Central Christian looking for first semifinal appearance

Central Christian looking for first ever semifinal appearance (submitted photo)
By: Sports in Kansas - Sean Boston
Nov 9, 2017

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A spot in the KSHSAA history books will be on the line when the Hutchinson Central Christian Cougars step on the field in Scandia on Friday night for the 8-Man Division II quarterfinal game.

The Cougars enter the playoff game with Pike Valley with a perfect 10-0 record and just 56 points away from breaking the single-season 8-man record for total points scored in a season. The Cougars have scored 60 or more points in all 10 games this year and have scored 704 total points this season.

The 70.4 points per game put up by the Cougars is also on pace to break the previous record of 65.0 set in 2014 by Fairfield, which the Falcons did in nine games. So, will the Cougars continue their remarkable season and earn a sport or two in the record books?

When the Cougars take the field on Friday night against Pike Valley (10-0) a lot more is at stake than breaking records, but a spot in the 8-Man Division II semifinals is also at stake for the team that wins.

The Cougars offense has been led by senior quarterback, Nate Heneha. Heneha has been the workhorse for this offense and the numbers don’t like. He’s completed 60-of-79 passes for 922 yards, 19 touchdowns and no interceptions, while also running for 1,044 yards on 80 carries and 21 touchdowns. Heneha doesn’t just get it done on the offensive side of the ball, as he has 41 tackles and a team-high five interceptions.

Garrett Burns leads the team with 100 tackles and 2 sacks, and is second on the team with 929 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. This is a Cougars team that is averaging over 400 yards of offense every night and some of the games have been called at halftime due to the score, so this is a team that can light up the scoreboard and statbook in many different ways. They also don’t turn the ball over, as they have just four turnovers on the season.

Central Christian will be looking for its first ever semifinal appearance with a win on Friday over Pike Valley. They have just six playoff wins as a school and are in the quarterfinal round for the second consecutive year, while it's their third appearance in school history. We caught up with head coach Lee Smith and quarterback Nate Heneha below. 

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This feature is presented by the Central Christian Booster Club as they would like to wish the football team best of luck this week. The Central Christian Booster Club is a proud supporter of Central Christian Athletics. 

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Q&A w/ coach Lee Smith

What is the game plan for stopping Pike Valley on Friday night?

We need to tackle well.  Be physical at the LOS.  They are an experienced team that knows how to play "playoff football".  

What have you been most impressed with in your team this season?

The way they have consistently practiced and played each game with a high level of effort and a good attitude.

What will it take to make it through a very tough playoff bracket?

We talk about "purposing in our heart" (Daniel 1:8) that we will push ourselves through pain, through fatigue, through adversity in these games.  I believe that we must play with a purpose and desire that is unmatched in order to continue in the bracket.

How does playing in your league prepare you for the postseason?

We are able to see many different styles of play, many different quality players, and are able to use those games to prepare for playoffs.

You've scored 60+ points in all 10 games so far this season, what does that tell you about your offense?

We have an offense that is capable of scoring.  We also can be shut down if we don't play with 100% effort and 100% focus each and every play.  Our offense is predicated upon our football players being smart and blocking till the whistle.  We must raise our level of play in order to continue to score against the teams we are going to face.

Who are some of your top players and what makes them so good?

Our seniors have been very good for us.  JT Duree (5'11", 250 lb) is one of the top linemen in the state.  He is quick and powerful and understands the game.  Kyle Krehbiel has been an excellent center and defensive end for us.  His understanding of the game is top-notch. Corbin Gibson is one of those guys that can play every down of every game and you can count on him.  He has tremendous speed and quickness for a guard and does an excellent job at DE.  Nate Heneha plays QB and CB for us and has improved his game each and every year.  Our offense runs through him and he has done a great job of guiding us.  On defense, he has made many big plays, both interceptions and he is a solid tackler..

Q&A w/ Nate Heneha

What is the game plan for stopping Pike Valley on Friday?

The game plan is to just play our game,and compete hard and play for the lord

What’s it like playing 8-man football?

8-man has a lot bigger chance for explosive plays and for one man to have big stats 

What makes this offense so deadly?

What makes our offense so deadly is that we have so many weapons. Every guy on the field can score for us. And take one to the house 

What’s your favorite thing about 8-man football?

My favorite thing about 8 man football is the strategy. Coach always has a great game plan, he’s always steps ahead.

Have you always been a QB?

I started to by quarterback in 7 grade and when I got to high school I just stuck with it. Do you play defense as well?

How many players are on the team?

21

You’ve been a workhorse with passing and running the ball this year. What makes you so good?

I’ve worked really hard at throwing, when I was younger I was a running back and always had good vision. But throwing it took a lot of reps and hard work to get good at it. But most of my talent is a God given ability.

What will it take to make it through such a tough bracket?

It will take the team bonding together and playing our best ball each and every week 

Do you have any game day routines?

I like to get some earbuds and listen to my music, just sit back and relax try to go over the game plan in my head.

What’s your favorite local restaurant in or around Hutch?

Fiesta Grande, it’s a hole is the wall taco place it’s my favorite place in all of Hutch no doubt.

What’re your plans after Central Christian?

Id like to play ball in either football or basketball.

What would it mean to you and the program to win a state title?

It would be huge, our school hasn’t even came close to winning a state title in football it would be monumental.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I enjoy doing puzzles with my mom and grandparents. It’s dorky none the less I love the family time with them and it helps us bond