Throughout early to mid-December Kansas Pregame contacted 8-Man football coaches in an effort to name the third annual 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 ninth 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.
Isaac Detweiler, QB/DB, 5-11, 180, Axtell
Axtell’s Isaac Detweiler has been a linchpin in a truly dominant two-year run for the Eagle football program. While his father, and head coach, Eric Detweiler, has seen significant success in nearly every season since taking over in 2013, consecutive state titles the last two seasons represent next level success, and with only two games in that 26-win span coming within double digits, this Axtell team will go down as one of the best in 8-Man football history.
Throughout his four-year career on varsity, the coach’s son has been a model leader for his father’s championship culture, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a darn good football player too.
“Isaac hates to lose and does the little things to make himself good,” Coach Detweiler said. “Whether it's watching film, hustling in practice, lifting weights, or whatever it takes – every little thing adds up to success, and our team knows that and Isaac does a great job of leading in that way.”
To start his high school career, the younger Detweiler was primarily utilized as a receiver and in the run game offensively, and for good reason. The freshman caught 61 passes for 855 yards and 11 touchdowns from then Axtell standout quarterback Quinn Buessing, who threw for just under 2,500 yards in his senior season. Detweiler also ran for 511 yards and eight TDs on the year.
On the other side of the ball, Detweiler recorded 72 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, seven interceptions, two pass deflections, three fumble recoveries, and also blocked a punt. His chops on the defensive side of the ball were a sign of things to come for his future offensively.
“I would say his ability to read the play and react to it so quickly (is his biggest strength on defense),” Coach Detweiler said. “Isaac is a kid who watches a ton of game film and studies his opponents pretty well, so when he sees something that he is familiar with, or that it's a run or pass, he gets himself and his teammates in the right place at the right time.”
The Eagles advanced to the state championship in 2019, where they were narrowly defeated by Osborne, 34-26, finishing the season 11-2 with their other loss coming against a good Frankfort team in Week 7, 24-20.
In 2020, Detweiler took the reins under center for the Eagles, and despite having big shoes to fill, the offense didn’t skip a beat. The sophomore went 141 for 223 for 1,970 yards and 31 TDs to only five interceptions, along with 138 rushing attempts for 484 yards and 16 more scores.
Defensively, he recorded 75 tackles, three interceptions, four pass deflections, four fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles.
Axtell went 7-3 and had their only finish of Detweiler’s career outside of the state title game, but notably lost two of their three games, including their playoff matchup, to 2020 8M-II state champs Hanover. Their other loss again came against Frankfort in Week 5, who finished that season with a state semifinals exit against that same Hanover team.
Year three for Detweiler saw the start of the aforementioned two-year reign at the top of 8-Man II, and for the now upperclass quarterback, a historically successful two-season stint for a dual-threat QB. The junior dominated with 1,984 yards and 34 TDs to two interceptions on 124 for 164 passing, adding 207 carries for 1,273 yards and 29 more scores on the ground.
Not a one-trick pony, the junior was dominant from his defensive back position as well with 100 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, seven interceptions, three pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble.
Aside from being the first of back-to-back titles, the 2021 season was also a bit of a payback campaign. The Eagles beat Hanover twice, first in the regular season, 30-24, in the closest game they played all year, and again in the second round of the playoffs by a decisive 52-26 margin. They also won a 54-8 Week 5 bout with a talented Frankfort squad that entered that game undefeated.
Axtell punctuated the season with a 44-18 championship victory over Wheatland-Grinnell, to finish 13-0.
During the Eagles’ victory lap last fall Axtell won their 13 games by an average score of 60-12, with 10 games where the opposition was held to 14 points or less.
Detweiler went 136 for 188 with 2,135 passing yards and an incredible 45 TDs to one interception. He also ran the ball 122 times for 906 yards and 20 more scores.
When asked about his QB’s biggest strength on offense, the elder Detweiler understandably had a hard time narrowing it down.
“It's hard to come up with one, but first of all I would say his athleticism,” coach Detweiler said. “He has the ability to simply make guys miss and make plays, not only with his feet, but his arm. Secondly, I would say his understanding of the game. He literally has been on the sidelines since he was seven, so he knows exactly what we are trying to do, how to read defenses, audible, move defenders with his eyes, and make our offense work.”
Detweiler also continued his excellence on defense, tallying 77 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, three interceptions – one returned for a TD – and seven pass deflections.
The Eagles lone close game all season came against a loaded Canton-Galva team in the state semifinals by a score of 36-32, a contest that likely pitted the two best teams in 8-Man II in a kind of de facto state title game. In that contest Detweiler proved his ability to not only orchestrate an offense to blowout an opponent, but also to make a massive defensive play in crunch time to seal a close victory.
As Garrett Maltbie – an elite QB in his own right in the 8-Man ranks – was driving down the field late in the game with hopes of taking the lead, Detweiler reeled in a fourth-quarter interception that allowed Axtell to clinch a spot in the finals.
The state championship game was a matchup of unbeatens, with Thunder Ridge also dominating their way to the November 26th contest. Despite the Longhorns, who the Eagles beat soundly in the semifinals the year prior, playing tough early and putting up a relatively large point total against the Eagles with 28, Detweiler wasn’t to be slowed down twice in a row as the offense exploded for 76 points, their highest output since scoring 82 points in the season-opener.
“Facing Issac Detweiler was always tough because he seemed to always get away,” Thunder Ridge head coach Joel Struckhoff said. “In the state game I kept hearing that from our defensive line that they just couldn't get to him, and you saw it on film as well when scouting him. He knew when the right time to take off was and when the right time to throw the football. His understanding of the flow of players around him and where he needs to go and throw or run, (he is) one of the best high school QBs in 8-Man history because of his vision of the field and game management.”
Detweiler is currently weighing his options for the future after wrapping up a high school career to which few can compare. He currently holds offers from Bethel, Benedictine, and Highland Community College, with interest from others.
His father, and partner in Kansas football history, pointed out what he will miss most about having his son on the team.
“His leadership,” coach Detweiler said. “Isaac simply helped make our team work. Whether it was audibles on offense or calling blitzes on defense, our team respected his decisions.”