JULESBURG — Driving through the community of Julesburg, it’s hard to miss the purple and black flags dangling from so many homes. These people are proud of their Cougars.
And why wouldn’t they be?
After a 42-6 dismantling of West Grand on their home field, Sedgwick County can now say they are the first 8-man football program in over two decades to win three consecutive state championships. Stratton won four in a row from 1992-1995.
“It shows how hard we work,” said Layne Green, a pulverizing running back and middle linebacker. “We don’t practice for nothing. It shows how dominant we can be.”
The dynastic program has now claimed 33 wins in a row against Colorado opponents. Victories of 49-0 over McClave, 44-6 over Fowler, 41-8 over Holly, and 42-6 over West Grand cemented this group as another overwhelming force during the postseason. During a 12-0 season, Sedgwick County tallied 509 points and only gave up 120.
Before they could taste another title, the Cougars had to get by a game West Grand team with a storied tradition of their own. Head coach Chris Brown holds the state record for wins with 327, six more than Kent Denver’s Scott Yates.
The Mustangs (12-1) were unbeaten on the season entering Saturday. They had given up the fewest amount of points in the classification (80) and had scored the most (488).
Appearing in their first finals since winning 1A in 1998—they made five title games in the decade and won in 1996 as well—West Grand presented the Cougars with their stiffest test yet.
After winning the coin toss and electing to receive the ball first, Mustang running back Hugh Wheatley found a seam and burst 20 yards. The ball was lost from his grip though and Green fell on it. Then, speedy sophomore Beau Parker had a five-yard touchdown plunge to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead two minutes in.
On the next possession, Sedgwick County quarterback and safety Brennan Ehmke picked off West Grand’s Brady Gore. Sedgwick took advantage again as Green punched it in from five yards out himself.
West Grand moved the ball a bit early on, but as soon as they would secure a little momentum the Cougars would snatch it right back.
A 33-yard touchdown catch by senior Cade McKinney (14 scoring grabs in 2017) made it 21-0 early in the second frame. The Mustangs’ spirit didn’t break though as they forced Sedgwick into a 2nd and 31 on the Cougars’ own nine-yard line during the next series.
Then Layne Green found open pastures. Streaking through a big hole on the left side, the nearly 200-pound junior rumbled 91 yards for the touchdown.
“Our offensive line blocks extremely well,” Sedgwick coach Chris Michel said. “We ran the ball really effectively today. We have two great backs. Layne is a big, tough runner. He’s hard to bring down.”
Sedgwick County took a 28-0 lead into the break and continued with their commanding rushing attack in the third quarter as Green scored his third touchdown midway through the frame from five yards away yet again. Ehmke sprinted 68 yards later in the third for the Cougars’ last score.
Wheatley, a junior for West Grand, did rush nine yards to the end zone on the season’s final play to make it 42-6.
In total, Sedgwick County accumulated 430 yards, 334 of which came on the ground. Ehmke had 96 passing yards and 83 rushing yards, while Green finished with 161 rushing yards. Parker chipped in 86 rushing yards of his own.
After taking down Akron 41-11 and 36-6 in the previous two title games, Sedgwick County can walk off their home field with a third title in a row. For Green (46 career touchdowns), he’s hoping to go four-for-four when he finishes his career in the black and purple.
“I’m a junior, so I want to keep it going.”
With a top-shelf group of seniors but only five in total, Sedgwick County will likely be the heavy favorites again in 2018.
The co-op program of Julesburg (4 football titles) and Revere (9) will hope to add to a longstanding tradition in the area. Ovid, which later became known as Revere, won titles in 1956 and 1962 as well. That means the county has claimed 18 state championships overall.
“This is a great community,” coach Michel said. “They are going to be here for awhile celebrating with everybody. It’s great we’ve been able to come together as two separate schools and form Sedgwick County and now have some of that success that those individual programs had in the past.”
West Grand will return a strong core of talent next season as well, led by dynamic junior tailbacks Luis Dominguez (25 rushing touchdowns in 2017) and Hugh Wheatley (over 1,000 yards). They combined for over 100 yards in the finals.