Hillsboro and Hesston picked to finish first

by Don Ratzlaff

One thing Mid Central Activities Association boys’ coaches agree upon: defending Class 3A state champion Halstead will not be the power it was last season.

The coaches picked the Dragons, who lost two All-MCAA first teamers (Dennis Latimore and Josh Farmer) and two honorable-mention picks (Casey Green and Zack Holub) to graduation, to finish fourth in the Mid Division this season.

To fill that void, coaches turned to two perennial powers, Wichita Collegiate and Hillsboro, who were picked 1-2 in a split vote even though the Spartans lost heavily to graduation and the Trojans are coming off a disappointing 13-9 season and lost their top scorer, playmaker and only All-MCAA selection (Grant Brubacher) to graduation.

In the Central Division, Hesston is the clear favorite even though they lost two of their three all-league first-team players and have a new coach in Ty Rhodes. Rhodes succeeds Rusty Allen, who is head women’s coach at Tabor College this season.

Smoky Valley is considered Hesston’s biggest challenger. The Vikings return two honorable-mention selections in Keith Furguson and Darrin Hopp.

Interestingly, Hesston’s Brad Gattis is the only returning first-team All-MCAA player from last season. All the other players who were selected graduated last spring.

Following are the preseason predictions, based on the nine coaches who voted.

Mid Division Boys

1. Wichita Collegiate (3A)

Coach: Mitch Figel (13th year, 212-92 career record)

Last season: 16-6 overall, 6-2 Mid Division

Top players: Chris Preboth, 5-10 senior; Ron Horton, 6-2 junior; Tim Rheem, 6-1 junior; Darren Anderson, 6-5 junior; Sean Kennedy, 6-0 junior.

Poll points: 12 (5 first-place)

2. Hillsboro (3A)

Coach: Darrel Knoll (14th year, 247-65 career record)

Last season: 13-9 overall, 4-4 Mid Division

Top players: Layne Frick, 6-3 senior; Adam Woods, 6-3 senior; Ross Duerksen, 6-2 senior; Andy Brubacher, 5-11 junior; Tyler Weinbrenner, 5-8 junior; Shawn Hughbanks, 6-1 junior; Dustin Jost, 5-11 junior; Steven Chisholm, 6-2 junior; Adam Driggers, 6-2 senior.

Poll points: 14 (4 first-place)

3. Sterling (2A)

Coach: Don Zimmerman (3rd year, 114-57 career record)

Last season: 15-8 overall, 3-5 Mid Division

Top players: Dustin Galyon, 5-10 senior (All-MCAA hon. men.); Shiloh Vincent, 6-1 senior; Derek Schneider, 5-10 senior; Dallas Schnurr, 5-11 sophomore; Travis Cook, 6-1 sophomore; Tanner Vincent, 6-1 senior.

Poll points: 32.5

4. Halstead (3A)

Coach: Joe Gerber (1st year)

Last season: 22-4 overall, 7-1 Mid Division, defending Class 3A state champions

Top players: Brandt Pyle, 6-3 senior; Jordan Regehr, 5-10 sophomore; Ryan McKay, 6-7 junior; Jacob Farmer, 5-9 junior; Mark Denno, 6-2 senior; Jeff Millspaugh, 6-1 junior.

Poll points: 34.5

5. Ellinwood (3A)

Coach: Grant Lane (4th year)

Last season: 5-16 overall, 1-7 Mid Division

Top players: David Waite, 5-9 senior; Nathan Robinson, 6-5 junior; Andy Wesner, 6-0 senior; Cody Engle, 5-10 sophomore; Troy Reade, 5-8 junior; Kevin Ille, 6-2 sophomore.

Poll points: 41

Central Division Boys

1. Hesston (3A)

Coach: Ty Rhodes (1st year)

Last season: 20-3 overall, 8-0 Central Division

Top players: Brad Gattis, 6-4 senior (All-MCAA first team); Brian Roulhac, 6-1 junior; Cole Esau, 6-1 senior; Stacy Elmore, 6-3 senior; Roman Hofer, 5-10 senior; JB Petrocci, 5-10 junior; Taylor Dunham, 5-10 junior; Brian Shultz, 6-4 junior.

Poll points: 14 (7 first-place)

2. Smoky Valley (4A)

Coach: Jay Myers (7th year, 68-61 career record)

Last season: 11-11 overall, 5-3 Central Division

Top players: Keith Furguson, 5-11 senior (All-MCAA hon. men.); Jared Jones, 6-2 senior; Kenny Carlson, 5-9 senior; Darrin Hopp, 6-3 senior (All-MCAA hon. men.); Matt Swift, 6-1 senior; Ky Swisher, 6-2 senior; Brandon Krinhop, 5-11 junior.

Poll points: 19 (2 first-place)

3. Nickerson (4A)

Coach: Rod Kirschner (2nd year at Haven, 358-289 career record)

Last season: 10-12 overall, 5-3 Central Division

Top players: Robert Arneson, 6-4 senior (All-MCAA hon. men.); Noah Krol, 6-2 junior; Kyle McCue, 6-0 junior; Jake Easter, 6-0 junior; Hogan Smith, 6-3 sophomore; Taylor Runyon, 6-4 junior; Andrew Hoak, 5-8 sophomore; Ross Richardson, 6-2 junior; Tyson Bauerle, 5-10 junior; Garet Farney, 5-8 senior; Matt Curran, 5-8 senior.

Poll points: 28.5

4. Haven (4A)

Coach: Brad Morris (info not available)

Last season: 15-7 overall, 5-3 Central Division

Top players: Andy Dirks, 5-7 sophomore; Kent Pearce, 5-11 senior; Ricky Snyder, 5-9 junior; Andy Meyer, 5-11 junior; Steven Mathias, 5-11 junior.

Poll points: 31.5

5. Lyons (4A)

Coach: Trevor Rolff (1st year at Lyons, 63-30 career record)

Last season: 1-20 overall, 0-8 Central Division

Top players: Bruce Sogren, 6-4 junior; Todd Sechrist, 6-0 senior; Zach Dobbins, 5-11 senior; Elijah Rumler, 5-7 junior; Brooks Clark, 6-0 junior; A.J. Reyes, 6-1 junior; Wade Church, 6-0 sophomore.

Poll points: 42

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