Great Bend features junior linebacker Mathew Moeder and senior safety Paco Hernandez on the first-team defense on the Western Athletic Conference all-league football team. Moeder ranked fourth in the WAC with 74 tackles and six stops for losses. Hernandez contributed 73 tackles, which ranked seventh in the WAC.
"Mathew Moeder really improved as the year went on and became a solid linebacker for us," said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. "Paco has been a Swiss Army knife through his football career. He really accepted and excelled as a safety for us this season."
Earning second-team honors were Great Bend center Jason Scott, tight end Colton Brack and wide receiver Stefan Spray.
In a season where three teams shared the Western Athletic Conference football crown, it was the Hays High Indians (8-3) that took the spotlight with postseason honors as voted by the league’s five coaches. Hays downed Andover 18-6 and lost to Maize High 48-36.
Jaren Kanak, the Indians’ big, bruising quarterback, was voted the WAC Offensive Player of the Year while his classmate and equally dominating teammate, Gavin Meyers, was honored as the WAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Pretty heady stuff for a senior class that had spent much of their high school years seeing the HHS program elevate itself into not only the league’s elite, but also making a deep run in the Class 5A playoffs before falling in the Sectional Championships after posting wins in the Week 9 Play-In and then the Regional Championship.
“It was a big adjustment at quarterback for me,” said Kanak, who powered his way to a WAC-best 1,224 yards rushing through nine games while tallying 18 touchdowns.
On the passing side of the equation, he threw for 866 yards with 12 touchdown passes against just six interceptions for a 2/1 ratio.
“Definitely, I’m more of a runner than a passer, but my passing improved from my junior year,” Kanak said.
Upon learning of the WAC offensive award, Kanak said it was an honor but as much a reflection of the blocking he got from his offensive line.
“For the other coaches to vote for me, it’s an honor to get the award and something I’ll remember,” Kanak said. “Now that the season is over, we can reminisce all the great memories we made and all the successes we’ve had.”
This year’s Hays High team was only the third in school history to make a deep run to the 5A quarterfinals, joining teams from 1982 and 1993 in that category.
“Just knowing that all of our hard work paid off and we could be considered one of the best Hays High teams ever is a memory I’ll remember,” Kanak said.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pounder will sign an NCAA Division I letter-of-intent in December’s early signing period with Clemson University in South Carolina, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference and one of college football’s elite programs.
“I definitely wanted to elevate my game to the highest level so I’m excited about playing at Clemson,” said Kanak, who indicated he will likely be playing linebacker for the Tigers. “I’ve got that combination of speed and strength and have good lateral quickness. I’ve studied a lot of football, so I have a good feel for the schematics of playing the game.”
The high-powered offense produced 374 points, averaging just more than 41 points per game while compiling an average of 324 yards rushing and 430 yards. Between his rushing and passing stats, he combined for 30 touchdowns in his senior year.
“One of the highlights was beating Andover in the playoffs to get to the next level of the playoffs,” Kanak said. “They (Andover) have a great program and it was a culture win for us and gave us added confidence.”
The Indians’ Meyers, was equally effective on the defensive side of the ball for Coach Tony Crough.
At 6-foot-2-inches and 215 pounds, he was dominating on that side of the ball. He recorded 100 tackles in the 8-game plus Week 9 play-in game schedule, including two sacks and 10 tackles for losses.
“Our season really was a success and I’m happy where we got in the playoffs,” said Meyers, who said he and his teammates would like to still be playing another week. “I think playing middle linebacker I had to be disciplined and fill in the gaps and read the guards who were trying to block.”
Meyers said the Indians would switch from a four-man to a three-man front during games, depending on situations from the other team’s offense.
“I didn't see much difference in my responsibilities with either set we ran,” Meyers said. “Moving forward is my strongest suit. I’m pretty good at lateral, but it wouldn’t be the best part of my game.”
While undecided on his college of choice, Meyers hopes to decide for a Division I offer later in the school year. He will be competing in wrestling for the Indians at 220 pounds.
“Wrestling really helped my football in form tackling and staying low,” Meyers said of playing both sports. “I am not sure how football helps my wrestling, but I’m sure just staying in shape was good. It keeps me tough-minded.”
Hays and Dodge City had four players named to the WAC first-team offense while on defense the Indians topped the list with four selections.
Dodge City’s first-year coach Glenn O’Neil was voted the Coach of the Year by his peers as the Red Demons, Hays and Garden City shared the conference title with 3-1 records. Interestingly, each team beat the other and all on the road with Garden City topping Hays in Hays, the Indians taking a win at Dodge City and the Demons knocking off the Buffaloes in Garden City in the annual Hatchet Game.
FIRST TEAM ALL-WAC OFFENSE
HAYS HIGH—QB Jaren Kanak, 12; RB Roy Moroni, 12; TE Bryce Salmans, 11; OL Gavin Nutting, 12
DODGE CITY—QB Tucker Smith, 12; WR Dylan Smith, 12; OL Omar Valazquez, 12; PK Emanuel Aguilar, 12
GARDEN CITY—RB Zack Koesengphet, 11; OL Kaden Whitehurst, 12; OL Kelvin Rico, 12
LIBERAL—RB Hunter Huskey, 12; OL Aldo Avalos, 12
FIRST TEAM ALL_WAC OFFENSE
HAYS HIGH—LB Gavin Meyers, 12; DL Carson Spray, 12; DL Iden Baalman, 12; DB Remy Stull, 11
DODGE CITY—DL Santonio Turner, 12; LB Daniel Sanchez, 12; DB D’Andre Vontress, 12
GREAT BEND—LB Mathew Moeder, 11; DB Paco Hernandez, 12
GARDEN CITY—DL Terrell Elliott, 12; DB Caleb Wiese, 11
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
GREAT BEND—WR Stefan Spray, 12; TE Colton Brack, 10; C Jason Scott, 12
GARDEN CITY—RB Jerry Arteaga, 11; RB Emmanual Charite, 12; Ol Michael Camarena, 12
HAYS HIGH—WR Jordan Dale, 12; WR Kyreese Groen, 11; OL Karson Russell, 12
LIBERAL—QB Brooks Kappelmann, 10; WR Izzy Garcia, 12
DODGE CITY—OL Alejandro Chairez, 12
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
GARDEN CITY—Xavier Soriano, 12; LB Joel Bellows, 12; DB Ryan Heiman, 11; DB Alonzo Marquez, 12
DODGE CITY—DL Christian Erives, 12; DL Tyler Cox, 12; LB Mario Chacon, 12; LB Josh Gonzalez, 12
HAYS HIGH—DB Connor Dreiling, 11
LIBERAL—LB Trystian Juarez, 11; DB Shay Kerr, 12
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF YEAR—QB Jaren Kanak, Hays High
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF YEAR—LB Gavin Meyers, Hays High
COACH OF YEAR—Glenn O’Neil, Dodge City
Hays High 3-1 8-3
Dodge City 3-1 6-3
Garden City 3-1 5-4
Liberal 1-3 4-5
Great Bend 0-4 0-9
11-12—Maize High 48, Hays 36
11-5—Hays 18, Andover High 6
10-29—Wamego 42, Great Bend 21; Wichita East 24, Garden City 7; Gardner Edgerton 41, Dodge City 20; Hays 19, Goddard Eisenhower 13; Salina Central 42, Liberal 10
10-22—*Garden City 28, Great Bend 21; Dodge City 49, Wichita SE 0; Wichita NW 61, Hays 40; Liberal 57, Wichita North 0
10-15—Goddard Eisenhower 32, Great Bend 30; *Dodge City 36, Garden City 29 (2 OT); Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 51, Liberal 0; Hays 47, Maize South 43
10-8—*Great Bend 22, Liberal 21; *Hays 39, Dodge City 17; Wichita East 50, Garden City 7
10-1—*Dodge City 31, Great Bend 14; *Garden City 49, Liberal 0; Hays 64, Abilene 7
9-24—Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 42, Great Bend 7; *Garden City 27, Hays High 20; Wichita Carroll 38, Dodge City 23; Liberal 36, Wichita Southeast 6
9-17—McPherson 34, Great Bend 19; *Hays High 58, Liberal 14; Dodge City 35, Wichita South 0; Garden City 49, Wichita West 0
9-10—*Hays High 51, Great Bend 0; *Dodge City 48, Liberal 12; Garden City 13, Hutchinson 7, OT
9-3—Maize South 51, Great Bend 0; Manhattan 21, Garden City 6; Hays 35, Wichita East 6; Dodge City 28, Wichita East 6; Liberal 56, Guymon Okla. 16