It’s official, people. The preseason is here.
That annual time of year when prognosticating – ah yes, the guessing game – takes precedence.
It’s nothing more than pure conjecture, glorified predictions based on what little evidence can be derived from last year’s stats and this year’s rosters.
We can point to what we think will happen. We can suggest how teams will react when the rubber meets the road. We can calculate – with absolutely no certainty – the outcomes of approaching matchups.
Let’s face it. Nobody knows when parity will come knocking. And adversity comes in different shapes and forms. It’s the unexpected that makes the prospects of another football season thrilling. It just goes to show how futile crystal-ball gazing can be.
But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Figuring out who’s who in the area football world can be done, and one of Reno County’s own is already a cover boy.
Recently-released Kansas Pregame, in its eighth go-around as a state high school and college preview magazine, features Buhler’s Riley Allen on the front. The running back is kneeling with the pigskin nestled in the crutch of his right arm as he poses with standouts from each level with the title “Ready for the Big Time” in the background of its glossy cover.
So what would a version specific to the area – with an emphasis on Reno County – look like? Who is “ready for the big time” in the narrative of this year’s season?
Based off of players’ past performance (instead of potential), here are a few suggestions for the area’s preseason “cover boys”:
Class 6A: Colby Turner, RB/LB, Hutchinson – The Salthawks are breaking in a batch of new players after the departure of a gifted senior class that included Trevor Turner, a three-year starter at quarterback. His younger brother is the new big man on campus, albeit across the line of scrimmage where he plays most of his snaps at linebacker. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound junior, who will also be in his third season as a starter, is a playmaker in Hutch’s 4-4 defense and should build off his 53 tackles (five tackles for loss) and two interceptions from a year ago. Turner is one of the more seasoned players in a loaded junior class and adept as a short-yardage, redzone fullback, too.
Also considered: Cole Cruz, OL, Hutchinson; Kelan Newton, QB, Dodge City; Ryan Stoecklein, LB, Hutchinson; Greyson Tempel, QB, Garden City.
Keep an eye on: Turner Wintz, QB, Hutchinson.
Class 5A: Britton Abbott, QB/LB, Liberal – Listed at 6-4, 230 pounds and coming off an outstanding campaign, the Redskins’ senior quarterback is a fit to play at the next level. Abbott threw for 2,333 yards with a 19-10 TD-to-interception ratio and added 909 yards (5.1 yards per carry) on the ground. Granted, Liberal was just 2-7 last year. But with 25 returning letterman and several starters back, the Redskins should improve with Abbott at the forefront.
Also considered: Alex Delton, QB, Hays; Trenton Hammond, WR/DB, Liberal.
Keep an eye on: Jack Kingsley, RB, Newton; Preston Weigel, FB/DB, Hays.
Class 4A: Riley Allen, RB, Buhler – No surprise here. Allen established himself as the next in a recent string of fantastic Crusader tail backs by dazzling his way to 2,264 yards and 30 touchdowns. The blazer could be even better as a senior. If he’s fully recovered from the foot injury that kept him from climbing onto the medal stand at state track last spring, Allen could sprint his way to a Division-I scholarship.
Also considered: Kyler Kinnamon, QB, McPherson; Wyatt McKinney, QB, Hesston; Ryan Schadler, RB, Hesston.
Keep an eye on: Luke Berblinger, QB, Buhler; Hunter Knoblauch, RB/DB/KR/PR, Andale; Ethan Loder, QB, Smoky Valley; Ian Rudzik, RB, Ulysses; Yates Sutton, QB, Hugoton.
Class 3A: Joey Hale, LB, Trinity Catholic – Just like Turner at Hutch, Hale is at the center of a talented junior class – and a similarly stout linebacker to boot. The 6-foot, 220-pounder can hit hard and piled up a team-best 103 tackles last fall. Under defensive coordinator Sean Racette’s tutelage in a 4-4 scheme, the Celtic ’backer should continue to be a dependable force.
Also considered: Ryan Boroughs, OL/LB, Kingman; Dalton Brandt, RB, Sedgwick; Ty Clark, RB/LB, Cimarron; Jerome Miller, OL/DL, Trinity Catholic.
Keep an eye on: Tim Hendrixson, QB, Haven; Elias Jasso-Cardenas, RB, Trinity Catholic; Trey O’Neil, QB/WR/DB, Scott City; Heath Tucker, QB/DB, Holcomb; Brylie Ware, QB/DB, Sedgwick.
Class 2-1A: Jett Little, RB/DB, Meade – The heir apparent to Trevin Wiens’ (The Hutchinson News’ 2012-13 Male Athlete of the Year) vacated backfield spot ran for 843 yards on an even 100 carries in the Buffs’ 2012 championship run. He coupled that with 26 receptions for 379 yards and, though diminutive (listed between 5-6 and 5-7), found the end zone 17 times.
Also considered: Jed Dierksen, OL/DL, Sterling; Alex Gomez, QB/LB, Elkhart; Lucas Moeder, DB, La Crosse.
Keep an eye on: Tyler Cottam, RB/DB, Inman; Morgan Davis, TE/DE/LB, Meade.
Eight-man (Division I and II): Trever Powell, RB/DB, Kiowa County – What didn’t Powell do last year? The Mavs’ standout was a jack-of-all trades, running for 1,408 yards and 30 TDs, racking up 113 tackles and picking off eight passes.
Also considered: Taylin Bird, QB/DB, Fowler; Tanner Tranbarger, QB, Macksville.
Keep an eye on: Ryan Ewy, QB/DB, Fairfield; Pedro Flores, RB, Ness City; Tevin Renken, QB/DB, Little River.
For Reno County readers, notice no players from Nickerson or Pretty Prairie were listed. That’s not to say standouts won’t emerge during the season but, as both programs are seemingly in rebuilding mode, what names stick out as impact guys? Discuss.