Latham Schwarz (Offensive Player of the Year)

5-8, 160, Sr., RB/DB


Many times during a state championship run in Eight-Man Division I, Schwarz put the Indians on his back — particularly on the offensive side.

It seemed to always come at key times, especially when it came to the playoffs. Against Coldwater-South Central in the team’s second-round playoff game, the Indians were trailing and Schwarz, who switched to quarterback in the Wildcat formation, threw a touchdown pass that provided a spark in an eventual come-from-behind win.

Schwarz’s production was phenomenal as the senior rushed for 1,718 yards on 265 carries and 35 touchdowns as Hoxie won the school’s first state championship. He also caught 12 passes for 179 yards and two scores.

Dalton Kuhn (Defensive Player of the Year)

6-2, 240, Sr., OL/DL/K

Smith Center

Sure to be playing on Saturdays next fall — it’s just a matter of where — Kuhn saved one of his best seasons with the Redmen for last, leading a Smith Center defense that was nothing short of dominant in a run to the Class 2-1A state championship. Kuhn had 95 tackles, including 20 for loss, to go along with four sacks for a loss of 17 yards. Kuhn, also the team’s kicker and one of the team’s top offensive linemen, had a season-high 14 tackles in a win against Republic County, and reached double digits in tackles three times. He also recorded eight quarterback hurries.

Kirk Coomes

6-0, 210, Sr., RB/LB


For at least eight games during the regular season — all blowouts — Phillipsburg didn’t play its starters much past halftime. Occasionally, the starting group would play into the third quarter.

That was enough time for a dominant Coomes to post 1,188 yards on the ground and rush for 19 touchdowns. Plus, he was a threat this season in the passing game, taking two of his three receptions for touchdowns, amassing 105 yards.

The potential collegiate player — perhaps Division I — has started since his sophomore season. On defense, Coomes racked up 50 tackles (13 solo) with five tackles for loss on a 12-1 Panther team that had nine games where they allowed a touchdown or less — with three shutouts.

Chris Cox

5-10, 230, Sr., FB/DL


Transferring from Oakley High School, Cox might have been the missing piece to the puzzle for Hoxie. He filled a big hole if the Indians had one.

And it just might have been the boost the Indians needed as the school captured its first state football championship in dominant fashion with a 54-14 win against St. Paul.

Hoxie finished 12-1 and had one of the most dominant defensive performances in the state, and Cox was a big reason why. The 5-foot-10, 230-pounder collected a whopping 27 tackles for loss among his 68 tackles (41 solos), and had 13.5 sacks.

If that wasn’t enough, he often was used as a fullback, netting 394 yards and 11 scores — mostly in short-yardage situations.

Hayden Gillum

6-3, 250, Sr., OL/RB/DL


Already a versatile option on defense, Gillum proved in 2017 he could be a multi-use offensive weapon as well.

Normally an offensive lineman, Gillum moved into the backfield at times for the Cardinals through an 8-4 campaign that ended a game short of a repeat trip to the 2-1A title game. Gillum made the most of his 44 offensive carries with 308 yards and three scores. His presence was probably more felt on defense, though. The senior collected 13.5 tackles for loss for the Cardinals. Of his 68 total tackles, 35 were solo, and he led the team with three fumble recoveries. Gillum also served as an anchor on the offensive line, while Jared Casey also served in the versatile role, switching from a lineman to running back at times for the Cardinals.

John Gower

5-11, 185, Sr., FB/LB


Defense is John Gower’s forte. He was a motor on that side of a ball for a dominant Phillipsburg defense that rarely was on the field in the third and fourth quarters for most of the season. Gower racked up 108 tackles, with eight for loss. He also was second on the team with five interceptions, returned for a total of 69 yards.

The three-year starter also provided a solid option out of the Panther backfield yet again. He carried the ball 120 times for 703 yards, averaging 63 yards per game, and racked up 11 rushing touchdowns. His 120 carries ranked second on the team behind Kirk Coomes. Gower’s biggest game came in the second round of the playoffs, a 47-7 win at Hesston. Gower rushed for 115 yards and three scores.

Avery Hawkins

6-0, 230, Sr., TE/LB

Smith Center

Hawkins was the top tackler on a Smith Center defense that turned in a dominating run to the Class 2-1A state championship. Outside of a 23-0 loss to 3A power Phillipsburg, the Redmen allowed just 55 points all year. That included giving up just seven in the 2-1A state title game against St. Mary’s-Colgan. Hawkins had 102 tackles, including 16 for loss, taking advantage of the fact many teams doubled up teammate Dalton Kuhn. In addition, the blocking tight end helped pave the way in Smith Center’s wishbone run-heavy attack that had more than 4,400 yards on the ground. When he did get the opportunity in the passing game, Hawkins caught four passes for 65 yards.

 David McFarland

5-11, 155, Sr., QB


The senior quarterback for the Thomas More Prep-Marian football team didn’t take too long to make his mark in 2017.

Right out of the gate in the season opener, McFarland set a new state mark with 648 passing yards in a 32-27 near come-from-behind road win at Abilene. He had four touchdowns in the game en route to breaking the record set in 2011. He also set a new record for passing attempts in the contest with 63.

TMP went on to finish 3-6 from that point, but McFarland continued to pile up the numbers. He finished the year with 2,913 passing yards. Only four players in Kansas passed for more yards, and only one in Class 3A — Jack Blumer of 3A runner-up Marysville who had 13 games to do it.

Jace Ruder

6-3, 205, Sr., QB/DB


Known more as a dual threat quarterback didn’t stop Ruder, who is headed for NCAA Division I, from making history throwing the ball in 2017. A starter for four seasons for the Bluejays, Ruder set the Mid-Continent League’s all-time passing record this fall for a career with 4,817 yards. In Norton’s 7-3 mark and first-round exit from the 3A playoffs, Ruder passed for 1,232 yards and 13 touchdowns. In addition, the speedy senior rushed for 1,032 yards and another 15 scores. He completed 89 passes, averaging 123.2 yards per game. His 45 career passing TDs also set a new MCL mark.

Ruder, who committed to North Carolina last spring, graduates this month. He begins classes in mid-January in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Denton Schurr

5-10, 155, Sr. RB/DB


It could be argued that Schurr’s production was so great because of a great supporting cast Osborne had.

There’s no doubt about that. But even when the supporting offensive threats weren’t there, Schurr was dangerous.

He proved that by going off for 465 yards and seven scores in a Week 5 game against Solomon, certainly no slouch on the Bulldogs’ schedule. That came when quarterback Darnell Holloway and fellow running back Darrien Holloway missed the contest. Schurr carried the ball 49 times in the game. He went on to finish the season with 1,311 rushing yards and 23 scores as the Bulldogs finished 9-2. He also was a playmaker on defense with 75 tackles (5 for loss), four sacks and three interceptions.

Jesse Staples

6-0, 160, Sr., RB/DB

Smith Center

Staples proved one of the most elusive backs in the entire state in a run-heavy Smith Center attack that had a bevy of weapons. Staples proved the most explosive threat, amassing 1,402 yards on the ground, a 116.8 per game average with a team-best 27 rushing scores.

The senior averaged 13.5 yards per carry, and was in the end zone in all but one game, a Week 2 contest against Phillipsburg where he left the game with injury after one carry.

He racked up 628 of his yards in Smith Center’s final three games, to go along with nine scores. In the state title game, he posted 17 carries for 131 yards and scored three times. He had seven games upward of 100 yards. Smith Center had 4,400 yards rushing.

Coach of the Year

Lance Baar

Ninth year (59-29)


Under Baar’s guidance, Hoxie set a new school record for wins and won the school’s first state football championship. And it came just a year after Hoxie missed the playoffs in a brutal schedule in Eight-Man Division I, District 8. The Indians bounced back, though, in a big way, winning the same district despite a 16-8 loss to St. Francis, last year’s state runner-up. However, Hoxie’s point differential proved to be the difference after a three-way tie was forced at the end of the season.

Hoxie outscored its opponents 582-117, including a blowout against St. Paul for the Division I title. It was Hoxie’s third trip to a state title game, but the first in eight-man, and the first since 1981.

All-Area 11-man team

11-man First team

Name Class School

Levi Archer Sr. Goodland

Collyn Auker Sr. Norton

Jared Casey Soph. Plainville

Kaleb Hagans Jr. TMP-Marian

Colton Hutchinson Sr. Smith Center

Jon Hunnacutt Jr. Phillipsburg

Palmer Hutchison Jr. Hays High

Tevin Petrie Sr. Norton

Creighton Renz Sr. TMP-Marian

Jordan Schippers Jr. Colby

Chris VanKooten Sr. Phillipsburg

11-man Second team

Name Class School

Hunter Brown Sr. Hays High

Chase Cellmer Sr. Plainville

Trenton Chisham Sr. Norton

Joseph Eck Sr. Ellis

Treylan Gross Jr. Phillipsburg

Zach Hart Sr. Colby

Trace Haven Sr. Smith Center

Brett Meyer Sr. Smith Center

Dawson Raymer Sr. Goodland

Kadin Trower Sr. La Crosse

Trey Thompson Sr. Phillipsburg

11-man Third team

Name Class School

Ryan Herl Sr. Ellis

Kade Hemmert Jr. Oakley

Brett Herrman Sr. La Crosse

Kasen Keeten Jr. Phillipsburg

Kade Melvin Soph. Norton

Hunter Morgan Soph. La Crosse

Jaron Rathbun Sr. Plainville

Dylan Schmidtberger Sr. Hays High

Trey Sides Jr. Phillipsburg

Jaret Shelton Jr. Phillipsburg

Nate Tedford Sr. Phillipsburg

All-area Eight-Man Team

First team

Name Class School

Roxton Brown Sr. Osborne

Jarrod Dible Jr. Hoxie

Trayton Doyle Sr. St. Francis

Colton Heskett Jr. Hoxie

Luke Higgason Jr. Otis-Bison

Caden Kinderknecht Sr. Northern Valley

Luke Taylor Sr. Victoria

David Thompson Sr. Logan-Palco

Second team

Name Class School

Taylor Burris Sr. Hoxie

Tate Busse Sr. St. Francis

Anton Foust Jr. Otis-Bison

Maverick Green Sr. Atwood

Ethan Hamel Sr. Hill City

Collin Kisner Sr. Victoria

Kade Miller Jr. Osborne

Luke Schippers Sr. Hoxie

Third team

Name Class School

Blake Bahr Sr. Otis-Bison

Blake Bouchey Sr. Logan-Palco

Brennan Chacon Sr. Ness City

Will Crouse Sr. Rawlins County

Drew Cunningham Sr. Lakeside

Darnell Holloway Jr. Osborne

Cooper Pfanenstiel Sr. Victoria

Taye Washington Jr. Hoxie