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Kingman County Football Preview


By Brad Hallier


Ad Astra Radio will preview area high school football teams, based on county, before the season opener Sept. 1. Here is the preview for Kingman County.

Previous previews:

Stafford County

Harvey County

McPherson County

Cunningham Wildcats

Coach: Lance McGuire, 18th season

Classification: Six Player

District: 2

2022: 12-0

Postseason: Had first-round bye; beat Natoma 65-0; beat Wetmore 58-12; beat Waverly 60-12; beat Ashland 38-16.

Best postseason finish: State champions, 2022.

Top returning players: Dagim Reed, jr., E/RB/LB/DB; Luke Albers, jr., E/DB; Luke McGuire, sr., Util/LB/DB; Jack Ruckle, sr., RB/E; Trent Schnittker, jr., OL/E

Key game: Sept. 1 vs. Ashland. This might very well be the top game in Kansas on the first week, and one of the best matchups of the season, regardless of classification. The top two six-player teams last season open the season, and who knows? It could just be a preview of another matchup on Thanksgiving weekend.

Outlook: It’s almost hard to believe now, but Cunningham has not bee very good this century. Even in 2019, the Wildcats didn’t win a game. Last year, the Wildcats became the first official six-player state champion in KSHSAA history. They could do it again, too, with five players who saw starting time last season returning. McGuire and Ruckle were among the best players in the classification last year. Depth is a strength, and there’s no reason to think Cunningham won’t be one of the top teams in six player again.

Kingman Eagles

Coach: Tanner Hageman, fifth season (31-12)

Classification: 2A

District: 6

2022: 12-1

Postseason: Beat Hillsobor 49-7; beat Ellsworth 33-6; beat Beloit 35-6; beat Southeast of Saline 28-22 2OT; lost to Nemaha Central 33-17

Best postseason finish: State runner-up, 1972, 2022

Top returning players: Tristen Davidson, sr., TE/DE; Carter Helm, sr., WR/DB; Collin Schreiner, jr., OL/LB; Brody Bell, jr., OL/DL; Chase Webster, sr., WR/DB; Bo Watkins, sr., WR/LB; Dalton Barber, sr., OL/DL

Key game: Sept. 29 vs. Hesston. Both of these teams could find themselves playing well into November. It comes during a break in district play for both teams, but don’t expect either team to treat it as anything short of a pseudo-playoff game.

Outlook: Kingman is (again) coming off its best season in 50 years when the Eagles reached the state championship game. The Eagles took a graduation hit, but don’t ignore what is coming back. Davidson and Helm are already among the best in 2A at their respective positions. The lines are experienced, and there is depth. A new quarterback will step in for the talented Nolan Freund, but that doesn’t mean junior Ben Bradshaw is a slouch. There’s nothing wrong with being a backup to a talented upperclassman. While some may expect Kingman to take a slight step back, that’s usually one of the most dangerous teams out there. Kingman is going to be eager to get back to state, now that the Eagles have experienced one.

Norwich Eagles

Coach: Brian Payne, first season

Classification: Eight-player Division 2

District: 2

2022: 3-6

Postseason: Lost to Colony-Crest 60-40

Best postseason finish: Runner-up 1974

Top returning players: Jace Benge, sr., WR/LB; Kyler Murphy, jr., QB/S; Brayden Pauly, jr., WR/C

Key game: Oct. 20 vs. Central Christian. In what should be a competitive, open district, this game could decide a lot, including a potential home playoff game, maybe even a district title.

Outlook: Norwich has just three starters back, and it’s all in the skill areas. Where Norwich could struggle is in the trenches, without a lot of experience there. The schedule isn’t overly daunting, but it’s not easy either. Norwich will need some early success to have something to build on headed to district play.