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2017 Year in Review: Sports in Kansas

Hoxie (8M-I) won its first ever state football title in 2017 in Newton. (courtesy photo)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Dec 30, 2017

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I'm sure we missed some things but 2017 was quite the year for Sports in the state of Kansas, so we decided to take a look at some of them. 

Andale

Andale is a known sports town in Kansas no matter what sport it is. The Indians captured state titles in 4A for boys and girls track & field in 2017. The football team also took runner-up in 4A-I this season.

Ron Baker

Baker walked onto the Wichita State basketball program six years ago and had to pay his own way his first year after an all-state career at 3A Scott City. Baker went on to have an All-American career at Wichita State, played in the Final Four, and ultimately wound up in the NBA, where he now has a multi-year deal with the New York Knicks. He is now in his second season with them.

Blue Valley

The Blue Valley community was struck by heartbreak when they lost their head football coach Eric Driskell last February after a brain aneurysm. Driskell who had won two state titles with the program was one of, if not, the most respected coaches in the state. He was also an alum of the school where he played for former Blue Valley coach Steve Rampy. We had the opportunity to work with Driskell on the radio, football, track/field and several different all-state lists over the years. He always had a way to make everyone around him feel so important and like you had known him for twenty years. Blue Valley is a special place and Eric Driskell is one of the reasons that it is.

Blue Valley North

The Mustangs won their first state football title in the history of their football program under head coach Andy Sims. Graham Mertz earned 6A Offensive Player of the Year from Sports in Kansas and has committed at Wisconsin as a junior. It wasn’t long ago that North struggled to win a single football game. Outstanding turnaround for a school not known for football.

Burlington

Burlington softball hit nine home runs in two games last May. They hit seven in one game which is a new Kansas state record.

Butler CC

Butler CC softball wins second straight NJCAA DI National Title. Grizzlies had 7 Kansans on roster. The program is turning into quite the dynasty. Brynn Minor (Goddard Eisenhower) was the NJCAA Player of the Year after hitting .497 w/ 30 homer runs, 97 RBIs and going 13-0 w/ a 1.07 ERA in the circle.

Centralia

The Centralia girls program captured the 1A girls track and field title last May and followed that up this fall by winning the 1A-I state volleyball championship under legendary coach Kimbrook Tennal. The Panthers went 43-1. The Centralia girls’ basketball team also took third in 1A-I last winter.

CFB Playoff

The State of Kansas will be well represented in the 2017 CFB Playoff with two teams having players in it. Oklahoma has Ben Powers (Kapaun), Quinn Mittermeier (Washburn Rural) and Amani Bledsoe (Lawrence). Clemson has Xavier Kelly (Wichita East) and Isaiah Simmons (Olathe North) 

Classifications

We will know have 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 8M-I, 8M-II in football. It doesn’t change as much as you think but it does for some classes. Good bye to the days of 4A-I and 4A-II. 4A-I basically becomes 4A and will now have no football districts and everyone will make playoffs in week nine. The new 3A is the old 4A-II with the addition of the top 16 enrolled schools that were formerly in the old 3A. We will no longer have the 64 teams in 3A with the additional playoff game. Yes, we know it’s confusing, but we will get used to it.

Coffeyville CC

Coffeyville Women’s Volleyball won the NJCAA Division II National Title on November 18th by going 44-2 on the season with a 3-1 victory over Owens CC.

Central Plains

Central Plains senior girls w/ four state basketball titles, three powerlifting titles, two girl’s doubles titles, one vb title & a girls powerlifting title. With Emily Ryan, who we talk about below, still there we expect it to keep rolling at CP.

Joe Dineen & Free State

Dineen had an All-American season at linebacker for the Jayhawks this year and was also an All Big 12 pick with 130 combined tackles. He was first in the nation in solo tackles. The junior from Lawrence Free State had a breakout season after missing last year with injury. The Jayhawks didn't have many bright spots here recently but Dineen was one of them. Dineen still has his senior season left to play. Free State had a lot of kids see major action this year. Fred Wyatt (Northwestern), Joe Dineen (KU), Bryce Torneden (KU), Keith Loneker (KU), and Scott Frantz (Free State). Throw in cross town rival Lawrence High with Amani Bledsoe at Oklahoma & you have a solid cast of players that all went through that city at the same time. Quite impressive. 

Fort Hays State

Fort Hays State football finishes regular season with a perfect record with 41-7 victory over Nebraska-Kearney before falling in the NCAA Playoffs. The Tigers finished 11-1 and won the MIAA with an undefeated record with 59 former Kansas high school football players on the team. Outstanding work for head coach Chris Brown. Brown inherited a team that was 16-39 in five years combined prior to him getting there in 2011. Hays was picked to finish fifth in the MIAA. The basketball team and head coach Mark Johnson have also used the high school ranks of Kansas to put together most of their team and scoring this year, led by Plainville alum Hadley Gillum.

Will Geary, Trent Tanking

Both played against each other in high school in a rare 6A (Topeka) vs. 4A (Holton) match-up back in 2011. Both were our 6A and 4A defensive player of the year selections back in 2012. Both walked on to Kansas State. Both were All Big 12 selections as seniors after having zero division one offers. Geary was an All-American (three time All Big 12) as a senior while Tanking got his first starting experience and Big 12 honors in 2017 as a senior. Congrats to a couple more of the several walk-ons that have became big-time players for the Cats under Snyder.

Goddard

The Lions won their third consecutive state wrestling title in 5A this past winter at Hartman Arena in Park City. Garrett Lange, Cameron Frame, Cale Davidson all brought home individual titles for Goddard.

Hanover

Hanover girls hit a buzzer beater over Olpe (50-47) for their first state championship in school history. This is one of the best small sports towns in Kansas. The boys’ basketball team also won a state title last March in 1A-I, while the boys football team (8M-II) repeated for a state title in 2017.

Cody Heiman

Cody Heiman played 8-man football at Baileyville B&B, now closed and consolidated as Nemaha Central, before going on to a storied career as a linebacker at Washburn. Heiman had zero division one offers in high school and grew up in a town of just around 200 people and would sign with the Green Bay Packers last April.

Holcomb

Holcomb won the state basketball title last March, state baseball title last spring and followed that up by winning the state football title in November. What a year it was for boys’ sports in this Western Kansas town just outside of Garden City. They also racked up three player of the year honors w/ Conner VanCleave earning basketball and baseball player of the year (4A-II), while Trey Gilbert earned 4A-II offensive player of the year from Sports in Kansas. Reece Morss also ended up on ESPN Sports Center top 10 for his one-handed interception in the 2017 4A-II state title game. Conner VanCleave, now a baseball player at KU, may also be one of the best small-school multiple sport athletes ever

Will Honas

Two years ago, at Bishop Carroll HS, Will Honas had zero division one offers and was injured his senior year. He’s now headed to Nebraska to play for Scott Frost after becoming the nations #1 juco linebacker at Butler CC the last two seasons. His teammate C.J. Perez of Aquinas also had zero offers out of high school and signed with Northern Illinois.

Hoxie

Hoxie picked up their first state football title in school history and played in their first since 1981. The Indians, led by head coach Lance Baar, dominated in the 8M-I title game in Newton by a 54-14 victory over St. Paul.

Girard

Girard girls won two state titles in the 2017 calendar year as teams. They had zero team titles prior. The girls’ basketball team led by head coach Brad Herlocker finished with only one loss on the season and took the 4A-II crown in Emporia in March. The girls’ softball team, led by Jim Vinze, won the 4A-II softball crown two months later to give the school their second all-time title. It wasn’t done as Cailie Logue capped off an incredible career as an athlete at Girard. The Girard runner won 13 individual state titles in track and cross country in high school. A remarkable accomplishment for the current Iowa State freshman who placed fourth as a true freshman at the 2017 Big 12 Outdoor Cross-Country Championships. In high school, Logue was ranked as the second best cross-country runner in the United States. She had perhaps the best girls high school career ever of any high school runner in the history of Kansas high schools. She was also just selected to represent Team USA as a member of the United States Junior Women’s Cross-Country Team.

Hugoton

Hugoton won the 3A girls state basketball championship going undefeated last March, their second state title in three years. The boys track and field team also won the 2017 3A state title. If we added in all last school year the Hugoton boys and girl’s cross-country teams also took home state titles in the fall of 2016. Nice run of athletes that have went through the small western Kansas town.

Jayhawk Conference

The KJCCC went to unlimited out of state football scholarships. We saw a major difference in the recruiting game last February and an even bigger difference on rosters this fall. In 2016 there were 316 Kansas kids on rosters of eight junior college programs in Kansas. In 2017, there were just 101. We could even see less in 2018 because the majority of those 101 were sophomores that weren’t affected by the rule. Unfortunately, we have a lot of kids without opportunities now because of this. However, we still do see some get the opportunity and a thanks to those Kansas junior colleges who still do take a chance on our Kansas kids.

Zach Jellison

Zach Jellison, senior of South Central, w/ 1st TD ever against Ingalls. He was born w/ Spina Bifida. Jellison was pushed by his cousin, Hunter Huck into the end zone. One of the cooler moments we witnessed across twitter and the internet that went viral this season. There are great things that happen in sports and this was one of them.

Halle Johnson

The Bennington senior won the 2A state cross country this fall as an individual and as a team before adding four state titles as a junior last spring for Bennington (800, 1600, 3200, 4x800).

Cole Kinnamon

Kinnamon hit a last second game winning three from nearly St. John at Bramlage Coliseum to knock of Bishop Seabury in the 2A state semifinals. What is most impressive about this? It was in six overtimes!

KSU Sophomores from Kansas

Alex Barnes (Pittsburg) had another breakout year for the Wildcats and is averaging over six yards per carry in his career. He was also the second fastest player in KSU history to reach 1,000 yards (by attempts), the first being Darren Sproles (Olathe North). Denzel Goolsby (Bishop Carroll) picked up Cactus Bowl MVP on defense in 2017 and made a nice transition to that side of the football as a starter for the Wildcats. Trey Dishon (Horton) also saw another solid season in his second year as a starter and was hardly recruited two years ago in his small high school. Scott Frantz (Free State) also had another solid season on the offensive line as a left tackle. Alex Delton (Hays) split time as a starter this year but came off the bench huge in leading the Cats to victory in the 2017 Cactus Bowl. Kyle Ball (SM East) and Blaise Gammon (BV West) have also contributed in keytimes for the Cats. Dalton Schoen (BV Northwest) was perhaps the guy to come out of nowhere in this class as a walk-on to breakout WR in 2017. We also highlight him below. This 2015 class at Kansas State is turning out to be quite the class, at least from a native Kansas perspective. 

Leon-Bluestem

The Bluestem baseball team won their first state championship as a team in school history by taking the 2-1A state baseball title over Ellis, 8-5. The Lions finished 18-4 on the year.  

Marysville

Marysville had three 3A Player of the Year honorees in 2017. Although two different school years, it’s still quite impressive. Gabe Pieschl was the first earning SIK 3A Basketball POY last March, while Jayton Haggard earned 3A KABC Baseball Player of the Year last spring, while Jack Blumer earned 3A Football OPOY this fall from SIK. Marysville, led by head coach Dustin Heuer, also played for the 3A state football title this fall after being on a 32-game losing streak two years ago. Marysville basketball also won the 3A state basketball title in March. 

Norton

The Norton wrestling program won its fifth consecutive state title last winter. Norton also had the national spotlight on them over the last year as Jace Ruder committed and signed with North Carolina as a quarterback. Deon Lyle, a Norton alum, is also having a breakout junior season for University of Texas San Antonio at the D1 level for former Kansas State great Steve Henson, who is the UTSA head coach.

David McFarland

The senior quarterback at Thomas More Prep set an 11-man state record with 648 passing yards in a single game in the 2017 season opener against Abilene.

Maize, Kansas

The Maize School District had two baseball state championships in 2017. Maize (5A), Maize South (4A-I). The two teams go combined 41-8. Maize also won in a walk-off fashion in 5A, after trailing 4-0 to Aquinas, Jacob Taylor hit a walk-off two RBI single to bring the Eagles their first crown since 2011. The Mavericks beat Ottawa, 7-5, despite a late comeback effort, for their first state title in school history in baseball for Maize South.

Dacota Motter

Two days after losing his father to cancer, El Dorado High School wrestler Dacota Motter won a 4A state wrestling title. Moder would finish at 33-1 on the year at the 170-pound class. Throughout the battle of his dad’s cancer the slogan became “One Tough Motter”. There’s no question that this was one of the most remarkable and inspiring stories we’ve ever seen at Sports in Kansas.

Newton

The 4x100 girls relay team at Newton set a all-classes state record of 46.86 in the 5A girls prelims at the state outdoor in Wichita in May.

Olathe Northwest

Northwest hit a walk-off double to win the 6A state softball title on a 1-2 count with two outs after seven balls had been fouled off. The game was tied at 5-5 before the double, beating their rival Olathe East, 6-5. Northwest finished 24-1 on the season.

Semi Ojeleye

Ojeleye was the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year in his only season playing for SMU since sitting out and transferring from Duke. Ojeleye went on to be a second-round selection in the 2017 NBA Draft for the Boston Celtics and is now a rookie. Ojeleye still holds the Kansas state record for points in a career at Ottawa High School.

Riverton

Riverton softball, led by head coach Brian Mitchell, won back-to-back state titles. Sure, there are a lot of teams that go back to back that may not get a mention on this feature, but it’s the fashion that they did. In 2016, Taylor Compton, now a freshman at SDSU, hit a walk-off homer to win the title for the Rams. This past season in 2017 her then freshman sister Camryn, now a sophomore commit to Wichita State, hit the walk-off homer to win the title. What are the odds of that happening? Incredible.

Emily Ryan

Emily Ryan had 51 points in a game this past month for 2A Central Plains, still 20 away from school record (unless Claflin records kept different since consolidation) state record of 71 in a game by Jackie Stiles in 1997. Anywhere else that’s likely a record. Ryan is a rising star. Could she be the best high school girls’ basketball player in the state since Jackie Stiles? Don’t want to put this expectations on someone, but it’s hard not to when she’s lighting it up every night on the hardwood. Her coach is also Jackie Stiles father, Pat Stiles.

ESPN 100.7

This fall marked the fifth year of the Local Show Radio on ESPN 100.7. ESPN 100.7 didn't exist until that fall but Bill Wachter (President of MyTownMedia) and Mike Snow (Programming Manager ESPN 100.7) put the all-sports station on the map of local sports coverage in Southeast Kansas/Southwest Missouri. Luckily for me (Chet Kuplen) as a native of Southeast Kansas, they wanted to brand with Sports in Kansas and offered me an opportunity to do a daily one hour radio show remotely back in the fall of 2013. I had no experience in radio and now it's something I have been a part of for five seasons with the Local Show and the Kpreps Sports in Kansas Show.. ESPN 100.7 also picked up the Pitt State Network in 2017 bringing on longtime voice of the Gorillas, Eddie Lomshek. At Sports in Kansas, we love our partnership with My Town Media and what radio has provided for us as a business. Another note: Working with Mike Snow for at least an hour on air everyday for five years isn't easy, but it's worth it, just ask him. Just kidding Mike, it's been great and thanks for the opportunity, I really do appreciate everything you've done for myself and Sports in Kansas. 

Sabetha

Sabetha won it’s first state football title in 20 years by a Gabe Garber interception with under 30 seconds to play to preserve the 7-6 win over Marysville. Hours later tragedy struck the town as an accident took the lives of three members of the Ukele family, who had two sons on the state championship team, on their way home from the game. Continued prayers to this community and family that is trying to move forward in this time.

Ryan Schraeder

Schraeder went from a 5-foot-7 high school junior that never played a down of high school football to playing in the Super Bowl as a 6-foot-7 tackle for the Atlanta Falcons last January. The Maize grad never played football until he walked onto the Butler County program after hitting a growth spurt where he later became an All-American and would go onto become an All-American at Division II power Valdosta State. He then again beat the odds as a Free Agent and has became one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL.

Julie Slater

Lansing long-time head volleyball coach picked up her 900th career victory at the high school this fall, an incredible accomplishment. Lansing is one of the state powers in our state for volleyball over the years.

Dusty Trail

After spending 22 years as the assistant at Bishop Carroll for Alan Schuckman, Trail had huge shoes to fill. He did just that in leading the Golden Eagles to a 5A state title in 2017 in a dominating upset of St. Thomas Aquinas in his first year as the head coach. Carroll finished 12-1 and as the 5A state champs in 2017.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas won their 100th state title in school history by their girl’s golf team capturing a state title back on October 16th. Aquinas also won state in girls’ basketball, boys track and field, and boys’ cross country in 2017. The football team came up short as they took state runner-up in 5A and it’s still a title that eludes the Saints as football doesn’t have a state title in their school history.

Olathe West

Olathe West opened as a school this fall and would only play a JV football schedule. The Owls are the newest of the several schools we’ve seen open in the KC area over the last 15 years.

Carter Putz & Miege

Putz, a Notre Dame baseball signee, is more known to us in Kansas as a quarterback. He led Miege to three consecutive state titles as the starting quarterback while breaking state records for passing yards, passing touchdowns and also passing touchdowns in a season last year. His senior class was 50-2 at Miege with four consecutive state titles. Miege won state in boy/girls basketball, boys/girls soccer, last year as well, in addition to their fourth consecutive state football title.

Taylor Robertson

Robertson was the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state as a junior last year for McPherson in leading them to a second-place finish. Robertson also made headlines this summer by committing to Oklahoma where she later signed to play for the Sooners. She is now one of the top players in the entire state as a senior for McPherson, who also features one of the top boy’s teams in the entire state regardless of classification.

Dalton Schoen

Schoen once had a state record 12 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns in a single game for Blue Valley Northwest. He has now become one of the big names for the Kansas State offense as a receiver as a walk-on redshirt-sophomore WR. There’s always a few on the KSU team that do this, Schoen is the next.

Hadley Splechter

Splechter won the 1600, 3200 and 4x800 as a sophomore for Yates Center at the 2A state track and field meet last May, setting a state meet record in the 1600 at 4:21.70. Now a junior Splechter won the 2A boys cross country meet and could be the states top overall runner with two full seasons of track and field left. Yates Center also won state cross country as a team this fall in 2A. Splechter also took second in state cross country as a sophomore in 2016.

Jackie Stiles

Stiles held the NCAA women’s career scoring record of 3,393 points from 2001-2017 until Kelsey Plum of Washington would break that after scoring 57 points last February to take her over Stiles career mark. Stiles, a Claflin alum who was an All-American at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) leading them to the D-I Final Four, went on the play in the WNBA where she was the Rookie of the Year in 2001. Stiles is now an assistant at Missouri State and is one of the best girl’s basketball players of all-time in high school or college. Missouri State also unveiled a statue of Stiles in 2017 outside of their arena in Springfield.

Shrine Bowl

The 2017 Shrine Bowl was a good one in El Dorado, the first time being there, with the West winning 22-21 on a safety by Mulvane’s Zach Helbing with 1:00 remaining in a crazy finish. Helbing was the West MVP while J.J. Letcher of KC Piper was the East MVP. The West won despite seven turnovers in the contest. The West was led by head coach Marc Marinelli (Goddard-Eisenhower), while the East was coached by Derick Hammes (Rossville). Also special thanks to Sarah Van Petten who I had the opportunity to work with over the last few years as the Executive Director of the Kansas Shrine Bowl and congrats to her on her new opportunity with Shriners Hospitals in Minnesota. Also want to give a congrats to B.J. Harris who was appointed the next executive director of the Shrine Bowl about a month or so ago. B.J. is a long-time Kansan, played in the game, worked with the game on getting it to Pittsburg as the CVB Director in Crawford County, and will be a great representative of this organization. We look forward to continue our partnership with the Shrine Bowl and making it another successful game in 2018 in Pittsburg. 

Jordan Speer

The 1A Dighton thrower was ranked as high as ninth in the nation in the shot put and set the 1A state meet record of 45-08.75 at the 2017 state outdoor in Wichita. She went on to sign at Mizzou from her tiny town in Kansas and now throws in the SEC as a freshman. Dighton also took third in the 1A state track meet with only two girls competing, Speer and teammate Sara Cramer.

Sports in Kansas 

In May 2017, we celebrated five years since Chet Kuplen had the idea to start Sports in Kansas. What started as a basic twitter only site to talk about sports in the state for fun, has now grown to multiple media platforms with nearly 160,000 followers/subscribers across the state. Special thanks to those who have worked with us or been a part of this to help this business grow including, Sean Boston (Sports in Kansas), Ben Mitchum (Sports in Kansas), Mike Snow (MyTown Media), Bill Wachter (MyTown Media), Matt Gilmore (Kpreps), Andy Wachter (Kpreps) & John Baetz (Kansas Pregame). As for myself (Chet Kuplen) as the owner/managing partner of this business, I am truly honored to have platforms to help promote Kansas athletes, coaches and programs. My passion is sports in the state of Kansas and to help people out in any way I can. I couldn't have done it without the support of our great followers in this state and look forward to only making this bigger in the future. Also thanks to all the advertisers, sponsors and people who have backed us over the years, without you this is not anywhere close to being possible. 

Spring Hill

Spring Hill won their second consecutive state softball title in 4A-I by beating fellow Frontier League member Paola, 2-0, in the state title game in Salina. The Broncos finished 21-4 on the year.

Jazz Sweet

Sweet, an all-state selection at Shawnee Heights outside of Topeka, won a NCAA Division I Volleyball National Title as a freshman starter for the Nebraska Cornhuskers this month.

Bailee Swift

Maybe the athlete of the weekend over Memorial Weekend in May as the senior at Chase County won the state shot put and javelin in 2A on Friday in Wichita before driving to Pratt shortly after to hit a home run in the 2A state softball game to win the state title for Chase County.

Kyler True

Olpe doesn’t even have a track in its tiny town but it didn’t stop Kyler True from become one of the states best runners of all-time. True ran a 4:07 last year to rank the third fastest in all classes in Kansas history. His time at the state meet was so impressive that the second-place finisher was 20 seconds behind him. True also won the 800, 1600, 3200 and 4x800. He is now a freshman at Oklahoma State.

Dean Wade

Wade, a junior at Kansas State, was the most recent happening to make the list after he scored a career high 34 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting against Iowa State on Saturday. He also grabbed eight rebounds. Three years ago, Wade was playing in 1A and 2A gyms in Kansas for St. John, who he helped lead to three consecutive state titles from 2013-2015. Wade is now a 6-foot-10 junior for the Kansas State Wildcats.

Brylie Ware

The Sedgwick product became the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore for OU last spring. Ware first made major headlines as a freshman in 2016 at Neosho County where he became the Triple Crown winner in Junior College baseball and earned National Player of the Year. Not bad for a guy that had zero division one offers at the time of his high school graduation. Ware is now a junior at Oklahoma.

Ivan Webb

Webb went from homeless twice to be a finalist for the 5A Player of the Year this season from his inner city high school, KC-Schlagle. He led the entire state of Kansas in rushing yards with over 2,700 yards. Webb had to work jobs just to pay his entry fees into camps the last couple years and would work at Wal-Mart as soon as his games end just to make sure he could have enough to make it day-to-day. Webb, who lost his father growing up and grew up in poverty with a single-mom, has now earned a full-ride scholarship to Missouri State University, a day after we featured him on Faces in Kansas. One of the most inspiring stories we have seen in quite some time. Congrats to Ivan who signed with the MSU Bears earlier this week. Ivan is a perfect example of why not to give up and do everything you have to do to make it.

Dirk Wedd

Wedd retired from Lawrence High School and picked up his 100th win as the head man this fall over SM Northwest.

Wichita West

West was the eight-seed entering the 2017 6A girls state tournament and nobody had given them a shot to win a game at the tourney. They faced state power Wichita South who had won 54 straight games. West would hand them a loss, winning 44-42.