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Sharp Showcase puts prospects back on the field

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Kansas Weselyan was host to Friday's annual SP showcase event

  • Pictured, clockwise from top left: Coffeyville Field Kindley's Darell Jones, Kapaun's Ethan Stuhlsatz, Omaha North's Sam Scott, Hays High's Jaren Kanak and Gaven Haselhorst and Wichita East's Adama Faye are just a few of the athletes who had big days at Friday's Sharp Performance Showcase in Salina. (Haselhorst photo by Jacob Isaacson; Kanak photo by Derek Young of; All other photos by John Baetz of Kansas Pregame)
    Pictured, clockwise from top left: Coffeyville Field Kindley's Darell Jones, Kapaun's Ethan Stuhlsatz, Omaha North's Sam Scott, Hays High's Jaren Kanak and Gaven Haselhorst and Wichita East's Adama Faye are just a few of the athletes who had big days at Friday's Sharp Performance Showcase in Salina. (Haselhorst photo by Jacob Isaacson; Kanak photo by Derek Young of; All other photos by John Baetz of Kansas Pregame)

On June 29, Hays High football coach Tony Crough discussed his highly talented Indian squad. HHS junior linebacker Gavin Meyers has received multiple Power 5 offers in the last eight months from Colorado, Kansas State and Nebraska. Senior defensive end Gaven Haselhorst, with an elite first step and 22 tackles for loss last fall, has collected offers from Fort Hays State and Washburn. Both players delivered 100-plus tackles in 2019 and are already well-known throughout the state.

Crough, though, believed Hays High has multiple other standout players, notably junior wide receiver/slot back Jaren Kanak. Crough, who has coached high-level talent in Texas and at head coaching stops at Great Bend, Andover and Hays High, believed Kanak would have already had Division I offers in football if track season wasn’t cancelled because of the coronavirus.

“Kanak is an elite, elite athlete who has grown,” Crough said.

Crough thought Kanak would have posted 10.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash, possibly under 22 seconds in the 200, and long jumped 22 to 23 feet. Crough predicted Kanak might run 4.4 seconds, perhaps under 4.4, in the 40-yard dash. Last fall, Kanak had 1,057 all-purpose yards.

“He is a shade shorter than Meyers, and he is fast, fast, fast,” Crough said. “Just right now his position is yet to be determined for college, but the kid, he’s the one that I think is going to really blow up here.”

On Friday, Kanak proved Crough’s prediction true at the annual Sharp Performance Football Showcase held at Kansas Wesleyan. Generally, Sharp Performance and Kansas Pregame host a free combine in the spring in Salina which often serves as a major recruiting springboard for players in Kansas. The free combine was cancelled because of coronavirus so Sharp Performance CEO Jake Sharp opened the previously invite-only showcase event to all athletes. Mask wearing and six-foot social distancing was in effect throughout the workouts. While athletes normally attend several combines and camps each summer, Sharp's showcase was one of just a few events this summer for Kansas high school football players because of coronavirus concerns.

Kanak, Haselhorst and HHS junior running back Roy Moroni all were among the leading performers as more than 400 athletes competed. Kanak measured 6-foot-1, 197 pounds. He posted 4.41 seconds in the 40, a 4.03 in 5-10-5 pro agility, a 37-inch vertical and benched 225 pounds 11 times. Kanak said he had never run pro agility before. 

“That’s pretty good for me,” Kanak said of his 40 time. “It’s what I was hoping to run, somewhere around there.”

Kanak gave credit to his family, including his mom, Lisa and stepdad, Scott McGrath. Kanak has three younger sisters and an older brother.

“They are very impactful,” Kanak said. “I have got a bunch of great people that I look up to in my life, and they really motivate me and push me to do my best in everything I do.”

Haselhorst also had a strong family unit. He lives with his mother, Amy and his grandparents, Gary and Sandy.

“I am just really close to them all, and I feel like I always have someone to talk to,” Haselhorst said.

Crough believed Haselhorst “would have benefited so much” from going to combines/camps earlier this year, notably in the Dakota region.

“He would probably have a small Division I offer right now,” Crough said. “…because they would’ve seen how explosive and strong and how much room for growth he had, and I think Kanak would have a Division I offer.”

Like Kanak, Haselhorst saw his stock rise with Friday’s performance.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Haselhorst ran 4.56 in the 40, benched 225 pounds 21 times and posted 34 inches in the vertical. Haselhorst earned an offer from Hutchinson Community College co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Tate Omli, a former Ell-Saline standout, on Friday.

Moroni ran for more than 350 yards in 2019. Crough, entering his third year with the Indians, labeled Moroni “a very, very natural running back” and believes the junior will get an opportunity to play running back in college. Crough called Moroni a workhorse. At Sharp, the 5-foot-9, 191.6-pound Moroni posted 4.55 in the 40, along with a 34-inch vertical and nine bench reps at 225 pounds.

“Now at what (college) level, we don’t know yet, but the kid is the most natural running back that we have seen here since we have been at Hays High,” Crough said.

Coffeyville’s Jones with huge day

New Coffeyville Field Kindley football coach Deonta Wade had previously served as the Parsons defensive coordinator. In 2019, he watched Coffeyville’s Darell Jones finish second in the 100 meter dash at the Class 4A state track meet. 

Jones posted 11.06 and was the only non-junior/senior in the 16-competitor field. Last season, Jones caught 45 passes for 845 yards and nine touchdowns as a Golden Tornado wide receiver. Wade knew “the speed was there.”

“I didn’t know how fast,” Wade said.

On June 11, Wade posted a video to Twitter of Jones’ blazing to 4.37 seconds in the 40. Wade was told he was “a little biased” and the time was handheld. 

Jones went to Wade and said he wanted to play college football. Wade, who was announced as CFK’s new coach in mid-May, told Jones he needed to gain exposure and attend combines. Before Sharp, Wade said Jones had zero offers.

“We are down in the SEK,” Wade said. “We don’t get a lot of attention.”

Then, Jones had one of the all-time best days in Sharp Conbine/Showcase history with a 4.31 in the 40, along with 4.15 in the pro agility. He posted sub 4.4 second times in both of his 40 attempts. Jones will not turn 17 until August.

“A day that he is used to,” Wade said. “He does this every day for us.”

The 5-foot-11, 166-pound Jones jumped 40 inches in the vertical and tallied 11 reps of 225 pounds in the benc press. Jones carries a 3.0 GPA and Wade called him an A-plus character kid.

“He bought in,” Wade said. “He busted his tail in the weight room, and he did better today than I have seen him do, so it was just about getting name out there.”

Shortly after his 40 time, Wade received a call from an Eastern Michigan coach. EMU, a Division I school, asked about Jones’ character and information.

“We all know how it is,” Wade said. “Once you get one (offer), it’s kind of a snowball effect, so I am willing to bet in the next few weeks, you are going to see a lot more Darell Jones.”

In addition, several out of state prospects attended the showcase. Omaha North linebacker Sam Scott ran a pair of 4.4s in the 40. The 6-1, 215-pound Scott, a senior, is a two-time state powerlifting runner-up.

Goddard’s Kyler Semrad returns; Maize South’s Colin Shields continues to impress; Cure picks up offer; other top quarterbacks

Goddard senior Kyler Semrad is one of the state’s most experienced returning quarterbacks. He has appeared in 26 career games with 3,507 passing yards, 56 completion percentage and a 40/18 TD/INT ratio. Semrad filled in as a freshman, and then enjoyed a strong sophomore year when Goddard reached the Class 4A state title game.

Last season, Semrad played in five contests with 86 of 149 passing for 1,058 yards with 13 touchdowns against two interceptions.

“Honestly, the first couple weeks of the season were great,” Semrad said. “We were all really excited.”

However, Semrad went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 5. He suffered a Grade 3 MCL tear and lateral meniscus tear. Thankfully, his ACL remained fully intact. Semrad required three surgeries and a “ton” of therapy work.

A strong baseball player, Semrad said he could have returned three or four weeks into the spring season. This summer, Semrad is playing a high volume of baseball games through the Wichita Sluggers Academy. Semrad has enjoyed playing baseball and wants to play football in college.

“I am hoping for football,” he said. “That’s my main goal.”

Semrad has talked with several schools, including MIAA Division II schools Missouri Western, Fort Hays, Emporia State and Washburn, along with FCS Drake. Semrad said he will play for “whoever gives me an opportunity.” The 6-1, 190-pound Semrad is excellent academically with a 4.235 GPA.

“I have fought my way back, and I am feeling good now,” Semrad said. “We are ready to roll.”

Like Semrad, Maize South senior quarterback Colin Shields will enter his third year as a starter. Shields, listed at 6-1.5, 200 pounds with a 3.87 GPA and 28 ACT, has tried to reach as many combines/showcases as possible. Shields earned attention at a recent showcase in Shawnee, Okla. After Sharp, Shields and his dad were expected to drive 517 miles north to Chadron, Neb. and the Chadron State camp.

As a sophomore, Shields completed 106 of 229 passes for 1,451 yards with a 12/3 TD/INT ratio. Last year, he delivered 1,281 passing yards. Maize South is 16-2 since Shields became the starter in early ’19.

Goodland’s Leyton Cure (6-3, 215) tossed for 2,373 yards and rushed for 402 last season. A 4.0 student, Cure picked up an offer from Southwestern Oklahoma State University on Friday.

Chapman’s Trevor Erickson and Bird City-Cheylin’s Colton McCarty, both quarterbacks with Bethel College offers, were in attendance. The 6-foot-2, 155-pound Erickson has a 3.8 GPA and posted a 4.55 in the 40. Erickson rushed for 873 yards, passed for 711 and accounted for 18 offensive scores. McCarty is the reigning Six-Man Offensive Player of the Year.

De Soto quarterback Jackson Miller posted 4.42 and 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and jumped 37.9 inches.

Beardsley looking at K-State goal to honor father

Valley Heights senior quarterback Cameron Beardsley has started since his freshman year under center. Like many, Beardsley received a rare opportunity to compete in front of a large group.

“It’s a great experience,” Beardsley said. “Throughout my high school, I didn’t get out to many of these camps, and this one is just a great experience being around these guys, getting friendships that you wouldn’t get.”

Beardsley has strong interest in Kansas State because of his family connections. He has run VH’s triple option attack and helped the team post 7-2, 6-4 and 7-3 marks the last three years under longtime coach Tony Trimble. His dad, Rickey Beardsley, Jr., passed away in 2006. His mom, Hallie, has battled cancer.

“Competing and trying to get my spot on a D1 school was where I am aiming for,” he said. “It’s great. Growing up, I have always wanted to play at Kansas State. My family has loved that. That’s just what I want to work for. My dad passed away when I was three. He was a big K-State fan, so that’s just kind of what I want to achieve for him and my family. And my mom has been through cancer twice, so I just want to prove to them that I am going to do it for you guys.”

Beardsley called his mother the hardest working, most determined person he’s ever met.

“She hasn’t given up,” he said. “She is not going to let us down, so it’s my driving force in every sport. If I am tired, if I am breathing heavy, I am not going to quit. I am going to do it for her.”

Beardsley’s family lived in Kansas City when his dad passed away. They moved to Iowa to live with his grandparents. They are from Blue Rapids and eventually moved back home. 

Beardsley’s grandfather, Steve, has served as his father figure, and his grandmother, Joy, has been another mom. They live two blocks away. Beardsley will often stop by their house after practice. Listed as a QB/CB on his Hudl, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Beardsley has posted a 4.6 in the 40 and a 33-inch vertical. He has also averaged more than 17 points per game in basketball.

“My family is just perfect,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better one.”

Cimarron’s Renick switching positions; looking to gain speed

Cimarron senior Hunter Renick collected an offer from Butler County Community College at Kansas Wesleyan after last year’s Sharp Top Prospect Showcase. Since then, Renick has earned a Coffeyville CC honor. The gregarious, outgoing Renick served as a fullback last fall for the 9-1 Bluejays. He rushed for 711 yards, along with 44 tackles, 7.5 for loss. Renick has posted 350 pounds in bench press, 420 in squat and 280 for clean.

Renick echoed many athletes when he simply enjoyed returning to football activities after no spring sports and the COVID-19 quarantine.

“It’s beautiful,” Renick said. “It feels great. I have not been in a setting like this in awhile.”

Renick played around 259 pounds last season and has looked to drop weight. He went through shoulder surgery after a labrum injury in wrestling season and was cleared two weeks ago. Renick is planning to switch to tight end for 2020 and has dropped to about 254. Renick’s plan is to cut more pounds.

Renick works at a pool and has swum about 600 meters a day, generally 12 laps in an Olympic-sized pool. Adjacent to the north end zone, Cimarron has a steep hill with a flagpole at the top. Renick has run the hill many times, sometimes with teammates, including senior Andrew Ridenour.

“I am getting myself ready,” Renick said. “I am taking the steps that I need to, to get down, so I can be faster, and that’s the No. 1 goal because out in southwest Kansas, if you don’t have eye-popping speed, it’s kind of hard to get recruited, but I am thankful for the teams that have contacted me.”

Cimarron is located 19 miles west from Dodge City on US-50. The towns are in different counties. Dodge City located in Ford County, has 2,028 COVID cases, while Cimarron, located in Gray County, has just 30, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment statistics. 

Ford is No. 1 among the 105 Kansas counties in COVID-19 cases per capita. Gray ranked No. 20 in COVID-19 cases per capita, sandwiched between Shawnee and Johnson, two of the state’s top-three counties by total population. Renick was positive about football still having a season.

“Being around a town like Dodge and having that hot spot, it’s worrisome,” Renick said. “But everyone in Cimarron and Gray County, they have taken the precaution, especially when going over there to (Dodge to) get things like groceries. So I believe everything is going to go as normal.”

Wichita East’s Daylan Jones with several offers; part of talented East squad

Wichita East wide receiver Daylan Jones played football until sixth grade, though elected to focus on basketball in his first two seasons at Wichita East. Jones decided to come back last season and had nearly 200 receiving yards in the first game. Jones helped East finish 5-4, a two-win improvement from ’18 and the program’s first winning season since ’12. Three losses came by 14 points or fewer.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jones has received eight offers: Missouri State, Northern Colorado, Northern Iowa, Southeast Missouri State, South Dakota, along with Northwest Missouri State, Washburn and Dodge City CC. Jones posted 4.6 in 40, 4.15 in pro agility and 40 inches in vertical. Since Jones has recently moved from basketball, Sharp marked his first combine. Jones labeled his showing “pretty good.”

East allowed 22.1 points per contest, quietly ranking No. 11 in 32-team Class 6A, according to Prep Power Index. In addition, East’s offense with Jones jumped from 13.8 points per game in ’18 to 22.8 last year.

East also returns junior Caqouy Patterson, a speedy and talented wide receiver and Division I prospect. He posted 11.03 seconds in the 100 as a freshman. Running back Dayontay Standifer posted 4.2 in the pro agility and a 32.5 inch vertical.

Jones said East has added several transfers. Wichita Southeast’s A.J. King, an all-league player last season, has come over. He is listed as a wide receiver/free safety.

Wichita Heights senior linebacker/fullback Royal Johnson, listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds in ’19, recorded 17 tackles, 5.5 for loss in eight games.

Senior linebacker Darius Cooper, at 6-2, 240 in ’19, had 24 tackles, four TFLs in five games for Wichita Northwest.

“We have all been friends for a long time,” Jones said.

East is expected to have standout freshman quarterback Daeonte Mitchell, listed at 5-11, 190 and a high-profile player in the youth ranks. Jones labeled Mitchell “very talented” and “more mature” than other freshmen.

Wheatland-Grinnell’s Zarybnicky happy for showcase

Wheatland-Grinnell senior middle linebacker Trevor Zarybnicky is a multi-year captain and helped the Thunderhawks to an 8-2 record and district title in ’19, easily the best football season since Grainfield and Grinnell consolidated. W-G enjoyed a seven-win improvement. He delivered 99 tackles as a sophomore and 95 last season, both team bests.

Wheatland-Grinnell is an Eight-Man, Division II school located roughly halfway between Hays and Colby on I-70. Head coach Jesse Vincent, a former Sterling quarterback, believes the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Zarybnicky has elite ability.

“I have coached very few that I felt like had Division I talent,” Vincent said earlier this summer in Grainfield.

Zarybnicky has put on around 15 pounds of muscle in the past year and has posted bench of 315, a 405 squat and 260 clean. Zarybnicky received invites to multiple one-day camps and built his summer off traveling. Instead, they were all cancelled because of coronavirus. He has not received any offers, though has been in contact with Nebraska, Kansas State, Wyoming, University of South Dakota and University of St. Thomas (Minn.).

“Go have a good season, we are going to go off your first four games,” Zarybnicky said coaches have told him. “… Just go out there and make it count, and show us what we missed out on.”

Zarybnicky had the opportunity to compete at Sharp and posted a solid 4.75 in the 40-yard dash.

Russell’s Whitmer posts high production, switches positions and high eyewear

Russell junior Jesse Whitmer is a rare player who has already started for two years. Listed at 5-11, 180, Whitmer started at linebacker as a freshman. He led Russell with 79 tackles and posted 31 carries for 256 yards with a score for a 3-6 team.

Last season, Whitmer started at running back and linebacker. He easily paced Russell in carries (94) and rushing yards (444) and was second with three rushing touchdowns as the Broncos finished 1-8. Whitmer again led Russell with 84 tackles, 29 more than any other teammate. Whitmer said the keys for the tackles have come from watching film, focusing, paying attention and communicating.

Whitmer, though, has produced with a variety of eyewear choices. He tried out contacts in the past, though they would fall out. At times, Whitmer didn’t have any eyewear, but that proved kind of difficult.

Whitmer competed at Sharp Performance with glasses. He plans to wear goggles in the fall and would like to play college football.

“I felt like the goggles definitely helped me determine where the ball is better, so I can see the field better,” he said.

Conor Nicholl is a veteran sportswriter based in western Kansas who contributes to Kansas Pregame, Sports in Kansas, and other outlets. Look for expanded coverage of the Sharp Performance Showcase later this weekend.