The 2021 8-Man All-Star games return to Beloit this weekend after COVID led to the cancellation of the 35th annual games last summer. Coaches, players and fans will take part in a pep-rally Friday night prior to the Saturday morning kickoff of the Division II game at 10 o’clock, followed by the Division I game at 1:30.
The players and coaches are anxious to compete, especially given the cancellation of last year’s games, the first cancellations in the 36 year history of the event.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to get back to a sense of normalcy,” said DII West coach Charlie Austin, of South Central in Coldwater. “The kids and coaches are excited to be able to practice and compete this week.”
Both the Division I and Division II games will again be played in Beloit at Trojan Stadium, home field of the Beloit High Trojans.
Division II - 10 a.m. Kickoff
The East squad head coach is Eric Detweiler of Axtell, who will be assisted by Brian Hadley (Lebo), Colby Hamel (Rock Hills), and Colten Barrett (Hartford).
Detweiler’s East team includes Gavin Cornelison (Frankfort), Aiden Gerstner (Frankfort), cousins Jacob and Colin Jueneman (Hanover), Jacob Klipp (Hanover), Konnor Murphy (Wakefield), Jerome Ferguson (Lebo), Andrew Bailey (Lebo), Mitchell Buessing (Axtell), George Volle (Axtell), Wilson Smith (St. Paul), Zach Skillman (Waverly), Andy Andrews (Hartford), Ethan Benne (Pike Valley), Brennan Flavin (Pike Valley), Lance Kaser (Osborne), Kael McQueen (Wetmore), Wyatt Eberle (Lakeside), and twin brothers Braden and Blake Perez (St. John’s-Beloit/Tipton).
The East’s Hanover trio are coming off of a state championship season, while the Jueneman cousins both made Pregame’s 8-Man II Top 8. Cornelison was also a member of the Top 8 list.
The West squad, meanwhile, will be headed by Charlie Austin of South Central, assisted by Mike Jenner (Logan/Palco), Reigo Hahn (Minneola), and Gene Glenn (South Central).
Suiting up for Coach Austin will be Colton McCarty (Cheylin), Cooper Wolf (South Haven), Jonny Robles (South Central), Cale Lindsay (South Central), Shadryon Blanka (St. Francis), Ian Sparks (Logan/Palco), Ryan Hause (Triplains/Brewster), Trevor Zarybnicky (Wheatland/Grinnell), Jayvon Pruitt (Victoria), Trenton Engle (Victoria), Emilio Perez (South Barber), Jude Stow (Caldwell), Trey Strnad (Caldwell), Kleyton Schreiber (Stafford), Cooper Weinhold (Wilson), Tra Barrinentes (Sylvan-Lucas), Tyler Holmes (Central Plains), and William Laymon (Central Plains).
St. Francis’ Blanka was a key piece of both the 2019 8-Man I and 2020 8-Man II state runner-up squads and plans to play football at Kansas State University.
Blanka was also a member of the 8-Man II Top 8, along with Sylvan-Lucas lineman Tra Barrientes and Victoria running back/linebacker Jayvonn Pruitt.
“This has been a very cool experience so far getting to meet some of the guys I’ve played against,” Pruitt said. “It has also been fun getting to learn new offensive schemes and getting to play some new positions. I’m very excited for the game and expect my team to do very well. I feel we have been able to click early, and can’t wait to see where we are at by Saturday.”
Cheylin’s McCarty is the lone non-8-Man player on the list, having played 6-Man at Cheylin and is one of the top all-around athletes from northwest Kansas.. He helped lead Cheylin to the 2020 Wild West Bowl 6-Man State Championship by a score of 47-0.
“The biggest matchup we are anticipating is the size and power of the West against the speed of the East,” Austin said.
Division I - 1:30 p.m. Kickoff
After the conclusion of the DII game, the DI All-Stars will take the field.
The East team will have Madison’sAlex McMillian calling plays from the sideline. Shelby Hoppes (Canton-Galva), Kavin Ayers (Little River), and Brody Vanderift (Chase County).
Coach McMillian has been particularly impressed with the rate at which his players have been able to catch on so far.
“It’s really pretty amazing,” McMillian said. “They are all outstanding football players and we ask a lot of them. We only get six practices to install and it’s amazing how fast these young men learn and catch on to things.”
McMillian’s squad includes Tryston Young (Bennington), Garrett Robison (Burlingame, WR/DB), Austin Tyson (Burlingame, TE/LB), Conner Koehn (Canton Galva, OL/DE), Keaton Littrell (Canton Galva (OL/DL), Owen Eidman (Chase County), Trint Rogers (Chase County RB/DB), Jarik Weiche (Clifton Clyde, OL/DE), Aiden Rudolph (Clifton Clyde, RB/LB), Tyler Good (RB/LB), Jayden Garrison (Little River, Ath/DB), Graham Stephens (Little River, RB/LB), Hunter Engle (Madison, RB/LB), Isaac Miser (Madison, OL/LB), Ryan Wolgram (Madison Ath/DB), Isac Elkins (Oswego, TE/LB), Eli Campbell (Sedan Ath/LB), Cade Norris (Valley Falls, RB/LB), and Drew Buhrman (Washington County, Ath/DB).
Garrison, Stephens, and Engle were all members of the Kansas Pregame Division I 8-Man Top 8 list. Stephens and Garrison earned their spot after taking the DI title as the state champ’s top two offensive threats.
Engle, meanwhile, was one of the most versatile backs in the state, while also being a force at defensive end.
“I am extremely excited and humbled to have been selected to participate in this year's all-star game,” Engle said. “I grew up watching some of the Madison greats play in it and to be gifted the opportunity to follow in their footsteps is just an absolute honor. I can’t wait to strap it up one last time and go to battle with my brothers. This game gives me a chance to meet guys from around the state that I know will remain lifelong friends after this week is over and that is a huge blessing as I begin the journey into adulthood.”
The West squad coach is Hoxie’s Lance Baar, who led his Hoxie team to a 9-2 record before being eliminated by All-Star game assistant Brant Douglas’ Wichita County team, the eventual state runner-up.
Also assisting Baar will be Jon Webster (La Crosse) and Pat Haxton (Wakeeney-Trego).
The West roster includes Kayde Rietzke (Wichita Co.), AC Hermosillo (Wichita Co.), Harlan Obioha (Hoxie), Lucas Webster (LaCrosse), Tanner Miller (Spearville), Jayce Hamel (Hill City), Manny Chavez (Wichita Co.), Gavon Uehlin (Oberlin-Decatur Co.), Noah Phillips (Argonia/Attica), Cleven Huggins (Macksville), Isaac Salmans (Hodgeman Co.), Cyrus Green (Atwood Rawlins Co.) Aaron Skidmore (South Gray), Trace Tasset (Spearville), Brody McDowell (Hill City), Edwin Rodriguez (Ness City), Ethan Salmans (South Gray), Blake Goodman (Argonia/Attica), Matt Delaney (Ness City), and Caden White (Hoxie).
Rietzke, Chavez, Obioha, and Skidmore were all members of the Division I 8-Man Top 8 list. Rietzke and Chavez were both pivotal parts of the Wichita Co. state runner-up team that was defeated by Little River, giving both the DI and DII All-Star games some state championship rematch intrigue.
Obioha will be an athlete to keep an eye on during the game, which shouldn’t be challenging considering he’s 7-feet tall!. The lineman is among the top basketball and football prospects in the Midwest in2021 class.
“I felt so bad for those players that didn’t get to play last year, '' McMillian said. “They had so much taken away from them. I appreciate anytime I get to be a part of this game. It’s an honor to be a part of and I think the kids understand that as well.”