Pioneer does all the right things in winning area POTY

In a year in which local prep teams didn’t have a combined winning record, that didn’t mean there weren’t plenty of fantastic winning performances.

Although Basehor-Linwood, Lansing, Leavenworth and Pleasant Ridge combined for a modest 16-22 record in 2017, there were some young men who turned in some fine performances.

None better than Leavenworth High’s Devin Johnston.

The Pioneer senior do-everything edged out a strong field of candidates this fall to earn the 2017 Leavenworth Times’ Select Football Player of the Year award by virtue of playing well on both sides of the ball against the best competition area teams faced.

The cornerback/running back/wide receiver finished the season with 557 rushing yards, 203 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns while also making 20 tackles and two interceptions. He earned honorable mention All-Sunflower League on defense and might have done more if not tasked to do so much in so many areas.

Where his numbers paled to some, Johnston’s leadership and ability to give something in so many areas is where he stood out most.

“Devin Johnston is not only a very gifted athlete, but he is a tremendous young man with a great deal of character,” LVHS head coach Mark Littrell said. “Devin is leader not only on the football field, but in the classroom and in the school community. Devin is on the Pioneer football honor roll with a cumulative GPA of 3.714 and is a member of the Pioneer football Iron Club for his dedication to the football program.

“Devin has only played two years of high school football. Last season Devin played inside receiver and corner. He really worked to make himself a great player.”

Johnston has only played two seasons and became a strong player for the Pioneers in quick time and with ample expectations placed upon him.

“This season we moved Devin to running back and he made the move without any hesitation and embraced the opportunity,” Littrell said. “With Devin's athletic ability and his unselfish attitude, we were also able to move him around into our Pioneer formation with him taking snaps at quarterback and also putting him back in the slot for various formation looks.

“Devin Johnston is certainly deserving of this honor.”

But for Johnston, it’s not about his individual accolades that matter most.

“My final year playing football for this school went great,” Johnston said. “Did it go as I wanted it to? No, and some of my teammates can say that too. We had a few bumps in the road as the season progressed and had to fight through adversity during games, but overall I enjoyed playing in front of this great community and with the best teammates anyone could ever ask for. 

“Also, our season opener against Lansing is a game that I will never forget because of the hard fought victory we had brought back to our city.”

The Pioneers started off the season unbeaten after two games before hitting some bumps in the road.

“Starting off the season strong with a two-game winning streak was definitely a high point. It really gave us some confidence going into the year and also having a big senior class gave us some confidence too,” Johnston said. “I wish that I could have hyped more people up before the games. (2016) was tough for a lot of us. We had a young team and the young guys were getting used to playing on a varsity level. But this year they really improved in the weight room and on the field which really helped us. 

“We had a few games that we let slip away which were frustrating, like the Olathe South game which was a game that we gave our all but in the end things just didn’t go our way.”

For Johnston, it’s all about the Pioneers, but now he has to start thinking about his future as his senior year wraps up and he begins playing basketball at LVHS. 

That doesn’t mean he won’t have fond memories of his final year on the gridiron for years to come.

“(For college) sports-wise I’m still deciding between football and basketball, but for academics I plan on majoring in sports management,” Johnston said. “I honestly believe we proved a lot of people wrong (in the Sunflower League). People doubted our program and we showed them that we can go head to head with anyone in this league. 

“I feel that we finished the season with a team that displayed hard work and good work ethic and I think that we left our mark in this league.”

REST OF THE SELECT

Andrew Ativie, senior, Leavenworth: Ativie led an improved Pioneer offense on the passing side of things with 660 yards of total offense and was named second-team All-Sunflower League at receiver.

Breydon Baragary, senior, Pleasant Ridge: The Rams’ quarterback led the offense of a very young team that once again made the Class 3A playoffs. Baragary threw for 1,007 yards with six touchdowns and also ran for 1,011 yards with 12 touchdowns to account for more than 2,000 yards of offense. “Breydon is one of the toughest kids I have coached,” Pleasant Ridge head coach Patrick McCollim said. “He is the type of player who thrives in big situations and did a great job of leading the many younger players he was playing with this season.”

Miles Beach, senior, Basehor-Linwood: Beach was the leader of an offensive line that produced 200-plus yards a game on the ground for the 7-3 Bobcats. “Miles has emerged as our most physical and best offensive lineman,” BLHS head coach Rod Stallbaumer said.

Cabe Casmus, senior, Leavenworth: One of the smartest players you will find anywhere, the defensive end was also a tough one to deal with as he finished with 40 tackles, four for loss and recovered two fumbles en route to second-team All-Sunflower League honors.

Joe Dill, senior, Lansing: The Lion excelled on both sides of the ball, averaging 5.29 rushing yards per carry and also registering 83 total tackles.

Nolan Ford, junior, Basehor-Linwood: Ford did it on both sides of the ball with 35 tackles from his linebacker spot, while also rushing for 807 yards and 10 touchdowns and gaining 123 yards as a receiver for two more scores. “Nolan became our most versatile player this season, staring in all three phases, offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Stallbaumer. “He won the starting fullback job and broke the school single-game rushing record with 303 yards against Atchison.   He has been very good defensively and emerged as a very good punter capable of flipping the field.”

Joey Foster, senior, Basehor-Linwood: Foster finished with 75 tackles – 13 for loss – and 7.5 sacks for the Bobcats. “He is the heart and soul of our defense which statistically is the best in the state of Kansas,” Stallbaumer said. “He sets our alignment, makes our checks and leads the team in most statistical categories.”

Jace Friesen, junior, Basehor-Linwood: The Bobcat had 65 tackles with 18 being for a loss and had six sacks. “Jace has come on this season to be a dominating player on the defensive line,” Stallbaumer said. “He is an extremely hard worker and very consistent from week to week.”

Tyler Kobulnicky, senior, Lansing: Probably the area’s best kicker and punter while also making 39 total tackles coming off the edge.

CJ Thomas, senior, Lansing: The new Lion had 55 total tackles from the defensive back position while also averaging 10.65 yards per catch on offense.

T.J. Williams, senior, Basehor-Linwood: The senior linebacker had 66 tackles and two sacks to aid the BLHS defense. “T.J. is one of the most instinctual linebackers I've coached,” Stallbaumer said. “He does a great job of plugging up the middle and finding the football.” 

HONORABLE MENTION

Kyle Alcanter, junior, Basehor-Linwood

Hayes Edwards, senior, Leavenworth

Chase McDaniel, senior, Lansing

Tre Pledger, junior, Lansing

Clayton Richter, junior, Pleasant Ridge

Jahleal Sweet, junior, Lansing

Marcus Sutton, senior, Lansing

Konner Walker, senior, Pleasant Ridge

Hunter Wagner, junior, Pleasant Ridge

J.C. Watson, senior, Basehor-Linwood

Zach White, senior, Basehor-Linwood