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Top story of 2012: Ness City Eagles soar

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Ness City's senior-laden squad experienced a picture-perfect ending to their prep football careers this fall.

After falling in the first round of the playoffs their sophomore and junior seasons, the Ness City seniors dominated every team they faced en route to a 13-0 record and Eight-Man Division I state championship -- the first in their school's history.

Frankly, no team even came close to them, and that's why Ness City earned a spot as one of The Hays Daily News top sports moments in 2012.

"I think the best feeling for me is these boys got what they deserved," said Ness City third-year head coach Chris Bamberger after the state championship game. "They worked so hard for this."

Ness City averaged defeating teams by 43.8 points per game and posted one of the best defensive seasons eight-man football has seen in recent history.

The Eagles' defense allowed 70 points all season -- 5.4 a game. It was the fewest points allowed by an eight-man team since Victoria allowed 66 in 2007, according to preppowerindex.com, but the Knights did it with two fewer games.

"It gives me chills," said senior defensive end Blake McVicker, regarding what Ness City's defense accomplished in 2012.

Ness City was loaded with talent this season, boasting senior starters at every offensive and defensive position.

McVicker anchored the defense with 111 tackles -- an impressive total for a defensive lineman. He also led the team with 8.5 sacks and nine quarterback hurries.

Ness City's defense forced 34 turnovers (21 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries), posted five shutouts and never gave up more than 14 points in a game.

Offensively, the two-headed backfield of senior fullback Dalton Gantz and senior running back Garrett Flax ran for 1,155 yards and 1,152 yards, respectively. Gantz scored 25 touchdowns, while Flax had 16.

Senior quarterback Koltyn Ratliff completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 747 yards, 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions while also running for 424 yards and 12 TDs.

Flax. a star return specialist, averaged 26.8 yards per punt return and 30.2 yards per kickoff return.

"Top to bottom, the kids who played on the varsity field and the kids who didn't, they all bought in and they all worked hard," Bamberger said.

Even the Eagles' opponent in the state championship game, Mankato-Rock Hills, couldn't challenge Ness City.

The Eagles won 40-8, and Rock Hills touchdown came late after the game was already over.

Rock Hills managed 153 total yards against Ness City's shutdown defense, while the Eagles compiled 377.

"(Ness City's defensive players) play incredibly fast," said Rock Hills coach Sam Meyers after the state title game. "We could tell they were fast on film, but they were even faster in person."

After winning his final game at Ness City, Ratliff said it was a special season.

"It feels amazing," Ratliff said. "Words cannot describe how good this feels. We are just one big happy family right now."