Monday, 20 September 2021
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Local Sports News
2021 Big 7 Football Preview
By Brandon Tadtman, Justin Fluke, Jonny Kane

The streak remains alive with the Big 7 League having at least one team in the state championship game now for four consecutive years and five of the past six seasons. Perry-Lecompton knocked off league foe Holton twice, including in 3A Sub-State to return to Hutchinson before falling again to Andale. Perry also went undefeated to win their first Big 7 football league title. Three other schools all finished with only one league loss in Holton, Sabetha and Jeff West. The defending 2A State Champions from Nemaha Central mad it back to Sub-State before falling to 2020 champion, Rossville. The fact remains, the Big 7 is one of the best and most well-respected leagues in the state. 

Last year there were no new coaches in the Big 7 league, but this year however, there is a new man in charge at Jeff West, Royal Valley and Nemaha Central. David Boucher takes over the Panthers as the only promotion from within while David Bowen landed in Meriden and Michael Glatzcak gets a chance at his first head football job with the Thunder. 

Holton had dominated the Big 7 by winning 47 games in a row with a string of nine years as the champs and 15 of 17 seasons before 2015. Nemaha Central had a three-year run and Sabetha had a league, and now Jeff West and Perry have earned their first league titles in the past couple of years. 

Holton is the favorite to claim the Big 7 title in 2021, which would be the first time since 2014. Despite losing four seniors that accounted for the majority of the offense in the backfield spts and led the defense in tackles, the Wildcats return more than half their starters on defense with a very strong and experienced group of linemen back and also have more depth than any other team in the league. Head coach Brooks Barta enters his 26th season with a great group of seasoned athletes and should be a team with a stout defense. 

Defending champ, Perry-Lecompton, as well as Nemaha Central also remain strong contenders and both play Holton in the first three weeks of the season. The Thunder showed last season why they are a perennial power and now head into 2021 with a new face on the sidelines. Michael Glatczak is set to take over for Warren Seitz who spent 10 years as the head coach compiling a record of 84-24. Glatczak inherits a team that has the chance to be special, bringing back seven players including all-state selection Zac Kramer who is one of the top returners in the state. The Kaws have a daunting task of replacing 12 seniors, including 10 starters. Head coach Mike Paramore enters his 21st season at Perry with only one starter back on defense in top lineman Wesley Monaghan. Like Holton, Perry has a talented and deep junior class and the winning pedigree in place for a run in 2021. 

Sabetha might be a year away from challenging for the league title again with a sophomore class that will be asked to replace a group of 12 seniors, 10 of which started on defense. Two of those sophomores started as freshmen a year ago for Garrett Michael who starts his 13th year as head coach and 24th overall at Sabetha. The Jays are always competitive because they control the ball and don't make mistakes and those trends are likely to continue. 

Riverside has the luxury of a third-year starting quarterback as Kobe Davis has put up some big numbers with 2,900 passing yards already in his career. However, he is one of only five returning starters. The Cyclones must replace their backfield and find new linemen to step into starting roles as they went from a six win season in 2019 to just 4-5 last season. Davis and the Duncan boys will form a strong group of linebackers for coach Bryce Paden who enters his 4th campaign at Riverside. 

Jeff West battled Covid issues as much as anyone last season and now has a new coach after 15 years with Steve Johnson controlling the sidelines. David Bowen takes over the Tigers after spending the previous two years in Hays and Baldwin. The Tigers lost seven starting seniors but do return half their starters on both sides of the ball. Jeff West must replace most of their size and line and don't appear to have as much depth while learning a new system this season. 

Hiawatha seems to be moving in the right direction with Michael Downard entering his 5th season with the program and third season as head coach. A three-win season was the best in the last four years. The Hawks have had limited seniors the past couple of years and now have a solid group of underclassmen with some varsity experience, as well as some talented younger classes that will push for playing time and provide good depth across the board. With only replacing a couple of starters, the Redhawks should be ready to take a step forward in 2021. 

Royal Valley has turned to former assistant coach David Boucher to lead the program after seven seasons with Jake Lott as head coach. The Panthers didn't play a game until September 18th last season because of Covid and were only able to play seven games. They lost all of their games by at least 14 points and have compiled a 3-22 record the past three seasons. However, Royal Valley returns at least six starters on both sides of the ball this season and has a good experienced senior class with 16 total letter-winners back. With a strong and motivated nucleus and new blood and excitement leading the program, the Panthers seem poised to be more competitive this season. 

Big 7 All-League Returners

OFFENSE

(1st Team) Zac Kramer - Nemaha Central - SR QB 
(Honorable Mention) Kobe Davis - Riverside - SR QB 
(Honorable Mention) Thadd Menold - Sabetha - SR OL 

DEFENSE

(1st Team) Thadd Menold - Sabetha - SR LB
(Honorable Mention) Wesley Monaghan - Perry Lecompton - SR DL 
(Honorable Mention) Blake Stallbaumer - Nemaha Central - JR LB 
(Honorable Mention) Todrick Duncan - Riverside - JR LB 
(Honorable Mention) Joel Bryan - Hiawatha - SR DB
(Honorable Mention) Ashton Rockey - Hiawatha - JR DB 

2020 Big 7 Standings 

Perry Lecompton (3-0, 11-2) 
Holton                   (4-1, 9-2) 
Sabetha                (4-1, 5-4) 
Jeff West               (2-1, 2-5) 
Nemaha Central    (1-2, 8-3) 
Riverside               (1-2, 4-5) 
Hiawatha               (1-5, 3-6) 
Royal Valley          (0-4, 0-7) 

 


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