Preps notebook: Midseason takeaways for area football teams

Free State offensive lineman Turner Corcoran gives a flying bump to assistant coach Taylor Stuart after a touchdown against Olathe East during the first quarter on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 at Free State High School.

It’s hard to believe that the first half of the regular season is already in the books.

Since it is the midway point of the football season, it’s worth mentioning some notable items regarding the area football teams. A lot can certainly change in the second half of the regular season, but it is pretty clear what teams and players have shined thus far. This notebook will highlight those particular athletes.

First off, here’s how the area teams look through four weeks:

About this feature

Preps Notebook is a new feature from Journal-World high school sports reporter Shane Jackson that will run several times a week and highlight results and other information about local teams. For more on this new coverage plan, please read Shane’s introduction here.

Free State (4-0) — The Firebirds are as good as advertised — or, perhaps, they might even be better. Entering the season, Free State was ranked as high as No. 1 in Class 6A in preseason polls and has won all four games by a combined 176-14 margin.

Perry-Lecompton (3-1) — Defending 3A champion Sabetha handed Perry-Lecompton its only loss of the season. The Kaws are averaging nearly 50 points per contest.

Baldwin (2-2) — Baldwin bounced back from a two-game skid with a convincing win over Eudora.

Tonganoxie (2-2) — Tonganoxie, which topped Bonner Springs last week, has won two consecutive games after dropping two contests to start the season.

Lawrence (1-3) — Head coach Steve Rampy, who is in his first year at the helm, is coming off his first win at LHS after starting the season with three losses.

Veritas (1-3) — Last week, Veritas got in the win column for the first time with a 30-6 victory over Kansas City East.

Eudora (0-4) — First-year head coach Sean Hayden is still searching for his first win, as the Cardinals have scored a total of 19 points this season.

Most electrifying player

Free State senior Keenan Garber has the ability to score from anywhere when he touches the ball.The Kansas State commit has proved that through four games, recording nine touchdowns on 15 touches for the Firebirds.

Free State Keenan Garber (1) runs a long kick return in the first half as Free State’s Jalen Nash (28) blocks Shawnee Mission West’s Joseph Caudillo (32) during a game on Friday, September 21, 2018 at FSHS.

Garber, who plays both receiver and safety, has scored in a multitude of ways, as well. Garber has three rushing touchdowns to go along with six scores through the air. He’s even had multiple touchdowns called back, including a punt return in the season opener.

All but one of Garber’s touchdowns have come from at least 18 yards out, as well, and he’s demonstrated his ability to make defenders miss. Garber’s top highlight came against Shawnee Mission North when he hurdled a defender to get in the end zone.

Dalton Kellum putting up video game numbers

Congratulations on picking Perry-Lecompton’s Dalton Kellum for your fantasy football team.

In all seriousness, Kellum has been otherworldly to lead the Kaws to a 3-1 start. The senior quarterback is averaging 9.8 yards per carry. He’s ran the ball 72 times for 704 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. As a passer, Kellum is 21 of 31 for 203 yards and a touchdown.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Dalton Kellum ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns against defending state champion Sabetha.

But Kellum’s numbers have always been incredible. After all, he was named to the first team in the Big Seven conference after running for 1,555 yards and 26 touchdowns to go along with 1,295 yards and 12 scores through the air in his junior season.

As a team, Perry-Lecompton is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A via Kpreps, and its only blemish is a two-point loss to the defending state champion. The Kaws certainly have a chance to do some damage in the postseason.

LHS defense is no joke

Despite winning just one game, the Lions boast one of the better defensive units in the area.

Few players are quite as talented as senior linebacker Caleb Mondi, who seems to be in on nearly every tackle. Senior defensive tackle E.J. Jewsome, who is 5-foot-11 and 278 pounds, is a force on the defensive line.

photo by: Kevin Anderson

E.J. Jewsome comes up with the ball on a Ravens fumble early in the first quarter as Lawrence High School plays Olathe Northwest on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 at College Boulevard Activity Center.

In addition, senior linebacker Colby Stumma and sophomore linebacker Cole Mondi continue to make plays every week.

However, Lawrence’s defense has played a lot of snaps through four weeks due to the offensive struggles. The Lions have improved since sophomore Tre’ Jackson took over at quarterback, so their defense has a chance to look even better with fresh legs in the second half of the season.

Chieftains get back on track

After dropping the first two games of the season, Tonganoxie responded with a pair of victories to get to .500 at the midway point of the regular season.

The Chieftains were obviously going to take a step back after losing so many starters from last year’s squad, which went 9-0 in the regular season. Tonganoxie is also competing in the Frontier League after going undefeated in the final season of the Kaw Valley League.

Still, the Chieftains’ ability to not let the season get away from them is quite impressive.

Senior Korbin Riedel is pacing the team with 404 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 73 carries. Senior quarterback Hayden Robbins is 32 of 56 for 438 yards and four touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Dustin Rhoads is leading the team with 31 total tackles.

Ground and pound

Like most football teams in the area, Baldwin wants to lean on the rushing attack on a weekly basis.

The Bulldogs did just that in their 28-6 victory over Eudora last week, which snapped a two-game skid. In both losses, Baldwin’s ground game hasn’t been able to get going and the team has managed just two combined touchdowns in those contests.

Yet, last week was an example of what this team can do when the running game is working. Senior Connor Quick led the attack with 110 yards and two touchdowns on a total of 25 carries. Zach Flowers added two rushing touchdowns, finishing with 41 yards on 11 carries.

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