Weskan a big surprise
Published on -10/4/2012, 10:26 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
For three years, the Weskan High School football team had Matt Kuykendall at quarterback, where he earned all-state honors. In the offseason before 2011, veteran coach Marc Cowles was uncertain who was going to play the position. Sam McKinney, formerly an end, talked with Cowles and said "I want to do this." McKinney took over and passed for 718 yards with a 14/4 TD/INT ratio last season. Weskan won four games after winless seasons in '08 and '09 and three victories in '10.
This season, McKinney is one of nine juniors and seniors, many who are returning starters, for arguably the state's biggest surprise. Weskan is 5-0, 2-0 in Eight-Man, Division II, District 6 and is ranked No. 4 in the statewide media poll.
"We had some expectations," Cowles, 51-51 in his 11th year, said. "I think we all kind of thought this was a possibility, but not that we expected it."
Of the 35 squads ranked in the statewide media poll, 30 of them won at least seven games last season. The five that didn't all won four games -- Class 6A Topeka High, Class 5A Salina South and St. Thomas Aquinas, Eight-Man Division I Atwood and Weskan. However, South and Atwood were each among the favorites in their respective classes in the preseason, while Aquinas is a longtime state power. Topeka was expected to be much improved. Weskan has enjoyed the program's best start since reaching the second round of the playoffs in 2005.
The Coyotes have outscored opponents 250-46 and rank fourth in scoring offense and second in scoring defense.
"They have a lot of good athletes," Rexford-Golden Plains coach Travis Smith said.
On Friday, Weskan travels to Bird City-Cheylin (3-2, 2-1) in a key contest that could decide a playoff berth.
"Weskan, they are doing some good things, some good kids back," Cheylin coach Max Keltz said. "Cowles is a really good coach, so we will have our work cut out for us, for sure."
This season, though, had roots in the winless records of '09 and '10. In one of those years, the Coyotes had just 12 players out. Weskan had just 14 boys in the whole school. One class had two girls and no boys. Many current seniors, including McKinney, had to play as freshman.
"Really, Fridays were miserable. Fridays were no fun," Cowles, who led the Coyotes to the 2004 sub-state championship, said. "But with that group, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, you couldn't tell if we were 0-8 or if we were 8-0. They never got down. They came and they worked hard and a lot of it was just a product of numbers."
Weskan put in a spread option offense under Kuykendall and has ran it often with McKinney, one of the Coyotes' bigger players at 170 pounds and a natural leader. McKinney, also a starter at defensive end, has completed 37 of 60 passes for 750 yards with an 18/0 TD/INT ratio and has a team-high five rushing TDs. Junior left end/cornerback Hayden Walker leads the eight-man ranks with 19 catches for 484 yards and 12 scores, according to maxpreps.com.
The Coyotes also start senior tailback/free safety Brandan Escamilla, senior end/cornerback Jared McKinney, junior fullback/linebacker Tyler Compton, senior guard/defensive end Nick Smith, junior center/nose guard Leyton Miller and junior guard/linebacker Robert Martin for a team that now has 16 players.
"We've kind of tried to watch or mimic what K-State is doing with Collin Klein," Cowles said.
"That's kind of what we like to do with our quarterback. Because he is a big kid and we don't have many big kids. ... He is tough and he is willing to run like a fullback when he needs to and step back and throw when he needs to."