8-Man II Top 8: Shadryon Blanka
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 fourth 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.
Shadryon Blanka, RB/LB, 6-2, 205, St. Francis, Sr.
Shadryon “Shady” Blanka has the unique ability to seemingly appear everywhere on the football field all at once. Whether it be from his running back position on offense or as a linebacker defensively, Blanka was seldom far away from a play. While one might credit Blanka’s obvious natural ability as the main reason for this omnipresence, there has been no shortage of sweat equity invested in his development either.
“A lot of time has been put into the weight room and on the field,” Blanka said of the work it took to achieve such success. “I have been playing since I was in fourth grade and have always known that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve worked on my speed since my freshman year and that paid off as well. I have also spent a lot of time at camps learning all the different ways to be the best at my positions.”
Blanka’s efforts translated into some incredible statistics his senior season - 2,280 yards rushing, 35 rushing touchdowns, 146 receiving yards, 4 touchdown receptions, 89 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions and 2 defensive touchdowns - whew, what a mouthful.
Third-year St. Francis head coach Nick Fawcett said Blanka is the perfect combination of speed and power.
“Shadryon is the most explosive, and fastest athlete that I have ever coached,” Fawcett said. “His dedication and consistency to his craft and the weight room shows when he steps on the field. He is a true game-changer. The fastest player in 8-Man football - not named Tyson Struber - any time Shadryon touched the ball there was a very good chance it was going the distance. If he got past the second level, he was gone without a doubt, as evident against an extremely fast and super athletic Hanover team in the state championship game. I hand-timed him myself at 4.57 and 4.59 in the 40-yard dash in back-to-back attempts this past summer leading into his senior season.”
His athleticism and heightened vision made navigating downfield seamless for the 6-2, 205 pound back, and his physicality on defense likely caused many sleepless nights for opposing offensive coordinators.
Blanka made some considerable contributions to his personal trophy case after his 2020 season to go with the team’s state runner-up trophy. Along with earning first team All-State honors from the Wichita Eagle and Topeka-Capital Journal, he was named Sports in Kansas 8-Man II Offensive Player of the Year, placed on various top players of 2020 lists, and was voted by coaches to the Kansas Pregame 8-Man II Top 8 list. He also earned a spot on the Kansas Shrine Bowl West Squad just last week.
Blanka is also a standout on the wrestling mat during the winter months. During his junior season, he finished third in 3-2-1A in the 195 pound weight class. He is currently ranked third in the state in the same weight class, with serious aspirations for a wrestling state championship to be added to the aforementioned award display as well.
Blanka has maintained a 3.7 GPA in the classroom and is currently planning on majoring in Athletic Training or another medical field in which he can help athletes. The bigger question for him at this time will be where he will continue to develop as a student-athlete.
“I will be playing college football but have not made my decision on where I would like to go play as I am keeping my options open and wanting to see all their campuses”, Blanka said. “I am willing to play anywhere on the field that I can benefit the team and myself best.”
Wherever Blanka decides to go, his commitment to excellence and his teammates will make him a fine addition, according to Fawcett.
“What also makes Shadryon special, and a pleasure to coach, is his easy-going and fun personality, his work ethic and his dedication to his team,” Fawcett said. He only missed one or two summer weights sessions total over the three-year period that I've been here, to show cattle, which is another passion of his outside of football and wrestling.”