Family affair for Wallace County
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Wallace County High School football team has 21 players. However, the Wildcats, 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in Eight-Man Division II in the statewide media poll, have six sets of brothers, a rarity for any high school team, especially one of Kansas' smallest squads.
The close-knit family plays host to 11-0 Beloit/St. John's-Tipton and the Blujays' athletic, experienced group on Saturday in the sub-state championship game. Start time is 3 p.m (central).
Wallace County defeated St. John's-Tipton 56-6 in the first round of the playoffs last season and has basically every player back.
Senior lineman Clay Schemm and sophomore fullback/linebacker Luke Schemm are two starters. Senior Tyrell Springsteel and junior Peyton Springsteel are lineman and defensive back, respectively. Senior Callahan Grund and freshman Chisum Grund play defensive back and line. Wallace County also has junior running back Nate Klinge and freshman Gabe Klinge and junior Ivan Montes and freshman Sammy Aquino.
"It makes it pretty fun," coach Kevin Ayers said. "It's obviously something that we have some fun with in practice once in awhile, big brothers, little brothers. I think it's a special thing to play the game of football with your brother, and I know these guys on our team definitely know that, so it creates a fun atmosphere."
Senior quarterback Kyle Gfeller has liked playing with his brother, sophomore quarterback Eric Gfeller.
"It's fun," Kyle Gfeller said. "You get a lot of good competition out at practice. I know me and my brother, Eric, kind of get at it. He picked me off the other day. ... I have a lot of family, just all around, it's fun. It's nice, we are a really tight group actually, everyone is."
Several of the brothers have led the Wildcats' undefeated season and No. 1 eight-man scoring defense. Gfeller leads the team with 564 passing yards, 748 rushing yards and 28 scores accounted for. Gfeller was a little banged up in his shins after last Saturday's win against Dighton, but Ayers said Gfeller will definitely play this weekend.
Luke Schemm has rushed 45 times for 433 yards and nine scores and leads the team with 60 tackles, while Clay Schemm has nine sacks, .5 more than Springsteel.
"If you make a mistake, you have got a brother there to help you out," Clay Schemm said. "If you are down or if you are hurting, there is always somebody by your side to pick you up and keep you going."
Wallace County earned a 51-6 victory against Dighton last week, but held the Hornets to 53 rushing yards on 39 carries. However, Hornet freshman quarterback Tyler Lingg completed 14 of 17 passes for 151 yards and a score. Defending the pass and the big play is the No. 1 concern for Ayers against a Blujay offense that features junior quarterback Trey Dubbert and 6-foot-4 senior wideout Luke Eilert. After a sub-state run in 2009, the Blujays had no juniors and seniors in '10, and went winless. The program won just two games in 2011. Last year, it moved to 8-2, and this season has yielded another improvement.
"It's just this time of the year where you are going to get teams that have these kinds of weapons," Ayers said. "We have got to do what we can to stop them. Plays over 30 and 40 yards - man they are explosive. Big play after big play."
Dubbert has 63 completions in 109 attempts for 1,082 yards and a 20/3 TD/INT ratio. Luke Eilert has 26 catches for 483 yards and 12 scores and posed a big matchup problem in a 22-16 victory last Saturday versus Victoria. The Knights covered him with the corner and normally brought the safety over the top. Still, he hauled in four catches for 77 yards and a TD.
"Luke is my favorite target," Dubbert said. "He has huge hands, which makes it easy to catch. With him being able to jump over everybody, it makes it a lot easier for me to lay it in there for him, because he can go up and get the ball most of the time when we get it for him."
Ayers will use multiple coverages to defend the passing attack.
"He can throw it a long ways, and when the ball is in the air, that's when he excels," Ayers said. "He is 6-foot-4 and he can jump. He adjusts to the ball well. Very difficult to just stop and then they have other weapons, too, so you can't just completely focus on just one game. They have an excellent screen game and run the ball effectively."