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Class 3A State Championship Preview





HAYDEN (12-0) VS. CHENEY (12-0)

Noon Saturday at Gowans Stadium, Hutchinson



Jackson Voth, Cheney’s standout senior wide receiver and linebacker, will celebrate his 18th birthday Saturday by playing in the Cardinals’ first state championship game.

For Cheney followers who have watched Voth and his teammates blaze an unbeaten path to the Class 3A final at Hutchinson’s Gowans Stadium with huge helpings of intermittent drama, it has to feel like destiny.

“We put our faith in God,” Voth said after Cheney ended Andale’s four-year reign in 3A last Friday with a 28-24 come-from-behind semifinal victory. “Having us believe in something bigger than football, I think God really put us under His wing here and we trusted in Him and He gave us our dreams.”

Cheney won at least eight games in five of its first six seasons under coach Shelby Wehrman, a former Derby and Kansas State player who joined the Cardinals in 2017 after serving as an assistant at his high school alma mater. But before Friday, two unbeaten Cardinal seasons ended in earlier rounds of the playoffs and a 9-3 campaign ended in 2019 at the hands of Andale in the 3A semifinals.

Cheney (12-0) captured state-wide attention – and beyond – after ending Andale’s 57-game winning streak in October with an improbable 36-30 overtime thriller in which the host Cardinals trailed 22-0 in the first half. In the rematch at Cheney, Andale hit a 74-yard touchdown pass on its fourth offensive play and stormed to a 24-0 second-quarter lead.

“I’m trying to think, ‘When is this avalanche going to slow down or stop?’” Wehrman said. “But somehow, we were able to piece a drive together again and control the clock and keep it out of their hands.”

Cheney’s 20-play touchdown drive, which ended with Voth’s 2-yard touchdown run, cut its halftime deficit to 24-7 and provided a spark that paralleled the teams’ first matchup. The Cardinals added two other long scoring drives in the second half before quarterback Josh Burdick hit senior Gavin Maass on a game-winning, 15-yard touchdown pass with 2:18 to play.

“I think it’s more our team has just worked really hard,” Maass said. “We put in everything we’ve got every play. If something isn’t working out, we figure out what’s wrong and we fix it.”

Cheney’s problem-solving skills were on full display in its quarterfinal against Clay Center. Facing the team that ended their 2022 season, the Cardinals surrendered a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead after Burdick’s quick kick struck a Cheney blocker and the Tigers got the ball deep in Cardinal territory.

Clay Center then scored on a fourth-down pass with 25 seconds remaining for a 21-20 lead.

But after an ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and a follow-up kick yielded a Clay Center face-mask penalty, Cheney started in Tiger territory. After two Burdick completions, junior Grady Kuehn booted a 32-yard field goal on the game’s final play for a 23-21 victory.

The top-ranked Cardinals have enjoyed their share of dominance, winning nine games by at least 27 points. Burdick has passed for nearly 2,400 yards and 33 touchdowns. Voth is part of a defensive unit that includes senior standouts Drew Tolar, Kason Messenger and Colter McDaniel. Cheney allows less than 10 points a game.

But it’s games like last Friday, when an overflow crowd lined the perimeter around the Cardinal Stadium track to watch, that make some wonder if a higher power is at work.

“As the season has unfolded, you just feel like God is doing some amazing work on this team,” Wehrman said. “The way some things have happened, I’ve just been around football enough and coached long enough that those hardly ever happen that way.

“I just have to give credit somewhere and I don’t know where else to give it.”


COACH: Shelby Wehrman (7th year, 58-18)

STATE FINALS HISTORY: First championship game appearance


W,34-7 at Kingman
W,41-14 Garden Plain
W,41-0 at Douglass
W,49-0 at Pratt
W,46-0 Smoky Valley
W,70-0 at Nickerson
W,36-30 OT Andale
W,39-12 Halstead
W,50-0 Colby (P)
W,37-8 Holcomb (P)
W,23-21 Clay Center (P)
W,28-24 Andale (P)



Points scored: 494 (41.2 per game)

Points allowed: 116 (9.3 per game)

Total offense: 4,163 (346.9 per game)

Rushing: 1517 yards (126.4 per game), 26 TDs

Passing: 2,646 yards (220.5 per game), 36 TDs, 3 INTs


Rushing: Jackson Voth (sr.) 32 carries, 351 yards, 11 TDs; Tre Black (sr.) 71 carries, 350 yards, 4 TDs; Josh Burdick (jr.) 64 carries, 234 yards, 6 TDs; Maximus Miller (so.) 24 carries, 221 yards, 2 TDs.

Passing: Josh Burdick (jr.) 163 of 232, 2,398 yards, 33 TDs, 2 INTs.

Receiving: Jackson Voth (sr.) 68 catches, 954 yards, 11 TDs; Colter McDaniel (sr.) 34 catches, 565 yards, 9 TDs; Gavin Maass (sr.) 20 catches, 376 yards, 6 TDs; Drew Tolar (sr.) 14 catches, 209 yards, 4 TDs.

Tackles: Drew Tolar (sr.) 84 tackles (41 solo), 3 tackles for loss; Hunter McKinley (jr.) 72 tackles (28 solo), 7 tackles for loss; Kason Messenger (sr.) 70 tackles (33 solo), 15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks; Jackson Voth (sr.) 69 tackles (44 solo), 17 tackles for loss, 2 sacks; Grady Ditgen (jr.) 58 tackles (25 solo), 9 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks; Colter McDaniel (sr.) 62 tackles (26 solo), 2 tackles for loss; Levi Self (jr.) 45 tackles (15 solo), 9 tackles for loss; Weston Hill (sr.) 41 tackles (17 solo).

Takeaways: Colter McDaniel (sr.) 3 INTs; Kason Messenger (sr.) 2 fumble recoveries (1 TD).

Kicking: Weston Hill (sr.) 1 of 1 FG, 18 of 21 PATs; Grady Kuehn (jr.) 1 of 2 FG, 16 of 20 PAT.



In a season in which it hasn’t suffered a loss and the closest game was an 18-point victory, it’s easy to assume the 2023 campaign has been nothing but smooth sailing for 12-0 Hayden.

That’s far from the case.

Hayden has dealt with some serious injury blows throughout the season, including the loss of standout tailback-linebacker Finn Dunshee midway through the regular season, starting senior lineman Doug Peterson early in the season and three-year starting quarterback Jett Wahlmeier in the playoff opener.

But through it all, the Wildcats have hardly missed a beat and with a 42-14 drubbing of Holton in last Friday’s Class 3A state semifinals, they are back in the state championship game for the first time since 2016.

“It’s been that way all year long,” Hayden coach Bill Arnold said of dealing with the personnel setbacks. “The kids have all just kept the attitude, ‘Next guy up,’ and gone from there. The expectations for the program never changed and the kids understand that. We’ve got 60 guys on the squad and everybody’s a part of it.

“They know how to compete and that’s what we like. They come out and compete every single day whether it’s in practice or on the field on Friday night.”

Hayden (12-0) finds itself in one of three championship games pitting unbeatens against each other. The Wildcats’ foe in Saturday’s noon 3A title game in Hutchinson is Cheney (12-0), which ended Andale’s four-year reign atop 3A with a come-from-behind 28-24 victory over the Indians.

“You don’t get to this part of the season without playing somebody good,” Arnold said. “We’ll go back regroup and figure things out and see how we can go down there and compete.”

While Peterson and Wahlmeier were still out with their injuries for the state semifinal win over Holton, Dunshee was back. And in a big way.

After playing only a handful of snaps in the quarterfinal romp past Parsons, Dunshee was back in the workhorse role he occupied at the start of the season when he amassed 657 yards through five games with 10 touchdowns.

But in Hayden’s 27-0 win over Perry-Lecompton in Week 5, Dunshee went down with a knee injury that looked like might cost him the remainder of his senior season.

“When I first got hurt, I didn’t think I was going to be back at all,” said Dunshee, who tore the MCL in his left knee. “I was heartbroken.”

After consulting with his doctor, a timetable was set to possibly return within six weeks from suffering the injury. But that meant Hayden was going to have to make it deep into the playoffs.

And Dunshee was helpless to make sure the Wildcats got there.

“It was horrible, just horrible, because I couldn’t do anything about it,” Dunshee said. “But I trusted my teammates to get us here. There was no doubt we were going to be here.”

Dunshee – last spring’s Class 4A 100 meter state champion — looked no worse the wear against Holton. He showed off his blazing speed on a 65-yard touchdown scamper around the left end on Hayden’s first offensive play of the game and added two more touchdown runs and a touchdown catch.

While sophomore Kade Mitchell and seniors Dom Ridley and Broderick Desch held down the fort quite nicely in Dunshee’s absence – they’ve combined for 1,793 yards and 33 touchdowns this season – Dunshee is a difference-maker for the Wildcat offense.

“He’s a great competitor, and that’s the thing you like about him,” Arnold said. “Obviously you love his speed and stuff, but he’s a competitor and the guys around him play hard. He’s a game-changer out there.”

In Wahlmeier’s absence, sophomore Connor Hanika has stepped in and thrown for 387 yards and 6 touchdowns while getting picked off just once. He had a pair of touchdown passes in the win over Holton, the other going to playmaking senior Jensen Schrickel, who is a threat to score in all three phases of the game.

Hayden’s defense has been smothering most of the season, giving up just 108 points all season (9 per game). Only two teams have scored more than two touchdowns on the Wildcats, Rossville and Santa Fe Trail.

The title-game appearance ends a six-year drought since Hayden’s last trip, a loss to Pratt in the Class 4A Division II championship game. Hayden hasn’t brought home the state championship since taking the 2008 Class 4A crown.

“It’s been awhile but we’re excited about it,” Arnold said. “This was the goal, not just to get there, but to win it. I’m happy with the progress the kids have made and we’re ready to go after it.”


COACH: Bill Arnold (17th, 154-48)

STATE FINALS HISTORY: 3 state titles – 1998 (4A), 2004 (4A), 2008 (4A); 4 runner-up finishes – 2003 (4A), 2009 (4A), 2014 (4A I), 2016 (4A II)


W,41-7 at Olpe
W,56-7 Silver Lake
W,49-23 at Rossville
W,64-0 at Jefferson West
W,27-0 Perry-Lecompton
W,49-0 at Royal Valley
W,24-7 Holton
W,56-7 Hiawatha
W,49-0 Baldwin (P)
W,42-24 Santa Fe Trail (P)
W,64-19 at Parsons (P)
W,42-14 Holton (P)



Points scored: 563 (46.9 per game)

Points allowed: 108 (9.0 per game)

Total offense: 4,826 yards (402.2 per game)

Rushing: 3,353 yards (279.4), 58 TDs

Passing: 1,473 yards (122.8), 17 TDs, 5 INTs


Rushing: Finn Dunshee (sr.) 48 carries, 821 yards, 14 TDs; Kate Mitchell (so.) 74 carries, 769 yards, 11 TDs; Dom Ridley (sr.) 69 carries, 551 yards, 12 TDs; Broderick Desch (jr.) 91 carries, 473 yards, 10 TDs.

Passing: Jett Wahlmeier (sr.) 61 of 113, 1,086 yards, 11 TDs, 4 INTs; Connor Hanika (so.) 24 of 39, 387 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT.

Receiving: Jensen Schrickel (sr.) 34 catches, 659 yards, 7 TDs; Finn Dunshee (sr.) 11 catches, 203 yards, 3 TDs; Kade Mitchell (so.) 12 catches, 170 yards, 2 TDs.

Tackles: Jude Konrade (sr.) 144 tackles (108 solo), 8 tackles for loss; Carter Charvat (sr.) 107 tackles (64 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 8 sacks; Xander Blasing (so.) 49 tackles (35 solo); Logan Saenz (so.) 46 tackles (26 solo); Brady Heinen (jr.) 37 tackles (32 solo); Andrew Rohr (sr.) 32 tackles (12 solo), 2 sacks; Rondell Harris (so.) 31 tackles (15 solo).

Takeaways: Jensen Schrickel (sr.) 4 INTs, fumble recovery; Xander Blasing (so.) 4 INTs, fumble recovery; Logan Saenz (so.) 3 INTs; Finn Dunshee (sr.) 3 INTs (2 TDs).

Kicking: Mason Becker (fr.) 1 of 1 FG, 35 of 37 PATs; Jensen Schrickel (sr.) 16 of 18 PATs.