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8-Man I Top 8: Graham Stephens

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  • 8-Man I Top 8: Graham Stephens (Photo: Everett Royer,
    8-Man I Top 8: Graham Stephens (Photo: Everett Royer,

In mid-December Kansas Pregame contacted 8-Man football coaches in an effort to name a first ever Top 8 team of seniors for both divisions of 8-Man football in Kansas. After an overwhelming response from coaches, and once all the votes were tallied, 16 players were selected.

This is the 13th of 16 individual player profiles highlighting the Top 8 selections in each division and released in no particular order. Look for more in the coming days.

Graham Stephens, QB/HB/LB/K/P, 5-8, 200, Little River, Sr.

Little River senior Graham Stephens, a four-year starter, made his 2020 football season one for redemption. After an excellent showing in the 2019 regular season as a junior, Stephens sustained an injury during a first round matchup with South Gray and was forced to miss the remainder of the postseason. Without one of their pivotal weapons, the Redskins would end up falling in the quarterfinals to Wichita County, 74-38.

After utilizing both Stephens and Garrison in a two-quarterback system in 2019, allowing their diverse abilities to complement each other, the Redskins would ride the duo to the pinnacle of 8-Man football achievement in 2020, an 8-Man I title. Along the way, Stephens would accumulate 462 passing yards and 12 touchdown completions to go along with 903 rushing yards resulting in 21 rushing TDs.

Defense is also a strength for Stephens. The senior linebacker recorded an astounding 135 total tackles, 25 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and three fumble recoveries. As a result, Stephens received first team All-State linebacker recognition for his defensive prowess.

To add to his impressive offensive and defensive production, special teams is arguably Stephens’ biggest strength of all. It is also important when throwing out cliches about kickers and punters being “soft” to remember the 5-8, 200 pound linebacker does not shy away from contact.

During his senior season, Stephens didn’t punt often due to the offensive success. When he did punt, he did it well, placing two of the season’s nine punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line with a long of 45 yards. His career long 60-yard punt came as a freshman. 

With Little River’s tendency to score in droves, Stephens alternatively had numerous opportunities to kickoff. In 81 kicks he had 61 touchbacks and accounted for 3,889 kickoff yards.

For his efforts on special teams, Stephens was recognized as an All-State kicker by the Wichita Eagle  and All-State specialist by the Topeka Capital-Journal. His all-around game also earned him a nod on the first ever Kansas Pregame 8-Man I Top 8 as well.

Stephens’ diverse skill set helped to soothe the pain from his heart-wrenching injury during the 2019 playoffs. Little River would finish the season 11-2 with an eventual 8-Man I State Championship victory in a rematch with the Wichita County Indians. The Redskins would best them in a 70-58 scorefest.

“Graham brings so many skills to the table,” Little River head coach Kevin Ayers said. “On defense he has a nose for the ball and is extremely good in the blitz game. Offensively he can run it, throw it, and catch it. You add in his ability to punt and kick the ball and you have a very rare kind of player that plays a big role in every facet of the game. His ability to kick the onside and then put it out of the back of the endzone played a major role in our state championship run.”