Nicholl: Potential break out players for 2016

Artwork by Joe Wachter & Andy Wachter,
By: Conor Nicholl for
Aug 29, 2016

Share This Story:

For the past three seasons, Kpreps has highlighted at least one player from each classification poised for a breakout year. Here’s our 2016 list:

Eight-Man, Division II: Anton Foust, Otis-Bison

Foust saw action in just five games as a freshman for Otis-Bison, which rose from 4-5 to 8-2. This fall, the Cougars are among the state favorites in easily the classification’s hardest district that also includes Sharon Springs-Wallace County, Hodgeman County and Dighton.

Otis-Bison returns a talented line, along with senior quarterback Kade Urban and senior running back Brad Lightfoot, both four-year starters. While Urban is the starter, coach Travis Starr said Foust could see some snaps at quarterback.

As well, Fouts will likely emerge as the team’s leading receiver. Otis-Bison averaged 222 rushing yards a game but completed just 21 passes during 2015. An improved passing game was a major focus for the Cougars in the offseason. Foust had one catch, for 47 yards, and rushed six times for 17 yards and a touchdown. He collected six tackles on defense.

On a team with seven seniors, Foust and sophomore Luke Higgason – who started as a freshman and was second on the team with 47 tackles – are vitally important if Otis-Bison wants to reach Newton.

In many of Otis-Bison’s best seasons, the Cougars have had a big frame at tight end/wide receiver, including Hayden Maier last season. The 180-pound Foust, listed as tight end/quarterback/outside linebacker, could step in multiple roles for the Cougars.

Eight-Man, Division I: Collin Kisner, Victoria

Victoria rides a 24-game winning streak and back-to-back Eight-Man, Division II state championships into 2016. The Knights, on a current eight-man best run of 14 straight playoff berths, bump to Eight-Man, Division I and return just two starters with senior Bryant Karlin and junior Cooper Pfanenstiel, both starting linebackers.

However, Kisner also returns with experience and a great pedigree in track. The junior will step in at quarterback for 11th-year head coach Doug Oberle, who has molded many different signal callers into successful players.

From ’08-15, Victoria has had seven different quarterbacks start at least 10 games and used two (Brady Dinkel and Joe Dortland) to great success in 2014-15.

Dinkel started 21 contests in his career; no other Knight quarterback since ’08 has started more than 14. Victoria averaged 47.3 points per game last fall with Kisner, hurt part of the season, mainly contributing on special teams with a pair of TD returns.

In track, Kisner missed his freshman season because of injury before he enjoyed a standout sophomore spring.

At the Class 1A state track meet, Kisner was fourth in the 200 meters and seventh in the 100 meters for the Knights. Kisner, from a longtime Victoria family, had two older siblings that were recent standouts for the Knights. His sister, Taylor, won a team track title and three individual crowns, while his brother, Lane, started in the backfield the last three years.

Now, Kisner will play a pivotal role for Victoria, in a competitive eastern side district with Osborne, Solomon, Bennington and Logan-Palco.

Class 2-1A: Offensive line, La Crosse

The Leopards slipped back to 3-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003 last season. La Crosse did defeat Olpe, 22-12 in Week 1; the Eagles eventually reached the Class 2-1A sub-state championship game.

Overall, though, the Leopards scored just 17.8 points per game and suffered big losses to Smith Center, Southeast of Saline, Larned and Oakley.

Outside of Oakley, La Crosse doesn’t have any of those squads on the schedule for 2016.

Schedule-wise alone, La Crosse should see a bump in offense with Ellsworth, Sublette, Elkhart and Stanton County – which all finished no better than 5-4 in 2015 – and a Week 2 home game with Colby.

La Crosse only has to travel to Ellis for district play and gets Oakley and Plainville at home.

Plus, La Crosse’s experienced offensive line should pave the way to numbers, especially in the ground game, that the Leopards are more accustomed to producing.

La Crosse averaged 4.8 yards per rush and returns 94 percent of its rushing yards, including senior dual-threat quarterback Clayton Herdman.

Eight starters are back on both sides, including senior tight end Kaleb Sherman, senior guard Justin Bond, junior guard Jacob Showalter, junior tackle Kadin Trower, senior tackle Jordan Riedel and senior center Jackson Dinsmore.

Bond will be a four-year starter, while Trower and Showalter will each start for a third year.  

Class 3A: Tyler Halstead, Riley County

In 2014, Riley County finished 5-5 and averaged 26.3 points per contest. Last season, the Falcons went 5-4 and averaged 29 points per game versus the same schedule. The Falcons finished 5-0 at home and 0-4 on the road.

However, on a yardage basis, last year’s season was significantly better.

Two years ago, Riley County averaged 5.1 yards per carry, 6.3 yards per pass attempt and 5.5 yards per play. In addition, the Falcons averaged 13 yards per special teams return.

Last season, the Falcons tallied 6.2 yards per carry, 8.9 yards per pass attempt and 6.8 yards per play. Riley County averaged 18 yards per special teams return.

This season, Riley County returns a bevy of offensive skill players for Steve Wagner, in his 33rd season as Falcons’ head coach. RC, which missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, should take another step forward offensively.

Senior running back Garrett Staten has cleared 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and senior Wes March returns at quarterback. Yet, junior fullback/defensive back/returner Tyler Halstead could produce a big year in multiple phases for the Falcons.

Halstead averaged 7.8 yards per carry with 30 rushes for 235 yards and four scores. He was the team’s leading returner with 315 special teams yards and picked off two passes, tying for the Falcon-best.

Halstead recorded a 70-yard punt return and an 85-yard kick return and averaged 24.4 yards on five punt returns. Halstead needed 10 punt returns to qualify for the MaxPreps leaderboard but his punt return yardage average would have paced the state.

Class 4A-II: Jordan Schippers, Colby

Colby opened 1-5 before winning its district in one of Kansas’ biggest late season turnarounds. Schippers emerged as a standout freshman running back. In the district games, he collected 33 carries for 406 yards and five scores, along with five catches for 119 yards and three receiving TDs. Schippers didn’t play in the 20-14 playoff loss to GWAC rival Hugoton.

The GWAC has four strong teams with traditional powers Scott City, Ulysses, Holcomb and rising Hugoton, along with improving Colby and Goodland.

Yet Colby, which scored 89 of its 185 points in the final two district games, could break into the top four and win another district championship behind the electrifying Schippers. On 83 offensive touches, Schippers tallied 797 yards and 10 scores. With leading rusher Matthew Pieper graduating, Schippers should step into a bigger role this year.

Class 4A-I: Jalen Williams, Bishop Miege

Miege, the back-to-back Class 4A, Division I state champions, is the heavy favorite to repeat with seven offensive and six defensive starters back.

While Miege is known for its high-octane offense behind Division I talents in quarterback Carter Putz, offensive lineman Colin Grunhard and wide receiver Jafar Armstrong, the defense has been elite, too.

From 2011-15, Miege’s defense has permitted 14.6, 23.8, 16.8, 12.8 and 16.1 points per game. After it lost six times in ’12, Miege has lost just three times the last three seasons and risen to the top of the EKL behind its prolific offense and an improved defense.

Williams, a sophomore defensive end, finished with 22 tackles (21 solo) and 2.5 tackles for loss. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder also forced a fumble and recovered three more.

Miege graduated Kaelin Key (28 TFLs) and Jake Shriver (11 TFLs) and Williams and senior Joseph Gleason will be expected to have big seasons for the Stags.

Class 5A: Keyon Saunders and Aaron Coash, Valley Center

The Hornets (4-5) are a trendy pick to make a climb in Class 5A under fourth-year coach Caleb Smith. Valley Center hasn’t posted a winning season since 2001 or made the playoffs since ’98.

From ’06-15, Valley Center has never averaged more than 20.9 points in a season and tallied 18 each of the past two falls. The Hornets return 10 offensive and nine defensive starters.

The offense struggled with moving the ball consistently with just 228 total yards per game, 3.0 yards per carry and a 5/9 TD/INT ratio. The Hornets returns all but 21 of the rushing yards and 51 of the 68 catches. Senior Brett Hamm and juniors Ethan Baugess and Payton Stoffel are back up front.

Two of the non-starters, though, could be in for huge seasons. The first five games are very manageable before back-to-back home contests versus Eisenhower and Goddard, two preseason top-5 teams.

Last season, Saunders, a senior, played in just four games but delivered many huge moments. He caught 11 passes for 155 yards and a score, picked off two passes and delivered a pair of TDs off just four returns.

Coash, a junior, returns as one of Kansas’ top kickers with 11 of 12 extra points and 5 of 6 field goals (long of 44) converted. His points provided the difference in a 7-6 victory versus Arkansas City and a 20-14 win at Andover.

Several teams that made big jumps in ’15 – specifically Burlingame, Wichita Collegiate and Garden City – enjoyed great success on special teams. Saunders and Coash’s contributions could yield an historic season for Valley Center.

Class 6A: Austin Anderson, Wichita Northwest

Anderson, a junior, will take over under center for high-octane, quick-paced Northwest. The Grizzlies finished 10-1 behind an offense that averaged 49 points and 538 yards per game.

The offense averaged 72.4 snaps per contest. In 2014, Northwest averaged 39 points, 435 yards and 58.9 snaps a game.

Northwest, 17-4 in the last two seasons, has won key games with three different quarterbacks: starter Kevin Folsom and backups Jake Devereaux and K’Veion Richard, who both played solidly when Folsom was hurt parts of the past two years.

The Grizzlies return plenty of talent, namely running back Jahlyl Rounds, lineman Joey Gilbertson and receiver Martese Mullins. Rounds rushed for 1,326 yards, while Mullins set school records for catches and yards. Gilbertson has committed to Kansas. Myles Garner transferred in from Heights and will play in the backfield. Few defenses can stick with Northwest’s blur offense and talent – no matter the quarterback. Anderson takes over a great situation and has the opportunity for big numbers.

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.