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Combine in Salina draws athletes from across Kansas

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Combine in Salina draws athletes from across Kansas

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Salina Central's Stewart earns high marks, Maize's Cox rebounds from foot injury

  • Maize football players Preven Christon (left) and Caden Cox (right) are just two of the athletes that posted top marks at Saturday's Salina Regional Sports Medicine Combine in Salina. (Photos by Jacob Isaacson)
    Maize football players Preven Christon (left) and Caden Cox (right) are just two of the athletes that posted top marks at Saturday's Salina Regional Sports Medicine Combine in Salina. (Photos by Jacob Isaacson)

SALINA – Maize junior running back Caden Cox broke his foot last July 2 and had surgery the next day. Cox remained in a cast two days before the Eagles’ season-opening contest against Valley Center. 

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Cox eventually delivered an outstanding year for 10-2 Maize, which set a school record for victories and advanced to the Class 5A sub-state title game, tied for the furthest advancement in school history.

“Almost no preparation, played my first game,” Cox said. “Still broken. They just said you have a screw in your foot. Still have that screw, and my team just needed me, so I put it all out there, and I wasn’t 100 percent at all. I wasn’t 100 percent for the whole season.”

Cox had 1,516 total yards, helped Maize average 40.1 points per contest and earned Sports in Kansas all-state all-class non-senior running back honors. Cox was especially known for his highlight reel vaults over defenders, a move he first used multiple times as a freshman. It helped ward off opponents going for his ankle.

“I just slowly progressed and got better and I knew I couldn’t sit out,” Cox said. “But my team needed me, and at times it really hurt. But it was nothing I couldn’t play through.”

On Saturday, Cox and more than 300 Kansas high school football players attended the annual Sharp Performance Combine at the Salina Fieldhouse held by Jake Sharp and his staff. 

Cox has received interest from a variety of schools, including FBS, FCS and multiple high academic eastern colleges, including the Ivy Leagues and Fordham. He carries a 4.1 GPA and 27 ACT and added to his impressive numbers at the Combine.

Cox, who has worked with Sharp since he was a freshman and has played on his 7-on-7 summer team, attended his second Sharp combine. He posted 32.5 inches in the vertical, benched 225 pounds nine times, went 4.15 seconds in the pro agility and broad jumped 9 feet, 9 inches. 

Cox ran 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a time that elicited a quick celebration and a few claps once he saw his time. Cox “didn’t know what to expect” regarding the 40 since he hadn’t ran in awhile and was “pretty excited” with the result. Cox labeled himself 100 percent healthy.

“Performed really well today, so if any people are doubting that I am not 100 percent, they can just look at my results today,” he said.

Cox was one of the headliners in a high-profile field that included Lakin lineman Hadley Panzer, Garden City lineman Refujio Chairez, McPherson lineman Cody Stufflebean, Salina Central end Quinton Stewart, Goddard quarterback Kyler Semrad and Wamego all-purpose threats Taybor Vetter and Isiah Childs. 

Stewart, listed at 6-4, 235, ran a 4.69 in the 40, a 4.37 in the pro agility, showed a 35.2 vertical and did 16 reps at 225.

Maize South defensive back Trevion Mitchell had an impressive showing with 4.57 seconds in the 40, 4.27 in the pro agility, broad jumped 9-8 and posted a 35-inch vertical.

Panzer discusses Iowa State, other offers

Panzer has accumulated multiple Division I offers shortly after he posted an undefeated 3-2-1A wrestling championship season at 285 pounds in late February in Hays. Panzer took the weekend of March 8-10 to travel to Kansas State and Iowa State. He first attended KSU and then headed north. Then, Iowa State offered a scholarship, a big surprise for Panzer.

On March 10, Panzer picked up an offer from Akron and then received an offer from Division II Fort Hays on March 12, a squad that had watched him at state wrestling and expected to offer early. 

On April 11, Panzer earned an Air Force offer. Panzer expects to take another trip soon to Iowa State. ISU has made in-roads into Kansas under coach Matt Campbell and recently picked up a commitment from Hayden Pauls, a standout lineman from Emporia.

“One hundred percent on this trip that I went on I was not expecting to get an offer, but coming home from Iowa State with that offer is something that we really had to reflect on and just look at,” Panzer said. “Hey this is what’s going on, so we’ve got to just give all options open. We are not just shutting anybody down, but yeah, it’s just been really exciting for sure.”

Panzer, listed at 6 foot, 3.5 inches and 293 pounds, posted a 5.49 in the 40, a 4.85 pro agility, broad jumped 7-4 and posted nine reps at 225 pounds.

The jovial, outgoing Panzer has offered support and encouragement to Chairez, one of the state’s strongest athletes in recent history. Chairez has started on the Garden City line at guard since the second half of Week 1 of his freshman year. He has two junior college offers, from Dodge City and Fort Scott.

“It’s cool to see guys from western Kansas come out, and you have always got to give each other love, just being from small town schools,” Panzer said. “It’s just neat, just the relationships that you get from everybody.”

Chairez looking for offers

Chairez, known by several nicknames including “Mt. Fuji,” squatted 475 pounds as a freshman and squatted 675 last summer. Listed at 6-1, 309 for the combine, Chairez posted 5.05 seconds in the 40, 5.03 in the pro agility and broad jumped 8 feet. He was again highly impressive on the bench press with 22 reps at 225 pounds.

Chairez set a goal for 24 reps on the bench press and wanted to post under five seconds in the 40.

“There’s some things I wish I could have done better in, but it is what it is. I am just here to compete and have some fun and see how my numbers look,” he said. “…“We are getting there closer every single week.”

Chairez has been on the radar of recruiting services for years. He said the lack of offers “builds a fire in me.” Chairez has often been cited for his shorter height despite the impressive measurables. He is also an outstanding wrestler and won the 6A state title at 285 pounds this winter.

“They measure your height, but they can’t measure your heart,” he said. “And I have got a big heart, so I am going to keep fighting till I get one offer.”

Stufflebean shows improvement

McPherson’s Cody Stufflebean, listed at 6-4, 231.6 pounds, enjoyed an impressive overall day. He ran 4.79 seconds in the 40, 4.35 in the pro agility, jumped 9-2 in the broad jump and went 30.9 inches in the vertical. Stufflebean showed he was one of the stronger pound-for-pound linemen with 12 reps at 225 pounds.

Stufflebean was most pleased with his 40 time. He talked with coaches from Bethel at the combine. Stufflebean has already attended junior day at Kansas State and Emporia State earlier this month. A talented all-around athlete, Stufflebean was first team all-league in basketball after he delivered 13 tackles for loss for 11-1 McPherson football last year.

“That’s what I have been trying to drop, trying to get it better for more D1 coaches to make it look appealing, definitely improved there,” he said.

Stufflebean has posted a 4.16 in the pro agility at school on a slightly different surface than the turf in Salina.

“Still pretty good,” he said. “I was happy with it.”

Stufflebean was part of the group with Chairez and Panzer and enjoyed matching up against top competition.

“It was great to get out here and see what everybody else is doing, see how you feel out in the state and see just how good everyone is,” he said.

Semrad, Christon solid in first combine

Semrad, a sophomore, and Maize junior wide receiver Preven Christon were among those who appeared at their first combine. Semrad played some as a freshman and then started last year for Goddard’s 4A state runner-up team. Semrad helped in second half playoff comebacks against Wellington and McPherson and eventually threw for 1,963 yards with a 14/12 TD/INT ratio. 

Semrad posted a 4.66 in the 40, a number that surprised him and was also his all-time best. He wanted to have baseline marks for the various summer camps.

“Where I can improve those times by just a little bit, but those little bits count,” he said.

Christon was a KPreps first team all-state wide receiver after he caught 56 passes for 890 yards and 11 scores in ’18. Known for his athleticism, the 6-1, 179-pound Christon posted 4.5 seconds in the 40, 9-4 in the broad jump and a 35-inch vertical. The volunteers also added some untimed agility work that players and coaches enjoyed. Christon had some coaching from one of the staff in the agility work.

“I was pleased with the 40,” Christon said. “It was a great time. It was my fastest I’ve ever ran, so I was really happy about that.”

Christon already attended Kansas State’s junior day, a showcase he called “amazing.” Christon has received contact from Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and North Dakota State for summer camps.

Vetter, Childs impressive

Wamego has enjoyed several key transfers in the last year with Vetter and Childs, along with T.J. Fritz in basketball. Vetter’s older brothers were standouts at Beloit, and then he first went to Rock Creek and then Wamego.

Last year, Weston Moody, the former Manhattan defensive coordinator, took the head job at Wamego. Childs came over from Manhattan and is currently unable to compete in track because of transfer rules. It’s expected Vetter and Childs will be the key cogs in the Wamego backfield in the fall. Wamego finished 5-4 last fall.

“It’s really nice having him,” Vetter said. “Really excited for this coming year, because I think we will be a really good duo in the backfield, be dangerous. I really think (Coach Moody) has brought like a family. He gets us really close, and he’s just like one of us. He makes us work hard, and he works out with us, too, so I think he is really building a tradition.”

Vetter posted 4.49 in the 40, 4.16 in the pro and jumped 33.1 inches in the vertical. 

“That was a big accomplishment for me,” Vetter said of his 40 time.

Childs competed in his sixth combine and posted 4.64 in the 40. Childs said he has posted a 22.36 in the 200-meter dash in the winter and last year he went 21.36 in the AAU summer season. This season, the top 200 time in Kansas is 22.43. Childs’ first official day at Wamego High was Jan. 8. 

Among others, Childs has competed at Sharp twice, attended the Adidas Rivals camp and went to the Nike Opening, a major national event. He is scheduled to attend an upcoming Nike Opening in Chicago. Childs has no offers thus far. He has received interest from KU, K-State, Tulsa, Tulane, Wyoming, South Dakota, Akron and North Dakota State.

“It’s really fun,” Childs said. “All my teammates have accepted me being the new guy here, and my goal as a newcomer here is just make sure all my teammates love me and that we can accomplish some things and win some games this year. The biggest thing is that (coach) cares about his players, and that’s always like one big thing when I look for coaches. 

“He also makes sure that we are doing the right thing, and he is setting us up for success, so once we graduate college that we are grown adults and we can learn how to be men in the future,” he added.

Find complete combine results here.