JULESBURG — Layne Green’s style of play is symbolic of his entire team.
The heaviest player (230 pounds) on Sedgwick County is a rugged ball-carrier. His legs, resembling tree trunks, churn through big holes and sprint around and through oncoming defenders.
“He’s been the guy we’ve kind of all looked up to,” Cougars quarterback Ethan Walter said. “If we need some yards, we can give it to him and we can trust that he can get the yards we need.”
As a whole group, when the Cougars faced adversity this season, a 30-game win streak snapped by Merino, they continued marching forward and eventually overpowered teams during their playoff run.
Sedgwick County capped the fall with a fourth consecutive state championship in 8-man football, topping Hoehne 58-14 on their home field. The last 8-man program to earn a four-peat was Stratton (1992-1995).
“I remember as a kid playing 8-man football and I had a pretty good coach, maybe one of the best in the game,” said Sedgwick head man Chris Michel, a former Merino player. “He always talked about the Strattons of the 1990s and their great kids and great coaches. For me to know that we're part of something like this is pretty special.”
Hoehne keyed on stopping the powerful rushing attack of the Cougars (11-1), led by Green, who was named the 8-man player of the year in 2017. The Farmers did well gang-tackling the senior and holding him to under 100 rushing yards, though he still managed to plunge for a 2-yard score.
Green did finish the season with 29 touchdowns, 75 for his career, but the Cougars had to adjust a bit to Hoehne loading the box and daring Sedgwick to pass.
They answered the call, dazzling through the air as the Ethan Walter-Terrance Heath connection produced four touchdowns. Heath had only one receiving score the first 11 games.
“Hoehne knew we had a good running game and they came to stop it,” Walter said. “We would pound the ball and then go over the top. We haven’t had anything quite like that all season.
“They’re going to be lucky to have him (Heath) next year. He’s only going to be a junior. He’s a tremendous athlete.”
On 4th and 9 from the Hoehne 34 yard line, Walter found Heath for a score on the opening possession. Beau Parker ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
Hoehne’s power run game was effective in stretches though as Kyle Rowe rumbled 40 yards during their first scoring chance, but a two-point conversion failed and it was 8-6 in favor of Sedgwick. Each time the 5th-seeded Farmers gained momentum, the Cougars would snatch it back as Heath caught another touchdown on 4th and 5 from the Hoehne 18 early in the second quarter.
Then, Walter had a nifty touchdown run on an option play and Sedgwick County held a 22-6 lead at halftime.
In trying to unseat a three-time defending champion, Hoehne grasped momentum again as Trysten Moltrer, with over 1,400 rushing yards to his credit, sprinted 65 yards to the end zone.
The Farmers pulled within eight, but never clawed closer.
The deadly connection, Walter to Heath, struck again in the third (27 yard pass) and fourth (68 yards) quarters. The last one was the most spectacular as the 6-foot dynamo broke three tackles on the play.
“For a sophomore to come in to the championship game and play like that, that’s something that hopefully in the future we’ll expand on,” Michel said with a beam. “He always has big play capability, but we rely on the run a lot. Today he made the most of his opportunities.”
The Parker brothers — Beau (junior) and Brody (freshman) — made their mark on the ground. Beau rushed for over 100 yards and Brody, checking in to the game with a few minutes left, flashed his speed with a 61 yard score.
“We have one back who is 230 pounds and one back who thinks he’s 230 pounds (Beau Parker),” Michel said with a laugh. “He runs the ball like he’s a big, powerful back. He punishes kids and he does a great job. He has good vision.”
Angel Nunez scooped and housed a fumble by Hoehne on a kickoff return for the final touchdown.
Before Sedgwick County overpowered the visitors, they needed to avenge the loss to Merino (27-24 on October 26). They triumphed in a road test, 32-0, in the semifinals.
“I hate to say it, but I’m kind of glad we lost,” Walter admitted, knowing how well the team regrouped. “That game, we just didn’t have the momentum. We thought we would just walk through it. After that, we were so fired up.”
Hoehne was appearing in their fifth football championship game. They won the 8-man crown in 2012 and 2010, and the 1A crown in 1980. The Farmers, who finished 11-2 in large part due to a terrific rushing attack, were also the runner-up in 2011.