ST. PAUL — The St. Paul Indians are one of the most feared teams in the 8-Man II classification. Two years ago, the Southeast Kansas mainstay played Hoxie in the 8M-I state championship, taking runner-up. The Indians have won three straight Three Rivers League titles and two of the last three district titles. The school has had a longtime tradition of solid football teams with state titles in 1986 under Lloyd Tiffany in 1A and two in the 8-manranks under Doug Tuck in 2000 and 2002. The Indians are 33-20 all-time in the Kansas high school playoffs and also have runner-up finishes in 1991, 1998, 1999, under Tuck, and 2017 under current head coach Keith Wiatrak.
One of St. Paul’s most vital workhorses chugging the Indians through the 2019 campaign is linebacker and fullback Easton Dent.
“He’s a good kid who works hard. He’s been over 98% in the weight room,” St. Paul head coach Keith Wiatrak said. “He’s the most vocal leader on the team and he’s the hardest hitter on the team. He’s very impressive.”
Dent has delivered a blue collar approach that complements the flair of St. Paul’s star running back Adam Albertini, a 2,000-yard rusher a season ago who appeared on the cover of three football preview magazines this fall.
“He knows how good of a football player he is,” Wiatrak said of Dent. “He just likes to have fun. He’s very vocal in his leadership. I’ve got a good bunch of seniors and they all get along. They’ve played together since third grade.”
At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds with a 4.98 40-yard dash time, Dent has proven to be one of the most versatile wrenches in Wiatrak’s toolbox. In addition to Dent’s stellar play at middle linebacker, the senior also serves as a lead blocker and additional threat out of the backfield on offense. Dent earned all-state honors at linebacker one season ago.
“He’s got decent quickness for his size,” Wiatrak said. “He just wants to win. He’s that kind of kid. I think he can play at the next level in some fashion. He’s got a good future ahead of him.”
St. Paul has aspirations to make it back to the state championship in 2019. Dent has his sights on continuing his football career past this fall.
If you ask his head coach, Dent has all the intangibles to be the glue guy on any roster at any level.
“I think he could play middle linebacker in college,” Wiatrak said. “His best quality is that he’s a nice kid who’s easy to coach. If I asked him to play center, he would if it would help us win. You’ve got to love those type kids.”
In addition to Albertini and Dent, the Indians also have a pair of twin brothers that are players to watch this season in Chandler and Chase Bradshaw. Gib Carter, who is battling an injury this week, has been a solid lineman for the Indians as well. Ivan Murillo is also a returning starter on the line from last season. The Indians six seniors are all starting both ways this season as St. Paul returned five on defense and six on defense for 2019.
St. Paul is back in action against West Elk (2-0) this Friday night.
See ads in right corner: This feature is presented by His and Hers in Walnut, Kansas; JP Construction, Owner Jeremiah Pecha, Located in St. Paul; Farmers Bank in St. Paul, Kansas also with locations in Walnut, Hepler and Girard, Joseph A. Smith, Chairman of the Board.
Chet Kuplen, CEO/Founder of Sports in Kansas, on Dent
“There are a lot of behind the scenes guys in high school football that help their teams go that may not get all the headlines. He is one of those guys but he is still an all-state player. Everyone knows who Adam Albertini is and if you don’t then you don’t follow high school football in Kansas. But it’s much more than Adam on this team and Adam would be the first to tell you that. Easton is a kid that, if you’re smart, you run behind, because he’s 200 plus pounds and can run a little. Plus he has played some offensive line in his career. On defense, he’s one of the top 8-man linebackers I have my eye on this year. This is a special community that cares a lot about their sports programs. Coach Wiatrak is a former all-state player, he was also a long-time assistant their under Coach Tuck who ran one of the best 8-man programs in the state. Coach Wiatrak has his own company, he doesn’t have to coach high school football, but he choses to. That gives you an idea of how special football is to some people in this community. Over my lifetime, they’ve had some of the best teams ever in 8-man and best players. Jarrett Grosdidier, a teammate of coach Wiatrak and 1993 St. Paul alum, is one of the best 8-man players of all-time, going on to start at tight end for Kansas State in the early to mid 1990’s. Personally, I think their 2000 team is one of, if not the best 8-man team of all-time. No offense to todays 8-man teams, but you may just not see that much depth and talent at any 8-man high school in Kansas. They had guys who were backups that were state champions in track and field. Not to add pressure, but I do this statewide and I feel like St. Paul has the chance to compete for the whole thing this year in 8M-II.”
EASTON DENT, ST. PAUL — Q&A
How did you get involved in football?
I started football at a young age as most kids do — playing flag football. Eventually making it up to PeeWee and I haven’t missed a year ever since it’s been my favorite sport ever since I can remember.
What are your goals this season?
Our goals as a team have been the same since we were freshman which is to win a state title. A personal goal of mine is to make the 8-Man All-Star Game and rush for 1,000 yards.
Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?
Yes, our entire team came in this summer and put in the work and with the athletes and some of the big bodies we have we should be a force in 8-Man II. We have a good returning group of starters, so we hope that’ll help in the long run.
What makes you such a force as a player?
I think my physicality, I try to be as physical as I can possibly be. I was taught at a young age if you are more physical and impose your will on a team most teams can’t take being hit repeatedly for a whole game. If you can control the line of scrimmage it will help you succeed more than anything.
What’s the atmosphere like to play football on Friday night for your school and town?
It’s crazy, especially when we are in the playoffs because everyone supports the team and comes out to the games. And being from a small town when you have the entire town behind you it’s a huge morale boost for the whole team.
For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?
I think they should come because we are such a small-town team but us being 8-Man it’s a different game from 11-Man. I think it goes faster and when you play other small towns, they give you everything they have because there is not as many kids in their schools and everyone needs to go out.
Who are other key players on your team?
I think all our seniors and some of our juniors. We have a good senior class who have been playing football together since 4th grade and all throughout school. We have 3 juniors who are some of our big bodies and they have come a long way from where they started, and we need them to perform this year to help us succeed.
Favorite thing about football?
Just the game in general. You’re getting to go out with your teammates and give a team everything you’ve got while they are giving everything they’ve got back. I think it’s just the ultimate team sport, especially in 8-Man because if someone doesn’t do their job the team can’t be nearly as successful.
Do you play any other sports, tell us about that, what other positions do you play?
Yes, being from a small town you must compete in everything. I play basketball, baseball, and run track. In basketball I play forward and some post, while in baseball I play just about any position our coaches will put me in. In track I throw javelin and run whatever our coach puts me in including the throwers relay.
What is it like to play for your coach?
It’s great, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, no matter how bad of a day he might have had Coach Wiatrak brings all the excitement he can bring to the field. He puts so much emotion into coaching us since he has been here for as long as he has, he cares so much about the program and upholding tradition it’s truly special.
What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?
Every morning we came in at 6:45, rain or shine, and put in work in the weight room, then after that we might have a quick practice to get ready for the season. We also went to 2 camps this summer. The camp that Burlingame put on was a great experience with great teams. The second camp at Southwestern has always helped us prepare the most for the season because we see the best competition out there and it drives us to compete.
What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?
Hopefully I can receive an offer from somewhere close to home I would love to be able to play at the next level. But I’m trying to stay more focused on my final season at St. Paul above anything else.
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?
Just hang out with friends but usually even when we aren’t on school time we are competing in some type of sport or game with each other. Other than that, I like to get outside and move around and help my family with housework and other chores.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully succeeding in whatever I decide to pursue as a career and hopefully raising a family.
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?
I think history we happen to have a great teacher in Mr. Tuck so that helps a lot. I’m a A/B student and currently have a 3.7GPA
Who is your role model?
I think it would have to be my dad and both of my grandfathers. They all have taught me how to persevere through tough times and shown me what it’s like to work hard to get what you want. My dad has taught me everything he knows about sports and has spent countless hours working on technique and other strategies to sports.
Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?
The St. Paul Café, that is a hotspot after morning weights to get a good breakfast before work and even grab some lunch on your break.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
I could recite the entire movie Stepbrothers and I love Johnny Cash.
Anything else to add?
No, but I would like to thank you for this opportunity and what you do for kids around the state