Sports in Kansas is pleased to announce its Coach of the Year Honors presented by Mammoth Sports Construction. Selections made through votes from a statewide panel of media who regularly covers high school football and represents all areas and classes. This year over 20 media members were part of the committee and votes calculated by Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas and Conor Nicholl of Sports in Kansas. Input was gathered from observations and statistics. Finalists are also listed at the bottom of the page.
All-Classes Coach of the Year: Tom Radke, St. James Academy (4A Champs)
St. James bumped down from 5A to 4A and finished 8-4 with the Class 4A state title. SJA advanced past the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history. St. James defeated rival Bishop Miege, 36-35, in the state semifinals. Miege had won six straight state titles, which tied a state record. SJA had lost, 38-28, to Bishop Miege in Week 5. St. James was 7-13 in the previous two seasons, including a 28-27 regular season win versus Miege in ‘19. This year, SJA finished with the lowest winning percentage by a state football champion in Kansas annals. After a 3-4 start, SJA won five straight and averaged 46.8 points per game, including a 56-34 win versus Arkansas City.
Coach Tom Radke improved to 61-41 in 10 seasons with St. James, and 83-68 in 15 years. SJA significantly improved its offense and quarterback Dakota Burritt easily passed for a school single season record 2,783 yards. All-purpose threat La’James White transferred in from K.C. Piper, and junior wide receiver Tyler Claiborne led with 76 carries for 1,171 yards and 12 TDs. In ’19, SJA averaged 20 points a game, 4.7 yards per rush, 6.8 yards per pass and 5.4 yards per play. This fall, the Thunder bumped to 37.6 points per game, 6.4 yards per rush, 9.1 yards per pass and 7.8 yards per play. Radke has done something no other team has done over the last six seasons in 4A and that is dethrone Bishop Miege in 4A (or 4A-I). For years everyone has just penciled in Miege as the state champion in this classification but maybe that is not the case in the future as there are new contenders in the classification.
Congtatulations to Tom Radke for being selected as All-Classes Coach of the Year in Kansas from Sports in Kansas. What an increidlbe blessing to have you be a part of our community! Congrats to the 2020 4A State Champions! - From St. James Academy High School
Class 6A Coach of the Year: Brandon Clark, Derby
All season long, Derby coach Brandon Clark continually mentioned how proud he was of the Panthers overcoming adversity. Derby played just three home contests yet yielded a 9-2 record and Class 6A state title.
Clark is 139-38 in 15 seasons with six state titles and a runner-up showing. Derby has captured three straight state crowns. According to KSHSAA/Brett Marshall, Clark is now one of 12 coaches in state history to win at least six titles.
Derby’s key three-year starting safety Tanner Knox missed the first three games, including a 45-14 loss at Mill Valley, the eventual 5A state champion. It marked the Panthers’ worst loss in 10 years. Derby opened with three straight road games and beat Bishop Carroll, 35-21, in Week 3. Carroll reached the 5A semifinals. Then, Derby missed two weeks because of COVID-19 protocol and fell, 36-35, to Maize in Week 7.
At that point, Derby was 3-2 – and incredibly had not played a home a game. After the Maize loss, Derby won two straight and then beat Gardner-Edgerton, 48-28. G-E had defeated Mill Valley. Next, Derby went to Lawrence, then ranked No. 1 in 6A, and won 40-20. In the semifinals, the Panthers beat Junction City, 62-27, on the road. Derby defeated Blue Valley North, 56-31, in the finals.
Personnel-wise, Derby accomplished a title without a single returning starter on the defensive line. Derby had the 6A Defensive Player of the Year, each a lineman, the last two falls. Senior safety Amare Ramirez came on throughout the year, especially in the final three games. Derby had its excellent linebacking corps of Jack Hileman, Coleson Syring and Luke Stewart.
Congrats to the Derby Panthers on winning the 2020 6A State Title. Eddy's Toyota is a proud supporter of Derby Panther Football.
Class 5A Coach of the Year: Joel Applebee, Mill Valley
Mill Valley was considered to have the highest ceiling of any Kansas team and finished as the No. 1 ranked squad for all classes by MaxPreps. MV returned 12 senior starters for coach Joel Applebee. He led the Jaguars to a 9-2 record and is 4-0 in state title games.
MV is 90-34 under Applebee. The Jaguars had never played for a state title before Applebee, a Russell graduate. Applebee has a veteran staff, including well-known defensive coordinator Drew Hudgins. MV battled through a midseason injury to quarterback Cooper Marsh and a season-ending knee injury to Cole Knappen, a defensive end with Division II offers. He played in four games.
Junior Cody Moore, who had never played high school football before, entered the starting lineup and finished with 34 tackles, seven for loss. MV senior Jacob Hartman, a wide receiver, briefly moved to running back when Quin Wittenauer suffered injury. He rushed for 497 yards, 7.8 yards per carry and seven scores, along with 38 receptions for 767 yards and nine TDs. Hartman greatly developed in Mill Valley’s system and received his first offer, from Hutchinson Community College, on Oct. 24. Hartman was a finalist for the Otis Taylor Award as the top wide receiver/tight end in the K.C. area.
Special consideration for 5A coach of the year went to Wichita Northwest’s Steve Martin. Northwest has reached three straight finals. But even more importantly than his on the field coaching, Martin was the vocal presence behind turning the Wichita School Board vote and allowing the Wichita Public Schools to play football. Without Martin and his staff advocating who knows what may have happened in 2020. Before ’18, the Grizzlies had reached one final in school annals. Mike Vernon (Hutch) and Weston Schartz (KMC) also tallied many votes for their turnaround seasons for their programs.
Class 4A Coach of the Year: Jon Weimers, Arkansas City
Nobody had AC in the 4A title game back in September, nobody but maybe themselves. Arkansas City, which plays several challenging 5A squads in the regular season, had posted back-to-back quarterfinal trips with sub-.500 records. This year, AC made another run, all the way to the Class 4A state championship game. AC went 6-7 and lost to St. James in the title. It marked Arkansas City’s first state title appearance since ’86. Arkansas City had the most losses by any state championship qualifier in Kansas history, according to KSHSAA archives.
The Bulldogs were 2-6 before four straight victories. AC lost 37-6 to Andover Central in Week 8. Then, AC won four straight road games: Wellington (27-6), Andover Central (33-28), Wamego (21-20) and McPherson (28-27). AC beat Andover Central with two goal line stands.
Then, Arkansas City stopped Wamego on a two-point conversion with 15 seconds left. In the state semifinals, Arkansas City picked off McPherson at the 3-yard line with two seconds remaining. Coach Weimers, in his fifth season, helped sophomore quarterback Gabe Welch clear 2,000 passing yards. Welch threw for 1,300 as a freshman. Also, AC made the playoff run without standout junior defensive lineman Taviahn Mack. He did not play after Oct. 16. AC lost, 62-28, and 26-6 to McPherson in the playoffs the last two seasons. The Bulldogs went 4-4 in one-score games in ’18-19 and 4-2 this fall.
Class 3A Coach of the Year: Dylan Schmidt, Andale
Coach Dylan Schmidt is 48-2 at his alma mater with back-to-back undefeated 3A state titles. KSHSAA/historian Brett Marshall noted 2020 Andale became the first-ever team in state history to shutout its last four playoff opponents. Andale enjoyed its usual excellent depth. Senior outside linebacker Caden Parthemer was the league defensive MVP. He was the team’s leading tackler and recorded two interceptions in the state game. Senior lineman Cayden Winter was Top 11 All Classes Seniors by the Kansas Football Coaches Association. Schmidt was first to credit Tim Fairchild, Andale DC, for their incredible defense this season in an interview with SIK's Bethany Bowman earlier this week.
Andale returned just four of 11 offensive starters, and six on defense. The Indians played in challenging District 7 and went 4-0 versus Wichita Collegiate and Clearwater. Those teams were a combined 17-1 against all other opponents. As well, Andale defeated Riley County in the quarterfinals – RC was 8-1 in other contests and had scored at least 28 points in its other nine games.
Andale beat Perry-Lecompton, 20-0, in the state title. Andale won all games by at least 19 points. The Indians outscored teams, 615-78, and led the class in scoring offense and defense. No other 3A squad exceeded 477 points. Andale ranked No. 2 in all classes by MaxPreps statistical rankings.
Congratulations to Coach Dylan Schmidt on being named the 2020 Sports in Kansas 3A Coach of the Year from Caring for Kansas Medical Staffing in Andale, KS!
Class 2A Coach of the Year: Zach Baird, Hoisington
How hard is it to replace a 2,000-yard running back? In 2019, Kansas had nine players, from six-man to Class 6A, who exceeded 2,000 rushing yards, according to SIK archives. Eight of those did not return to their team this fall. They were Topeka High, Olathe North, Bonner Springs, Humboldt, Thunder Ridge, Tonganoxie, Minneola and Hoisington.
Seven of those teams had a wins drop from ’19 – six squads dropped by at least four victories. Overall, those seven teams combined for a 33-27 record after a collective 64-14 mark the fall prior.
Hoisington, under alum Zach Baird, was the only one that did not have a victory decrease. In ’19, the Cardinals finished 11-1. Hoisington running back Wyatt Pedigo cleared 2,000 rushing yards for a second straight fall and collected Top 11 all classes. This season, the depth-laden Cardinals posted a 12-1 mark and advanced to the first state championship game in school annals. Hoisington had lost in the semifinals in ’16, ’18 and ’19.
The Cardinals lost, 27-20, to Rossville in the finals and tied for the most wins in school annals. Baird, who has only coached at Hoisington in his high school career, is 71-13 in seven years. Hoisington, with a veteran coaching staff that includes Matt Koelsch, Kyle Haxton, Robert England and Ross Coomes, consistently controlled games. Hoisington collectively outscored teams, 110-21, in the first quarter. Just two teams scored first quarter points. The Cardinals trailed in just two contests all season. Hoisington’s defense allowed 4.2 yards per carry and 4.6 yards per play. Hoisington allowed 12.9 points per game – after it permitted 13.1 the year prior.
Personnel-wise, Hoisington returned senior Holt Hanzlick after a knee injury cost him all of 2019. He rushed for 1,114 yards, 14 scores, delivered 80 tackles and 11 TFLs. All were team-highs. Baird moved back Legend Robinson to offensive line. Robinson delivered a solid year. Second-leading rusher Josh Ball switched to the line in late season after injuries up front, notably to first team all-conference lineman Cole Gilliland.
Senior Cole Steinert moved inside on defense for the first time and finished with 75 tackles. Baird called senior Hunter Morris probably the best cornerback he’s coached in his tenure. Hanzlick was first team all league on both sides. Ball earned first team defensive line, Morris first defensive back, and senior Braden Mooney first team punter. Hanzlick collected his first offer, from NAIA Baker, in early December. Running back Cade Mason committed to Bethel. 3x Sports in Kansas Coach of the Year and 2020 2A state champion coach Derick Hammes was also considered but we feel he's building a pretty big trophy case there in Rossville.
Class 1A Coach of the Year: Chris Schmidt, Olpe
Known for its outstanding depth and defense, Olpe captured the second all-time title in five trips in school history and had the No. 1 scoring defense in Kansas. The last four state championship appearances have come under 14th year coach Chris Schmidt. He previously won a crown in ’14 and was second in ’08 and ’18, both times to Smith Center. This year, Olpe opened No. 5 in Class 1A and was the classification’s only team with fewer than two losses on the way to an undefeated season. Smith is first to credit his DC Terry Smith on the Olpe defense and its oustanding play as he was quoted in an Sports in Kansas interview with Bethany Bowman earlier this week saying Smith deserved coach of the year for how well their defense performed in 2020. While Schmidt is often the first to credit others, we also feel Schmidt is one of the most underrated coaches in Kansas and has built a culture at Olpe that has been so consistent in 1A or 2-1A over the last 14 seasons. He is absolutely one of the best coaches in Kansas and also serves as the boys basketball coach.
The Eagles finished 12-0, including a playoff forfeit win. Schmidt improved to 130-33. Olpe permitted just 35 total points and posted seven shutouts, including a 14-0 win versus Oakley in the championship game. Olpe had a pair of one-score wins versus Lyndon, 13-7 in Week 3 and 14-12 in the state semifinals.
The Eagles allowed the fewest points by an 11-man team since Smith Center permitted 20 in 2007, according to Prep Power Index archives. Olpe had three players named to Class 1A first team all-state seniors by the Kansas Coaches: offensive lineman Max Blaufuss (5-8, 195), fullback/tight end Max Barnard (6-1, 200) and kicker/punter Gabe Castillo (5-10, 160). Olpe is historically known for not having a lot of size, and the Eagles featured just two players at more than 195 pounds. It was also hard to discount what Oakley did this season despite one of the best 1A seasons of all-time by Olpe defensively. Special consideration to this award also went to Jeff Hennick who guided Oakley to their first ever title game appearance after a 3-6 season last year. While he may be the turnaround of the year its hard to discount the defensive dominance of Olpe. Any other year Hennick would likely have garnered the 1A honor.
Class Eight-Man, Division I Coach of the Year: Kevin Ayers, Little River
Legendary coach Kevin Ayers joined Tom Young as the lone coaches to win state titles at three schools, according to KSHSAA archives. Young accomplished the feat in 11-man, and Ayers in eight-man. Ayers is 4-1 all-time in state finals. He went 2-0 in state games at Jetmore, and 1-1 at Wallace County-Sharon Springs before the championship this fall. Little River finished 11-2 and captured the Eight-Man, Division I championship. Ayers is in his second year at Little River, his wife’s alma mater. He is 20-4 with the Redskins and 178-43 in his career. LR reached its first final since ’01 and won its first title since ’99.
Before Ayers’ arrival, Little River was 23-15 in the previous four seasons. When Ayers first came, he convinced Jayden Garrison to play football. Garrison, an excellent basketball player, had ran cross country. Garrison and Graham Stephens switched off as quarterbacks both in ’19 and ’20, an incredibly rare scheme that Ayers had never used. LR scored 41.1 points per game in ’18, and then upped to 47.9 and 54 in the last two falls.
Ayers has long said defending against a dual threat quarterback is challenging and used Garrison and Stephens in a variety of ways. This season, Ayers and his coaching staff helped the team, especially with blocking, improve after early season losses to ranked foes Clifton-Clyde and Canton-Galva. LR called the outside ends/receivers “mini-Hogs” because of their blocking. Junior center Kaden Schafer notably showed progress.
LR became the fourth eight-man team ever to lose multiple games and come back to win a state, according to KSHSAA archives. Little River did not have an interception in the last eight games and committed just six turnovers all season. Additionally, Little River successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and elected to go remote in late October, a move Ayers said “really saved” its season.
In the state game, Ayers OKd an onside kick from Graham Stephens, who recovered the ball. The onside helped pivot the game for LR. As well, Little River tossed an eight-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Braden Young with one second left before halftime, a game-changing play. Young had just three catches before state.
Class Eight-Man, Division II Coach of the Year: Matt Heuer, Hanover
An offensive mastermind, Hanover coach Matt Heuer led the Wildcats to a 11-0 record and the sixth state title in 16 years at his alma mater. Heuer tied former Hanston coach Jerry Slaton for the most eight-man championships in Kansas history, via KSHSAA archives. Heuer is 161-27 and is 6-3 in state finals. Last year, Hanover had its 43-game winning streak end, the longest eight-man run in the KSHSAA era. Hanover lost twice to Axtell, including in the state semifinals. The Wildcats averaged 47 points and 8.1 yards per play. The summer yielded the best weight room attendance under Heuer.
This fall, Hanover jumped to 55.3 points per game and 10.6 yards per play. The Wildcats won each game by at least 20 points. Hanover defeated ranked Clifton-Clyde in the regular season and was the lone team to beat Colony-Crest and St. Francis. Hanover was a slight underdog to SF in the championship game, but Heuer’s short passing game yielded a 46-24 victory. Hanover was highly experienced and had big jumps from multiple players, including its line and senior quarterback Jacob Jueneman.
Six-Man Coach of the Year: Chris Walden, Bird City-Cheylin
Cougar coach Chris Walden, a Cheylin graduate, has paced the Cougars to an 18-1 season in the last two years. Cheylin was six-man state runner-up to Moscow in ’19, and then went 9-0 with a state title this fall. The Cougars defeated Moscow, 46-0, in the final. It marked the Cougars’ first-ever athletic state title in any sport.
While the Cougars are notably known for senior standouts Colton McCarty and Andrew Schields, Walden and the coaching staff had several pivotal moments. First, after a 4-3 mark in ’18, Walden elected to focus more time on defense. He ran the offense and hired Mike McCarty to coordinate the defense. The Cougars allowed 385 points in ’18. Last fall, Cheylin permitted 231. This year, the Cougars dropped to 77 total points permitted. Cheylin freshmen Logan McCarty and Pablo Bermudez enjoyed big 2020 seasons. The Cougars forced 30 turnovers.
That included eight interceptions from Bermudez and five from Logan. For tackles, Logan ranked first with 69 and Bermudez third at 49. In the championship, Logan delivered a huge game with 367 total yards of offense, 320 passing and five TDs accounted for. Moscow keyed on Colton, who ended up five catches for 102 yards and a pair of TDs – all numbers that either set or tied career highs.
Sports in Kansas 6A Coach of the Year Finalists
Andy Sims, Blue Valley North
Clint Rider, Blue Valley Northwest
Brandon Clark, Derby
Randall Zimmerman, Junction City
Steve Rampy, Lawrence
Bo Black, SM Northwest
Chris McCartney, Olathe North
Sports in Kansas 5A Coach of the Year Finalists
Joel Applebee, Mill Valley
Steve Martin, Wichita Northwest
Mike Vernon, Hutchinson
Weston Schartz, Kapaun
Dusty Trail, Bishop Carroll
Sports in Kansas 4A Coach of the Year Finalists
Tom Radke, St. James Academy (ALL CLASSES COY)
Lee Weber, Rose Hill
Wes Bell, El Dorado
Jon Weimers, Arkansas City (4A COY)
Bo Graham, Fort Scott
Weston Moody, Wamego
Sports in Kansas 3A Coach of the Year Finalists
Mike Paramore, Perry-Lecompton
Dylan Schmidt, Andale
Troy Black, Collegiate
Brooks Barta, Holton
Mitch Gebhardt, SE Saline
Shelby Wehrman, Cheney
Kyle Littrell, Prairie View
Sports in Kansas 2A Coach of the Year Finalists
Derick Hammes, Rossville
Zach Baird, Hoisington
Warren Seitz, Nemaha Central
Brad Gober, Beloit
Andrew Gantenbein, Osage City
Brandon Wilkes, Maur Hill-MA
Thomas Cooprider & Drew Thalmann, Haven
Sports in Kansas 1A Coach of the Year Finalists
Scott Jones, Lyndon
Chris Schmidt, Olpe
Lance Sawyer, Inman
Jeff Hennick, Oakley
Sports in Kansas 8M-I Coach of the Year Finalists
Alex McMillian, Madison
Grant Salmans, South Gray
Brody Vandegrift, Chase County
Kevin Ayers, Little River
Brant Douglas, Leoti-Wichita Co.
Lance Baar, Hoxie
Sports in Kansas 8M-II Coach of the Year Finalists
Matt Heuer, Hanover
Nick Fawcett, St. Francis
Doug Oberle, Victoria
Nick McAnulty, Colony-Crest
Jesse Vincent, Wheatland-Grinnell
Sports in Kansas 6-Man Coach of The Year Finalists
Lance McGuire, Cunningham
Chris Walden, Cheylin
Brett Harp, Moscow
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