2020 Journal-World All-Area football team

2020 All-Area football players of the year: Devin Neal (left) of Lawrence High and Tyler Bowden (right) of Tonganoxie High.

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Lawrence High head coach Steve Rampy getting ready for the start of the game by watching his team warm up Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, ahead of the Class 6A quarterfinals.

Coach of the year: Steve Rampy, Lawrence High

The season may have ended in the quarterfinals for Rampy’s Lions, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were considered the best team in the state for much of the year.

LHS has made an impressive turnaround since Rampy took the helm. Lawrence went 1-8 during Rampy’s first year in 2018, but the Lions were 17-3 over the next two seasons, including a 9-1 showing this fall. The 2020 campaign featured the most wins for LHS in a single season since the team went 10-1 in 2015.

Co-players of the year: Devin Neal, Lawrence High and Tyler Bowden, Tonganoxie

photo by: Chance Parker

Lawrence High senior running back Devin Neal heads to the sideline during the game against Olathe West Friday, Sept. 18.

photo by: Courtesy photo

2020 fall sports all-area photo: Tyler Bowden, Tonganoxie senior

Two dynamic running backs both did enough to earn player of the year honors in 2020.

Top-ranked recruit Neal was as good as advertised during his final season at the high school level. Neal, who is committed to the University of Kansas, finished with 1,370 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. He also added 16 catches for 186 yards and two scores. Neal made highlight plays on a weekly basis, including a 98-yard touchdown run against Olathe North in a thriller between two of the top teams in the state at the time.

Bowden broke the rushing record at Free State before coming to Tonganoxie, and during his senior campaign he shattered his new school’s rushing record, too. In his lone season with Tonganoxie, Bowden set the single-season record with 2,583 yards in 11 games. Bowden, who is 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, carried the ball 294 times and piled up 37 rushing touchdowns during the Chieftains’ 9-2 campaign.

First-team selections

photo by: Courtesy photo

2020 fall sports all-area photo: Brayden Beerbower, Eudora junior

Brayden Beerbower, Eudora — Beerbower, a junior fullback, became the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher in five years. He finished the season with 1,205 yards and eight touchdowns. The highlight of his season came in Eudora’s upset win over Piper in the postseason, when he scored the game-winning touchdown and 2-point conversion. Beerbower had 169 rushing yards in that game, helping Eudora earn its first playoff win in five years.

photo by: Courtesy photo

2020 fall sports all-area photo: Dallas Bond, Tonganoxie senior

Dallas Bond, Tonganoxie — Bowden may have led the way on the ground for Tonganoxie, but Bond was the go-to option through the air. The senior tight end finished with 39 catches for 542 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games. Bond also set up some of the Chieftains’ long runs by delivering 15 pancake blocks. He also was a strong defensive end for Tonganoxie, finishing with 41 tackles.

Adam Callahan, Baldwin — Senior Adam Callahan was a big reason why Baldwin was able to go 3-5 this season after a winless 2019 campaign. He anchored the defense as the linebacker, amassing a team-high 81 solo tackles as well as 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Callahan also ran for 634 yards and six touchdowns on offense.

Lawrence High defensive lineman Dylan Gillespie swoops around as he comes in to tackle Free State quarterback Jet Dineen during the second quarter on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020 at Free State High School.

Dylan Gillespie, Lawrence High — Gillespie, a senior defensive lineman, mostly flew under the radar this year because of his position, but he set the tone for the Lions’ talented defensive unit. Gillespie was strong and physical in the trenches, and the Lions wouldn’t have won nine games without him.

photo by: Courtesy photo

2020 fall sports all-area photo: Cael Lynch, Eudora senior

Cael Lynch, Eudora — Throughout Eudora’s 3-7 season, Lynch was constantly involved on the tackle. The senior linebacker led the state of Kansas in tackles per game with an average of 15.6. Lynch, who was a first-team All-Frontier League selection, recorded 51 solo stops and also had nine tackles for loss.

photo by: Courtesy photo

2020 fall sports all-area photo: Branden Martin, Tonganoxie senior

Branden Martin, Tonganoxie — Martin, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior linebacker, had a knack for flying to the ball throughout his stellar career at THS. He finished with 528 career tackles, 133 of which came during his senior season. Martin also forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles for the Chieftains.

photo by: Courtesy photo

2020 fall sports all-area photo: Thad Metcalfe, Perry-Lecompton senior

Thad Metcalfe, Perry-Lecompton — Even though he had to switch from running back to quarterback, Metcalfe still put together an impressive senior season. Metcalfe finished with 1,294 yards and 24 touchdowns on 216 carries. He also became more comfortable with the quarterback position as the season went on, throwing for 1,337 yards and 11 scores.

Lawrence High linebacker Cole Mondi celebrates stopping Washburn Rural quarterback Cooper Carlgren for no gain during the second quarter on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 at Lawrence High School.

Cole Mondi, Lawrence High — Mondi was one of the hardest workers on the team throughout his career, and he excelled at being in the right place at the right time to make a play. Perhaps the best play by the senior linebacker occurred against Olathe North, when he made the game-saving tackle on a 2-point conversion.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe

Free State sophomore Tai Newhouse takes down Olathe West’s Alex Birge for a fumble Friday night at FSHS on Sept. 6, 2019.

Tai Newhouse, Free State — Even during a winless season by the Firebirds, opposing teams had to come up with a game plan to slow down Newhouse. They often failed, as the defensive lineman led FSHS with 45 total tackles in just six games. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound junior played left tackle as well, but he was a force on the defensive side of the ball.

photo by: Courtesy photo

2020 fall sports all-area photo: Hayden Robb, Perry-Lecompton senior

Hayden Robb, Perry-Lecompton — Robb was a major contributor in the Kaws’ back-to-back journeys to the state title game in 2019 and 2020. For his senior year, he played as both an offensive lineman and a linebacker. He recorded 139 total tackles during his senior season, which included 80 solo stops and 10 tackles for loss.

Honorable mention

Jake Berg, Baldwin; Travis Bohnenblust, Eudora; Gage Callaghan, Free State; Nate Criqui, Eudora; Porter Dannevik, Lawrence; Jet Dineen, Free State; Jackson Dooley, Lawrence; Shane Doty, Baldwin; Silas Etter, Eudora; Tyler Gourley, Free State; John Green, Lawrence;

Karson Green, Lawrence; Preston Greenwood, Lawrence; Gavin Lang, Baldwin; Kale Hammerschmidt, Eudora; Corban Oberzan, Lawrence; Ntense Obono, Lawrence; Toby Thomas, Baldwin; Sean Urban, Perry-Lecompton; Jacobee Williams, Free State; Joey Wood, Free State.

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