defining plays with a 98-yard scoring reception in a 27-14 road Week 3 win versus St. Thomas Aquinas.

The play gave senior quarterback Carter Putz the state mark for career passing scores. Putz has averaged 14.5 yards per pass on 81 of 110 attempts for 1,592 yards with 17 TDs against three interceptions.

“I think we got a sideline warning on the play, that’s how excited everybody was,” Holmes said.

After seven games last year, Putz had completed 125 of 172 passes for 1754 yards with a 25/2 TD/INT ratio. He had averaged 10.2 yards per attempt against the same schedule as this fall.

“I didn’t expect him to play as well early as he did,” Holmes said of Jackson. “It usually takes a couple of games to get used to that varsity competition, but Daniel was able to step right in.”

Jackson is one of several Miege players that have emerged after the Stags graduated a highly decorated class. Additionally, senior running back Cameron Clark, junior lineman and twins Tylor and Taylor Poitier and senior defensive tackle Connor Dumit are among those that has delivered standout seasons.

Miege had lost the Eastern Kansas League each of the past two falls because of a Week 1 defeat to Blue Valley. This year, the Stags were perfect in Kansas’ toughest conference. Now in Class 4A, Division I, District 2 play, Miege stands at 7-0, 1-0.

On Friday, the Stags play host to second-ranked De Soto (7-0, 1-0) in a key district game – and possible sub-state title game preview. The Wildcats have outscored teams 296-43 and rank first in Kansas 11-man football in scoring defense.

Miege has a total margin of 331-72 and lead 4A-I in scoring offense. The Stags have averaged 10.8 yards per play, compared to 8.3 for De Soto.

“I am always blown away by the talent they have in the skill positions, the size of their linemen,” De Soto coach Brian King said. “They are an extremely talented group. What jumps out to me is the athleticism they have at their quarterback position, and they make very few mistakes.”

The Stags have rolled through 4A-I en route to three straight state titles, including a 50-0 victory versus De Soto last fall. The Wildcats are experienced, senior-laden and have a big season from quarterback Bryce Mohl, who missed the ’16 Miege game with injury.

The Wildcats are on pace for one of the best years in school history. De Soto went 7-3 last season, 7-5 in ’10 and 7-3 in ’04.  The last year with more than seven victories came in a 10-2 season in 1989, according to school archives.

“They could very well fit in the EKL and win games,” Holmes said.

After last Friday’s win against Spring Hill, King talked to the team about Miege. He wanted the team to focus on controllable areas: effort, execution and film study.

“They have done a phenomenal job of doing that this week,” King said.

This will be the last matchup between the teams for the foreseeable future. De Soto will move up to 5A next season.

Classes 4A-I and 4A-II will go back to just one classification, and Miege will stay in 4A. Holmes would rather play in 5A. The Stags have traditionally been a 5A program, play all 5A-6A schools in the EKL.

Next year, Miege’s schedule is all EKL teams plus Missouri power Rockhurst. Outside of a 42-35 win against Hayden in the 4A-I state title in ’14, Miege has not had a 4A game closer than 27 points.

“As much as we would like to be up, we are playing where the state assigns us, and hopefully one day something like that can change where we do have to get moved up,” Holmes said.

For De Soto, Mohl has completed 33 of 62 passes for 798 yards with a 12/3 TD/INT ratio. He leads the team with 55 carries for 484 yards and three scores, one of four players with at least 335 rushing yards.

Senior fullback Leo Oplotnik scored in at least once in the first six weeks. Senior Trevor Watts has 16 touchdowns and 714 yards on just 53 touches. Senior Connor Strouse has nine catches for 284 yards and six TDs. King said Strouse is one of the top-three statistical receivers in Wildcat annals.

“(Mohl) has got threats around him, which is good, too, but he has been electric this year,” King said. “He really opens our offense up.”

Up front, senior Marshall Kellner has played at an elite level. Kellner has not missed a weights session in three years with a high GPA and ACT score. King labels Kellner the best o-linemen he has ever coached.

"He is a mauler,” King said. “He is just very, very physical, and he kind of sets the tone. We’ve got a really good o-line.”

Defensively, the Wildcats permitted 14.9 points a game last season before the drop to 6.1 this fall. Normally, top defenses have a positive turnover margin, generally in the double digits. The Wildcats are minus-6 in turnover margin with 12 offensive turnovers.

But the Wildcats have generally held teams scoreless early, including a 75-7 collective margin in the first quarter. In three contests, De Soto was tied at the end of the first.

In those games, the Wildcats outscored their opponent 76-7 in the second quarter. Senior defensive linemen Zach Titus, Josh Diehl and Cole Zade and senior linebacker Jack Barger have been among those who have played well.

“I am looking forward to seeing them get tested and seeing how they respond,” King said.

De Soto has played well on third down, including holding Nevada (Mo.) to 2 of 10 on third down in Week 5. Senior defensive back Braydon Brummer has the team’s two defensive scores, one on a fumble and another with a pick-six.

“They’ve done phenomenal on third down this year, and there’s been some times, too, (opponents) get inside the red zone, and they’ve done really good this year also,” King said. “There’s been a couple of times that offensively and special teams, we’ve given them a short field, and they have really bowed their neck.”

For Miege, this year’s senior class has no player receiving Power 5 college looks, though Putz is a Notre Dame baseball commit. Holmes has said the class has played with a chip on their shoulder and want to prove they are similar to past Miege teams.

Holmes said the development of quality players comes from the Stags often having 90 players for summer weights and competition in practice. During the season, the Stags often has around 25 plays a practice where the first team offense faces the first team defense, usually at the start or end of practice. The extra November playoff practices have helped, too.

Miege treats some of those practices like a college team would in bowl preparation and allow the scout team to scrimmage and the backups to see extra time.

“It teaches our guys to finish and compete,” Holmes said. “That’s what I tell them, ‘Hey I want a fan to walk into one of our games and complement us on how hard we play,’ and that’s something that our kids take great pride in.”

Like Jackson, the coaches challenged senior Cameron Clark . He played often as a sophomore and then suffered a knee injury as a junior. This year, he wanted to split carries in the backfield with sophomore Brison Cobbins, who leads the team with 60 carries for 685 yards and nine scores. Clark has 53 carries for 593 yards and seven rushing TDs.

“He has been tremendous for us,” Holmes said. “He is a great leader for our team. He provides a spark when we need it. Teams think that when we pull Brison out that we may have a little bit of a dropoff, and then Cameron pops off a 70-yard touchdown run. That’s a great weapon to have.”

Senior Jack Burns has led the offensive line in his third year as a starter. He started at guard as a sophomore, left tackle last fall and center this fall. Junior right tackle Josh Meurer is a two-year starter. Sophomore Wyett Wallingford starts at right guard, while the Poitiers man the left side of the line. Holmes has been impressed with the line gelling together.

“Those guys have come a long, long way, and it’s 100 percent credit to them, their work ethic and their desire to do better,” Holmes said.

Tylor finished with 10 TFLs as a freshman and then was a backup as a sophomore behind a senior-laden class. Now, he is the lone Stag who plays on both sides.

“(Tylor) wanted to be a star,” Holmes said. “He wanted to be a go-to guy.”

Defensively, senior defensive back Cameron Key is arguably the EKL’s best defensive player. Junior linebacker Dylan Downing and senior linebacker Joe Watskey, who  is receiving some MIAA interest, lead Miege with 71 and 51 tackles, respectively.

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