Wheatland-Grinnell football making big strides

Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News

Wheatland-Grinnell football coach Jesse Vincent added a good Axtell program to the schedule to get a better idea of what his team needed to work on. The Thunderhawks lost 58-18 in their season opener but have won three straight since then, averaging 46 points per game.

“We knew putting Axtell on our schedule was going to be a challenge,” Vincent said. “We wanted that challenge to get a good idea of what we needed to fix, work on.”

The Thunderhawks’ home game against Sharon Springs-Wallace County was moved from Friday to Monday because of quarantine restrictions for the Wallace County program due to possible COVID-19 exposure from an opponent, Vincent said. Wallace County (0-3) also had to move its game against Logan-Palco, losing 92-42 on Tuesday.

Vincent said his team has had to adapt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve tried to use it as a positive teaching tool, just help our boys understand life’s resilience,” Vincent said. “It’s something we can’t control. Any moment it could shut us down. Our focus is on the things we can control.”

Opponents have had trouble controlling the Thunderhawks’ offense. Junior running back Isaac Mendez has rushed for 707 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry.

“He’s a pretty shifty back and has explosive speed,” Vincent said. “He has enough power to break some tackles. When he does, you have a hard time catching him.”

Mendez has rushed for more than 100 yards in each game, with a career-high 241 yards against Stockton and 208 in last week’s 34-26 win over rival Quinter.

“He’s having a breakout year,” Vincent said. “Last year, he had some decent games, but never did rush for that kind of yardage in one game.”

Vincent also is getting big contributions from his two sons. Junior Trey Vincent is the starting quarterback and sophomore Jett Vincent is a ballhawk in the Thunderhawks’ secondary.

Trey Vincent has completed 38-of-73 passes (52 percent) for 547 yards and seven touchdowns.

“That’s a portion of the success that Isaac is having,” Coach Vincent said. “Trey has some pocket savvy. He sees the field well.”

Jett Vincent picked off two passes against Quinter and has five for the season and 18 for his career.

“He does a pretty good job at safety,” Coach Vincent said.

As a wide receiver on offense, Jett Vincent has caught 11 balls, second-best on the team, with 199 yards and five TDs, both leading the Thunderhawks.

Vincent returned seven starters off last year’s 8-2 team, but lost his starting center to a knee injury in Week 2. Vincent thinks this team could be special.

“We do have very high expectations, that coming out of district play we’ll feel pretty confident heading into the playoffs,” said Vincent, in his third year as coach. “If we can keep guys healthy, we have high aspirations.”