1A: Conway Springs runs past Jeff Co. North, 35-6

Brayden Kunz (5) of Conway Springs runs for a long TD vs. JCN. (Everett Royer, KSportsImages.com)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Nov 25, 2023

Share This Story:

HAYS – The banner on the Conway Springs’ football web site shows a large picture of the Cardinals’ seven state championship rings. In bold capital letters, a motto is just below the rings that reads: “We play for the players who came before us and set the standard for the players to come.”

Conway Springs has enjoyed a winning record every season since 1997 and won at least eight games in the last eight years. The Cardinals lost in the state semifinals last fall to Inman.

This fall, Conway Springs defeated Jefferson County North, 35-6, in snowy conditions to win the Class 1A state title on Saturday afternoon at Fort Hays State University. Conway Springs’ single wing churned out 60 carries for 454 yards. The Cardinals threw one pass, an incompletion.

Conway Springs won its first state title since 2011. The Cardinals opened 0-2 against bigger schools and rolled off 11 straight victories. Coach Matt Biehler improved to 140-30 as Conway Springs’ head coach and has served on staff since the ‘90s.

“The leadership that these kids have had has been tremendous,” Biehler said. “…They brought those younger guys in and really developed them, talked about winning the day in practice, everything, and we did that. They practiced very well.”

Conway Springs started with six seniors, though key lineman Gunner Williams suffered an early season non-football injury. Senior Brayden Kunz, a likely Top 11 all classes selection, became the all-time single season rusher in Cardinal history. Conway Springs has enjoyed several of the all-time great backs in Kansas annals, including Brian Doffing and Tanner Wood.

Kunz finished with 34 carries for 313 yards and three rushing scores. Senior Jacob Osner (285 pounds) has anchored the line at center, while senior Blake Pauly (205) was a key blocker, too.

Kunz finished with 295 carries for 2,806 yards and 24 scores. Conway Springs averaged 369 rushing yards a contest, top-five all time for a single year in school annals.

“Just great to have it back in Conway again,” Oeser said.

The previous record came when Wood, a Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year, rushed for 2,709 yards on 256 carries in 2004.

“They have been huge for our success,” Kunz said. “Day in and day out, they have shown up, put the work in, and I couldn’t do what I have done without them. They are the reason for our success. They are the reason we are here.”

Conway Springs led 13-0 after the first quarter. Conway Springs opened with a 12 play, 46 yard drive that churned out 5 minutes and 44 seconds. Fullback Nathan Berntsen powered forward for a five-yard touchdown run. Then, Kunz went around left end for an 87-yard TD run.

“Nathan grinding out those big, tough yards and blocking for Kunz,” Biehler said. “And Kunz just running wild this year, a lot of fun.”

Jefferson County North’s Ethan Noll rushed for a four-yard score in the second quarter. However, Kunz immediately responded with a 54-yard touchdown run. In the fourth quarter, Kunz tallied a four-yard run, while Cade Howell scored from three yards out.

 “Winning a state championship, that’s amazing,” Pauly said. “All of us, we have just been playing together since we were fourth grade, for forever. It’s awesome.”


Conway Springs 35, Jefferson Co. North 6

Conway (11-2):     13 – 8 – 0 – 14 | 35

Jeff Co. North (11-2):   0 -- 6 – 0 – 0 | 6


Scoring Summary:

First quarter:

6:16 | Conway – Nathan Berntsen 5-yard run (Eli Benge kick), CS 7-0

4:20 | Conway – Brayden Kunz 87-yard run (kick failed), CS 13-0

Second quarter:

10:44 | JCN – Ethan Noll 4-yard run (run failed), CS 13-6

9:52 | Conway – Brayden Kunz 54-yard run (Isaac Winter run), CS 21-6

Fourth quarter:

10:34 | Conway – Brayden Kunz 4-yard run (Eli Benge kick), CS 28-6

5:22 | Conway – Cade Howell 3-yard run (Eli Benge kick), CS 35-6


CONWAY             JCN

First Downs                                        19                           5

Rushing                                                60-454                 24-89

Passing (Comp-Att-INT)                 0-1-0                     2-11-1

Passing Yards                                      0                             38

Total yards                                          454                        127

Turnovers                                            0                             1

Punts-Avg                                           1-33.0                  5-35.6 



Conway – Kunz 34-313; Berntsen 13-93; Winter 7-36; Howell 2-10; Howard 2-2; Osner 1-1; Fisher 1-(-1)
JCN – Grady Noll 13-57; Ethan Noll 6-20; Conner Keirns 5-12

Conway – Howell 0-1-0-0
JCN – G. Noll 2-11-1-38

Conway – None
JCN – E. Noll 2-38


Use your Facebook account to add a comment or start a discussion. Posts are subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.