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8-Man II Top 8: Gavin Cornelison

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  • 8-Man II Top 8: Gavin Cornelison (Photos: FHS Yearbook)
    8-Man II Top 8: Gavin Cornelison (Photos: FHS Yearbook)

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 11th 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.

Gavin Cornelison, QB/LB, 6-1, 150, Frankfort, Sr.

The Frankfort Wildcats capped an historic three-year run of 8-Man success in November, and if not for Hanover, they would have finished their season in Newton at the 8-Man II title game the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Frankfort posted an 8-Man school record 22 wins over the past three seasons and a first ever 8-Man semifinals appearance last fall, but five of the Wildcats losses in that stretch came to state powerhouse Hanover and kept them from even more postseason success.

After suffering a pair of blowout losses to Hanover in 2018, Frankfort coach Nick Anderson and quarterback Gavin Cornelison regrouped and nearly closed the gap in 2019. 

Hanover survived Frankfort in Week 8 of 2019 by a score of 54-32. Two weeks later Frankfort looked to have taken the upper hand against their Twin Valley League foe, but saw their season end in a heartbreaking 36-32 loss in the second round of the playoffs. Frankfort actually scored more touchdowns than Hanover in the contest, but two-point conversions were the difference in the game.

Last year Frankfort was riding a seven game win streak in a season littered with COVID cancellations, when a loaded Hanover team put an end to a thrilling playoff run, 74-26 in the state semifinals.

While Frankfort’s football program was one of the state’s small school 11-Man powers in the 80s and 90s under legendary coach Larry Schroeder, with four championship game appearances between 1983 and 1998, the last three years were the best since the school switched to 8-Man in 2008.

For head coach Nick Anderson, a Frankfort alum, the past three seasons were the outcome of a lifetime spent devoted to Frankfort football. After playing for Schroeder from 1996 to 1999, Anderson returned to his hometown to take over the junior high football program. Ten years later, in 2016, he took the reins of the high school program.

After a pair of middling seasons (5-4, 4-5) Anderson and the Wildcats were looking to turn the corner and return Frankfort to its once prominent position in the football pecking order. Quarterback Gavin Cornelison was there to lead the way.

After taking over as the full-time starter midway through his sophomore season, Cornelison exploded as a junior racking up 1,690 yards of offense and 25 total touchdowns while helping Frankfort finish 8-2 with a second round playoff exit.

Cornelison also provided one of the 2019 season’s penultimate finishes with a 32-yard touchdown pass to teammate Branden Bussman as time expired to knock off eventual state finalist Axtell, 24-20, just a week removed from Axtell delivering their own thrilling two-point victory over Hanover.

Check out video of the play below:

Individually, Cornelison saved the best for last during a fantastic senior season. In just eight games, he threw for 975 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for another 821 yards and 12 more scores. On the defensive side of the ball, he recorded 42 total tackles to go along with three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

His performance on the field led to a number of honors, including Twin Valley All-League second team and honorable mention from the Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle. To top that, he also was named to the first ever Kansas Pregame 8-Man II Top 8 list.

As a team, Frankfort also had an excellent season, in spite of two COVID related game cancellations. The Wildcats finished the year with a 7-2 record and made a deep playoff run before they were knocked out by eventual state champs, Hanover. Besides their two losses, Frankfort dominated a majority of their games, particularly during a five-game stretch in the middle of the season where they outscored opponents 266-40.

“My senior season was definitely one to remember,” Cornelison said. “We didn’t have as many guys on the team as in the past, but I felt like the guys that we had out fit perfectly into their roles and everything kind of fell into place as the year went on. For me it was the feeling that we did something that hasn’t been done in Frankfort in such a long time. In the past two years, we were extremely close, and going into this year we had the mentality to get further in the playoffs than any of us have made it in our four years.”

Gavin finished up his impressive career at Frankfort with stellar numbers. In the passing game, he racked up 2,525 yards and 43 touchdowns on 141 completions, all three being 8-Man school career records. On the ground, he totaled 1,918 yards and another 28 touchdowns and was a part of the winningest class in 8-Man school history for the Wildcats. His efforts also helped his squad earn their first trip to the sub-state playoff round since 2003.

Gavin’s skills don’t end at football. He also is a four-year starter in basketball and helped lead the Wildcats to a berth in the state tournament last year with his 12.3 point and 4.3 rebounds per game, earning Twin Valley All-League second team for his efforts. Cornelison is currently averaging 19.5 games through six games this season.

Coach Anderson called Cornelison both a great player and teammate. 

“Gavin is everything you could ask for in a student-athlete. He has done everything that we have asked of him over the past four years. He works hard in the weight room. He is a good leader that communicates well with his teammates. He is extremely coachable and is not afraid to put his team on his back when needed. Most importantly....he is a good human being that is a great role model for his peers and the youth in our community.”

Cornelison plans to attend Kansas State University and major in Secondary Education after graduating from Frankfort.