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 eighth 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.
Harlan Obioha, OL/DL/TE, 6-11, 290, Hoxie, Sr.
The term standout athlete takes on a new meaning when referring to Hoxie’s Harlan Obioha. At nearly seven feet tall and 300 pounds, the senior lineman stood above the rest, not only in size, but also with his play on the field.
Despite his hulking stature and potential to take over games single-handedly, Obioha understands the need to stress the small things for team success.
“Coming into this year, you know, we came off a pretty disappointing year last year, and we really wanted to make a big deal about making a new culture trying to get that Hoxie name as a powerhouse again,” Obioha said. “It started in the weight room this summer. [We] had a lot of guys dedicated to being really good this year, and I think it showed come season time.”
During his senior year, Obioha recorded 67 total tackles, 21 tackles-for-a-loss, 6 sacks, and over 20 hurries. His incredible wingspan and surprising mobility for his size also made him the anchor of an almost impenetrable Indian offensive line. Ocasionally, the Indians would even utilize Obioha's excellent hands to create a sizable mismatch in the passing game.
Hoxie dominated a majority of their season, with Obioha a major key to the team’s success. The Indians finished the year 9-2 with both losses being to the eventual 8-Man I runner-up, Wichita County. The last of those losses in the state semifinals.
“Harlan has been a fun kid to watch grow in football,” Hoxie football coach Lance Baar said of his towering lineman. “He has continually improved throughout his high school career. He started out as a big kid that was alright and turned into a special player. Pancakes isn't a stat that we keep, but he had a lot and, many times, multiple pancakes on a single play. He was a force on defense. He played all across the line, and it seemed most teams would run away from him.”
Obioha’s play was noticed statewide, as he made his way onto a number of award lists, including a spot in Kansas Pregame’s 8-Man, Division I Top 8 and all-state teams for both the Wichita Eagle and Topeka Capital-Journal. Most recently he was voted to play in the 2021 Kansas Shrine Bowl game with the West Squad.
Obioha is dominant on the basketball court as well. After leading Hoxie to a 21-3 record last season and a state tournament berth with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.9 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game, Obioha received All-State honors from multiple outlets. While his obvious size advantage is key to his success on the basketball court, he’s no one-trick pony, he can pass, shoot and defend.
When asked about the way he uses his size in basketball compared to football, Obioha sees a clear connection.
“I think the footwork is the biggest thing in basketball,” Obioha said. “Post moves are all footwork, so I think that what really helped me in football to be a lineman is just having fast feet.”
Harlan’s already impressive footwork and the rest of his unicorn skill set will continue to develop at the next level. Currently he is leaning toward playing basketball, though he is still undecided on whether his college domain will be the field or the court.
If he goes the football route he is currently weighing offers from the Big 10's University of Indiana, the SEC’s University of Mississippi, the PAC-12’s Arizona State, and the Big 12’s Iowa State, among others. Notable basketball offers include Grambling State and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.