In early January, Kansas Pregame contacted 6-Man football coaches in an effort to name a first ever Top 6 team of seniors in Kansas. The results are in and here are the Top 6 players in Kansas as voted on by the coaches.
This is the first of six individual player profiles highlighting the Top 6 selections released in no particular order:
Rojelio Loya, RB/DE/LB, 5-7, 160, Golden Plains, Sr.
When checking Golden Plains’ Rojelio Loya’s height and weight in the program on a Friday night, one might find him undersized for a defensive end, and subsequently, not a much of a threat. But if you face Loya on the field, such an assumption could be painful.
The 5-7, 160 pound senior is ferocious on the football field and more than makes up for his size with incredible quickness and tenacity, Golden Plains head coach Travis Smith noted.
“Rojelio has been a three-year starter for me on defense,” Smith said. “He has a great nose for the ball and is as intense of a defensive player as I've had in my 21 years as a coach. He wants to punish everyone he hits.
Smith called on Loya to change positions prior to last season, and the veteran coach reaped the benefits.
Although in the past he has played defensive back, I moved him to defensive end this past season to rush the quarterback and cover the back to his side in coverage,” Smith said. “Even though he is not built like a defensive end, he was definitely tough enough to set the edge on his side of the field. At times he also played what we call our Rambo backer, which will twist and play games with our nose guard in the A gaps. This in combination with him playing D-end allowed him to get pressure on the quarterback, and that's what we were expecting from him.”
Smith’s decision to use Loya as an agent of chaos against quarterbacks and backfields was incredibly effective. Loya would finish his senior season with 103 tackles, 10 sacks, and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a 70-yard Pick 6.
For his work at his defensive end spot, Loya was named to the Kpreps.com Honorable Mention 6-Man All-State team.
But Loya’s playmaking abilities are not limited to the defensive side of the ball, as the speedster tallied 847 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 96 carries,10 receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns, and added 301 passing yards and three more touchdowns through the air. He was also a key piece of the return game where he took back two kicks for touchdowns on the year and earned honorable mention as a return specialist.
“He played running back just like he played defense, all out, all the time,” Smith said. “Rojelio rarely went down on the first hit, and it took several defenders to corral him to the ground.
Loya’s tenacity was on display in Golden Plains’ Wild West Bowl consolation game victory over Cunningham.
“He led our rushing attack in our Wild West Bowl game against Cunningham,” Smith said. “When we needed a tough yard or a long run in that game, he carried us on his back that day to do so. I asked a lot of him and Wade (Rush) both on offense. Each took snaps from under center, from the pistol, and were even spread out from time to time.”
Golden Plains finished third in the 6-Man Wild West Bowl tournament in back-to-back years seasons. During the 2020 season, the Bulldogs would go 5-3 with two of their losses to eventual champions Cheylin.
In the last game of his senior season against Cunningham, Loya would rush for five touchdowns, including a pivotal run at the end of the first half that gave Golden Plains the lead for the rest of the game after trailing 25-24. The Bulldogs went on to win the game 58-31.
Coach Smith said Loya will leave a void in the Bulldog program next season.
“We will miss Rojelio's toughness and leadership next year. Each team needs a player that sticks their nose into the dirty work, and that was Rolis for us the last couple of seasons. He has helped set a standard for our program that I hope future players will follow. He will definitely be missed. I am excited to get to coach Rojelio one last time in the 6-Man All-Star game.”