HDN All-Area Super 11 Capsules 2013
5-10, 170, Jr.
Jack Garcia comes from a family who loves football. He has followed in the footsteps of Joey and Jeremy, his brothers who also played quarterback for La Crosse. Garcia, in his second season as a starter, has never felt pressure.
"I know I have teammates around me that are just as good as me," Garcia said.
In the summer, Garcia worked often with senior wide receiver Taylor Yohe, junior wide receiver/special teams returner Andrew Jay and senior Marshall Jay.
"It's because of my teammates," Garcia said. "I was so much more comfortable with them. I wasn't the young guy anymore. I stepped up as a junior this year and the seniors made it easy for me."
As a sophomore, Garcia completed 80 of 135 passes for 1,397 yards with 16 TDs against six interceptions and 210 rushing yards. This fall, he was 92 of 173 for 2,077 yards with 31 scores and 11 INTs. He also rushed 130 times for 669 yards and 11 scores. Garcia was one of five Kansas juniors to exceed 2,000 passing yards, according to maxpreps.com.
Garcia stepped up in the playoffs with strong games against Oakley and Meade. Against Oakley, he scored the game's first TD on a fourth down run from seven yards. In the final seconds, he found Marshall Jay on another fourth down TD from 5 yards out for a 12-7 win.
"There were some games that I didn't think that Jack was going to let us lose this year," Webster said.
5-11, 150, Sr.
Wallace County coach Kevin Ayers has made a habit of developing players under center who can beat you in multiple ways. Kyle Gfeller, leading the Wildcats back to the Eight-Man Division II state title game for the first time since 2007, was no different.
The senior threw for 660 yards and 11 scores to two interceptions, rushed for 883 yards and 20 touchdowns, and racked up 1,247 all-purpose yards. He had 192 kickoff return yards and 27 punt return yards.
Gfeller also was the team's second-leading tackler with 52 (28 solo). What set Gfeller apart from many eight-man players, was his, and Wallace County's, ability to kick the ball.
Gfeller was 6 of 7 on PAT attempts, and was 3 for 3 on field goals. He hit a season-long 38-yarder in the sub-state championship game, a 31-6 win against Beloit/St. John's-Tipton. His other two field goals were a 35-yarder against Hoxie in Week 2, and a 32-yarder against Thunder Ridge in the first round of the playoffs.
Gfeller was one of six sets of brothers on the Wildcats this season. His younger brother, Eric, was the team's backup QB. The Wildcats averaged 37.5 points per game, and had only one contest within a touchdown prior to falling to undefeated Baileyville-B&B in the state title game.
"A great season," Gfeller said following the title game. "Just came up a little short. I'm proud of my guys. I will miss them."
6-2, 175, Sr.
Marshall Jay perpetually exudes a calm and collected personality.
"I feel emotion," he said. "I don't like showing it very much."
Jay's quiet presence helped lead La Crosse to a 12-1 record and berth against Centralia in the Class 2-1A state championship game. Jay and senior safety Taylor Yohe were the lone Leopards with more than two years of starting experience. Jay took over for Shrine Bowler Kip Keeley at middle linebacker and finished with a team-high 103 tackles, including 16 for loss, second-most. For his career, Jay had 191 tackles, 21 for loss.
For the last four years, Bill Keeley, Kip's dad and longtime coach, coached the Leopards' defense. Bill Keeley stepped aside this year and Chris Delimont moved into the new role.
"I take pride in defense," Jay said. "Just goes back to when Mr. Keeley was here, linebackers setting the edge. You have to be ticked off if you don't make every tackle. It didn't really change a whole lot. Mr. Delimont really stepped into it perfect and he wasn't always as lively as Mr. Keeley, but he got the job done."
Offensively, Jay moved from end to running back after the first month and finished with 89 carries for 652 yards and six scores. In the first three playoff games, he had 78, 98, and 90 yards. Jay also caught 14 passes for 345 yards and six TDs.
5-9, 150, Jr.
As a sophomore in 2012, Connor Katt was the Indians' third-leading rusher on a 10-2 team that fell in the first round of the Eight-Man Division I playoffs.
To start 2013, opposing defenses might have been keying in on what returning senior quarterback Chase Kennedy could do.
It didn't take long for teams to start focusing on Katt -- even though not many were successful at slowing him down.
Katt finished with 215 carries for 1,666 yards and 29 scores, leading the Indians to their deepest playoff run since 1981. Hoxie was 10-2 and fell in the Eight-Man Division I sub-state championship game to eventual runner-up Jetmore-Hodgeman County.
Katt averaged 138.8 yards per game, and scored once on every seven touches. He led the Indians in all-purpose yards with 2,055 as the team's primary kick and punt returner.
"Any time we gave him the ball, he could bust it for that lone one," Indian coach Lance Baar said. "Even in traffic, he was very good.
"If there wasn't anything there, he would put his shoulder down and get ready for a hit. He's an explosive athlete."
Katt also was the team's fourth-leading tackler with 5.3 per game. In only two games did Katt fail to reach the 100-yard mark in rushing.
Hoxie's big three of Katt, junior fullback Josh Heim and Kennedy combined for 3,177 rushing yards and 55 scores.
6-2, 230, Jr.
Throughout the season, teams had to figure out a way to get past Oakley junior nose guard Ryan Kuhn. Even in the second round of the playoffs, La Crosse often ran away from Kuhn in the middle. Still, Kuhn finished with four tackles for loss and three sacks in a 12-7 loss.
"He is such a good player," La Crosse coach Jon Webster said.
That performance was nearly replicated all fall for Kuhn, the fulcrum for Kansas' No. 1 ranked defense with just 39 points allowed.
Kuhn, the Class 2-1A District 7 Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, improved this season with a slimmer frame.
Kuhn recovered six fumbles for an 8-2 team. In the final three games, Kuhn was in on 10 tackles for loss.
"I just got faster with my feet was able to move faster with my hands," he said.
Offensively, Kuhn, the starting center, helped Oakley's power running game average 41 points per contest in coach Randall Rath's final season.
The Plainsmen put up 50 or more five times, and 70 or more twice.
Rath announced his resignation shortly after the year started.
5-9, 193, SR.
Cody Lee had played linebacker his first three seasons with La Crosse and recorded 45 tackles, one for loss and no sacks. Lee moved to defensive line this season out of necessity and was a little undersized at 5-foot-9, 193 pounds. However, Lee had a great offseason.
"The work he did this offseason was just crazy," La Crosse junior quarterback Jack Garcia said. "He is not the biggest guy, but he has the biggest heart out there. He worked so hard this offseason to get stronger and faster. He is a lot quicker than most of those big linemen."
Lee finished with 86 tackles and led La Crosse with 23 tackles for loss, 19 quarterback hurries and six sacks. He said his best game came in a 40-8 victory against Plainville in Week 4 (9 tackles, 5 TFLs, 1 sack).
"He looked like he was in a street brawl every Friday night right after the game, especially after Oakley and Meade (in playoffs), but he kept going, and he never flinched," coach Jon Webster said.
Lee helped La Crosse overcome the loss of junior end Sheldon Schmidt to a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 and finish 12-1 with a Class 2-1A runner-up showing. Lee plans to enter the Marines.
"I worked all four years of my high school career as hard as I could," Lee said. "My size and everything, it gave me kind of an advantage on some people. I was kind of surprised, but I was very confident in what I could do."
6-3, 200, Sr.
There weren't many players as intimidating at the eight-man level as Osborne's Maverick LeRock.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior was arguably the most important factor in the Bulldogs' 13-0 season, which ended with a 56-8 rout of Hodgeman County in the Eight-Man Division I state title game.
LeRock was the team's fullback on offense, where he blocked for senior running back Kenton Ubelaker (1,545 rushing yards) and sophomore quarterback Jake Tiernan (694 yards rushing, 1,653 yards passing, 39 total touchdowns). But LeRock also touched the ball plenty, and was nearly unstoppable when he did.
LeRock finished the season with 1,344 yards on 164 carries, an 8.2 yards per carry average. He ran for at least 115 yards in each of the last five games of the season. LeRock rushed for 27 touchdowns on the season. LeRock was terrific out of the backfield as well, catching 22 passes for 375 yards and four more scores.
As impressive as he was on offense, LeRock really stood out on defense. He moved to nose guard this season and was a nightmare for opposing offenses.
He had 72 tackles, four for loss, to go with seven sacks and one interception. He had three sacks alone in the Bulldogs' 68-52 playoff win over Marais des Cygnes Valley.
The senior captain ran for 3,027 yards in his career with 51 rushing touchdowns.
5-8, 165, Jr.
When Trent Rietzke stepped into a starting role for the Thunder Ridge Longhorns as a sophomore, he had big shoes to fill from the previous season in Kansas' all-time leading eight-man rusher in Joel Struckhoff.
A year later, Rietzke has shown similar playmaking ability in Longhorn coach Jerry Voorhees' system.
Rietzke brings his own style, though, to the backfield for the Longhorns, and a few other unique qualities that have helped along the way.
"Trent is just a phenomenal kid," Voorhees said of his junior tailback. "He just works so hard -- in the weight room and on the field. He hardly ever missed a day."
It led to Rietzke putting up incredible numbers in 2013, a season that ended with the Longhorns falling to eventual Eight-Man Division II state runner-up Sharon Springs-Wallace County in the playoffs.
A shifty runner, Rietzke piled up nearly 1,400 rushing yards and scored 24 times in the run game. In addition, he was the Longhorns' primary kick and punt returner, and played at least two different positions on defense.
"He's just a tough kid," Voorhees said. "He's a very shifty runner, and he's quick to hit the hole."
The junior also has shown great leadership qualities. On a team with six seniors,
Rietzke was elected one of three captains by his teammates in preseason. He'll be relied on heavily for the Longhorns in 2014.
5-9, 180, Sr.
The Osborne Bulldogs set a school record with 760 points this season en route to a 13-0 record and Eight-Man Division I state title, their first since a Class 3A title in 1983.
The production centered on an unstoppable trio in the backfield, led by senior running back Kenton Ubelaker.
Ubelaker, at 5-foot 9 and 180 pounds, finished the season with 1,545 yards on 186 carries (8.31 average per carry) and 25 rushing touchdowns. He was undervalued as a receiver, where he caught 37 passes for 533 yards and nine more touchdowns. To top it off, Ubelaker was 11 of 14 passing for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Though Ubelaker is known more for his speed, Osborne football coach Steve Tiernan said he brought just as much power to the field. He accounted for more than 2,600 all-purpose yards while also serving as one of the team's punt and kick returners.
Ubelaker was key on defense as well, where he finished with 111 tackles (five tackles for loss), and four interceptions. Though rarely needed in this fashion, Ubelaker also punted for the Bulldogs, averaging 36.0 yards a punt.
Four of his eight punt attempts landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Ubelaker finished his career with 2,773 rushing yards, 1,479 receiving yards and 78 total touchdowns, most coming as a junior and senior.
5-11, 200, Sr.
Coming off a spring where he broke his tibia, Hays High School senior running back Preston Weigel was somewhat of an unknown coming into the season.
All those question marks have long been erased as Weigel rushed for 1,188 yards (with 6.1 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns for the 6-3 Indians. At times this season, Weigel single-handedly carried the team, especially after starting junior quarterback Alex Delton was forced to miss time due to injury.
Weigel rushed for more than 100 yards in seven of nine games, including a season high 200 yards on 38 carries against Dodge City. He had multiple touchdowns in five games.
"You look at the Dodge game with Alex out, he carried it 30-plus times and took the game over," Hays High football coach Ryan Cornelsen said. "He is a very strong kid. Plays awfully hard. Very tough. But I think people sometimes underestimate him -- he's also fast ... just a great overall football player." Weigel was second in the WAC in rushing yards, first among running backs. His 14 rushing touchdowns were third in the WAC, again first among running backs.
This was his first and only season playing running back for Hays High after playing fullback the previous two seasons, blocking for two-time WAC player of the year David Cardinal.
6-4, 205, Sr. RB/LB/P/K
In the final two games of the season, Grant Wickham turned into a go-to guy for Phillipsburg. And he did it with a knee injury.
That just might show how tough the all-around athlete for the Panthers really is. Wickham injured his left knee in the Norton game (Week 9), but played through the pain in the final two games where Phillipsburg finished 1-1 after a nailbiting 24-21 loss to defending Class 3A state champion Scott City.
"He was huge," Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington said of Wickham, the Panthers' leading rusher with 889 yards, the team's fourth-leading tackler with 80, the team's kicker as well as its punter. "He became our go-to guy down the stretch."
Then after the season, Wickham finally took the time to heal. He just had knee surgery earlier this week, and hopes to be back in January as a key guy for the Panthers' basketball team.
Wickham averaged 80.8 rushing yards per game and found the end zone a team-high 13 times. He also was a favorite target for senior quarterback Riley Juenemann. Wickham caught 11 balls for 319 yards with a team-high four touchdowns. He averaged 39.4 yards per punt and planted seven inside the 20.
Wickham, whose two older brothers earned All-American honors at Hastings (Neb.) College in track and field, has always leaned toward following suit in track, but Covington said he is open to football as well.
"He picked up where he left of (as a junior)," Covington said. "And made some big improvements. With the type of athlete he is, it was just a matter of him getting a little confidence. Once he got that, he just kind of took off."