11 Leavenworth County underclassmen football players to watch this season

Jason Brown
The Leavenworth Times

With the high school football season set to kick off in less than a week, let's take a look at some of Leavenworth County's underclassmen football players who are expected to have solid seasons. This list is not a ranking and is not ordered in any specific way. Below are athletes from Basehor-Linwood, Lansing, Leavenworth and Pleasant Ridge.

Eddie McLaughlin - Leavenworth - QB

Eddie McLaughlin

Leavenworth's signal-caller was in a unique situation last season becoming the starter as a sophomore during a year that was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. McLaughlin handled the adversity well, throwing for 784 yards on 40-86 passing with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His arm isn't the only thing defenses have to worry about as he was lethal in the rushing game with 891 yards on 121 carries — over seven yards a carry — and nine more scores. Expect McLaughlin to keep putting his dual-threat skills to use for his second year in head coach Sean Sachen's offense. 

More:Crawford, Sisemore among promising crop of local seniors

Levi Cooley

Levi Cooley - Basehor-Linwood - OL

Cooley is an anchor of the Bobcats’ offensive line and has been for his entire high school career. The soon-to-be third-year starter will be surrounded by mostly newcomers along the line but should still be the backbone of Basehor’s balanced offensive attack. 

Tyrone Butler - Lansing - RB

The Lions are looking to fill the shoes of graduated running back Jack Knutson, and head coach Dylan Brown said the sophomore Butler has impressed leading up to the season. As a freshman last season, Butler joined the varsity squad for the final two games of the year and had a productive showing. He got 12 carries and made the most of them with 89 yards — an average of 7.4 yards per carry — as well as a touchdown.

Xavier Strickland - Leavenworth - RB

Similar to Butler, the Leavenworth sophomore saw very limited action with the varsity squad during his freshman year. He was super productive, getting just five carries and reeling off 51 yards and two touchdowns. With the Pioneers looking to fill the hole left by Keenan Brown — over 1,000 total yards and 17 total touchdowns — Strickland should have a shot to be in the mix for more carries this season.

Tyson Ruud - Basehor-Linwood - WR

The junior nabbed just one reception last season for 17 yards, but a breakout season for the Bobcat track and field team is reason enough to be excited for what the 6-foot-5 wideout can bring to the offense. As a sophomore Ruud took third place in the high jump at the Class 5A state meet with a clearance of 6 feet, 2 inches. That type of athleticism will play well when the Bobcats need someone to go up and grab a ball. 

Jamale Williams - Lansing - DL

Williams led the Lions in fumble recoveries last season and is slated to line up at nose tackle this season. He medaled in 5A state track and field as a sophomore with a seventh-place finish in the discus. 

Brant Wilson

Brant Wilson - Basehor-Linwood - WR

The junior caught 15 passes for 170 yards in a reserve role last season as a sophomore and will be called into a bigger role as the Bobcats reload their receiving corps in the coming seasons.

Jacob Robinson

Jacob Robinson - Leavenworth - WR

Robinson was the Pioneers' leader in receiving yards last season with 209 on 17 receptions for one score. Look for the junior to continue to develop chemistry with his quarterback in the Pioneers' balanced attack. 

Cooper Beying

Cooper Beying - Pleasant Ridge - QB

Pleasant Ridge will have a new quarterback this season with former starter Connor Gibson having graduated in May, and sophomore Cooper Beying appears to have won the job. Beying is a three-sport athlete, competing for the Rams' wrestling and baseball teams as well. He'll have a solid receiving target in Devin Stutz and an experienced offensive line in front of him for his first season under center. 

Nate Expose - Lansing - TE

The junior — listed at 6-foot-5 — did not record a catch last season but is expected to be one of quarterback Caden Crawford's top targets as he adds a receiving element to his game this season. Brown said Expose already possesses excellent blocking ability and making him a target to catch passes should result in a tough matchup for defenders. 

Jekai Harris - Basehor-Linwood - RB

While senior standout running back Zack Sisemore will be the Bobcats' feature back in 2021, don't be surprised to see the junior Harris get into the mix to lessen Sisemore's workload throughout the season. Head coach Rod Stallbaumer said the Bobcats are going to lean toward a more run-heavy scheme this season, meaning there should be more carries to go around. As a sophomore, Harris appeared in six varsity games and got 28 carries for 117 yards and two scores. 

If there's an athlete missing from this list that you think should have been included, contact Jason Brown at jbrown@leavenworthtimes.com