8M-I: Lyndon claims first title behind Heckel's big day

Lyndon captured the schools' first state football title. (photo courtesy of Lyndon High School)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Nov 25, 2023

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NEWTON – Tanner Heckel was not going to be denied.

The Lyndon senior quarterback had enjoyed a spectacular last three years with Inman. He paced the Teutons to a 2A state track title last spring. Heckel cleared 1,000 career points in basketball, including an 18-4 record last winter that ended in sub-state to eventual state champion Moundridge. Inman took state runner-up in football the last two falls, including a remarkable game against St. Marys last year. St. Marys went 99 yards and scored in the final seconds.

Heckel, on the short list for Kansas’ best male athlete, transferred to Lyndon when his mother took a teaching and coaching position with the school. His well-publicized move served as a pivot point and top storyline for the 2023 high school football season. It also elevated a talented Lyndon squad that finished 8-3 last fall.

Lyndon and defending champion Leoti-Wichita County were ranked first and second in some form all year.

On Saturday, Lyndon completed the first state football title in school history with a 34-6 victory in the Eight-Man, Division I state championship game in snowy conditions at Newton’s Fischer Field.

Snow fell throughout the contest and continually blanketed the field. The game was moved up 30 minutes to 10:30 a.m. because of the weather conditions.

Lyndon finished 13-0 in its second year of eight-man football. The Tigers halted Wichita County’s 25-game winning streak. The Indians finished 12-1.

Heckel accounted for 50 rushing scores and 19 passing on the season. He also returned three interceptions for touchdowns. Heckel rushed for more TDs in one season than many of the Kansas’ top all-time backs, including Rossville’s Tucker Horak, Hill City's Reggie Jordan, Conway Springs’ Tanner Wood, Thunder Ridge’s Joel Struckhoff, and Topeka High’s Ky Thomas. All were Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and/or state record holders.

Wichita County had led Division I in scoring offense each of the last five seasons, including a state record 792 points last year. The Indians had an average score of 62-10 entering Saturday. Wichita County had not scored under 48 points in any contest this year. Saturday marked Wichita County’s fewest points since a 46-0 loss at St. Francis in Week 6 of 2019.

Wichita County moved to 1-2 in state title games under coach Brant Douglas. The Indians scored 58 points in a state title loss to Little River in 2020 and 54 points in a victory last year.

The athletic Heckel, the clear pick for Eight-Man, Division I Offensive Player of the Year, cleared 2,200 rushing and 1,000 passing yards this fall. Lineman Kaedin Massey is a top-three Kansas prospect in the Class of 2024 and has committed to Kansas State. Senior Jalen Massey rushed for more than 1,300 yards.

Jalen Massey scored the first touchdown for Lyndon. Then, Wichita County turned the ball over on downs at their own 37-yard line. On the next play, Heckel rushed 37 yards for a score.

Heckel tallied a four-yard rushing TD for an 18-0 lead.

Wichita County quarterback Wyatt Gardner rushed for a short touchdown that closed the game to 18-6 at halftime.

Heckel opened the second half with a 52-yard TD run and tallied a 36-yard rushing score. He rushed 29 times for 259 yards and delivered Lyndon’s first-ever state football title.


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