By Staff of www.mcpherson-county-ks.com
LITTLE RIVER – With the sting of losing in the 8-Man Division I state championship game still being felt by the Little River football team, another run at a state title is the goal again for 2022.
Kevin Ayers begins his fourth season at the helm of the Redskin football program and does well with it, going 32-7 in his first three seasons, including an unbeaten 5-0 league mark and 12-1 overall record last season when they lost to Meade in the state championship game.
For his overall coaching career, Ayers has gone 190-44 and is comfortable and appreciative for his Little River assistants, Chad Lafferty and Tyson Konen.
Coming into the 2022 season as the pre-season number one ranked team in 8-Man Division I, Little River will return four starters on each side of the ball.
Leading the 2022 offense will be senior Braxton Lafferty who last fall ran the ball 160 times for an average of 9.0 yards per carry or 1,435 yards while scoring 25 touchdowns. Lafferty also caught 14 passes for 311 yards and another eight scores plus on occasion stepped in at quarterback where he threw for another 358 yards and six touchdowns.
Joining him in the backfield will be fellow senior Rylan Konen who manned the quarterback spot most of the season and completed 45 of 97 passes for 890 yards and 15 scores while throwing just three interceptions. Konen ran for another 906 yards on 109 carries for 19 scores.
Other offensive skill players returning are seniors Braden Young and Grant Stephens at wide receiver and tight end. The pair totaled 90 rushes for 749 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground and another 40 receptions and 710 yards and seven more scores through the air.
While the skill positions seem on solid ground for Little River, work will need to done on the interior line.
“We graduated our entire offensive and defensive lines,” pointed out coach Ayers during his pre-season reflections. “This leaves a huge hole to fill and finding players to fill those roles will be a major challenge. We do have kids that are hungry for their turn, and we have had an exceptional summer where the boys are extremely excited.”
Gone on the defensive line are Ty Herzog, Kyle Bruce and Kaden Schafer who combined for 191 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, and 10 of the teams 17 quarterback sacks.
Stephens and Lafferty will be the top returning defenders at linebacker for the Redskins as they combined for 189 tackles of which 134 were solo stops to go with 15 tackles for loss.
Young, Konen, and Andrew Smith will be back to man the defensive backfield positions in 2022.
Coach Ayers did note that senior Toby Jesseph and junior Carter Stansbury look to be in line for line spots while Corbin Herbst, a senior, will be a fill in in the backfield.
Ayers concluded his reflections on the 2022 season by saying, “Meade, who beat us in the state championship game will be a top team in 8-Man Division I while we also have to watch for Chase County, Madison, Clifton/Clyde and Wichita County. We hope to play a disciplined, physical style of football and improve throughout the season.”
It will be a high-profile opening game for the Redskins as they go on the road to Canton/Galva to open the 2022 season on Friday, September 2. In a regular season game and a state quarterfinal game the two teams combined for 256 points in the two games with Little River winning 60-52 in game five and 76-68 in the state quarterfinal.
2022 LITTLE RIVER RETURNING STARTERS:
- Grant Stephens, senior, 5’10”, 190 lbs. – LB/TE
- Braxton Lafferty, senior, 6’0”, 190 lbs. – LB/RB/QB
- Braden Young, senior, 5’9”, 160 lbs. – DB/WR
- Rylan Konen, senior, 6’1”, 165 lbs. – QB/DB
- Andrew Smith, junior, 6’2”, 175 lbs. – TE/DB
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2022:
- Toby Jesseph, senior, 5’8”, 175 lbs. – LB/OL
- Corbin Herbst, senior, 5’6”, 135 lbs. – RB/DB
- Carter Stansbury, junior, 5’10”, 170 lbs. – LB/OL
2022 LITTLE RIVER REDSKIN SCHEDULE:
- Friday, September 2 – At Canton/Galva
- Friday, September 9 – Home with Rural Vista
- Friday, September 16 – At Ell-Saline
- Friday, September 23 – Home with Solomon
- Friday, September 30 – At Moundridge
- Friday, October 7 – Home with Herington
- Friday, October 14 – At Pretty Prairie
- Friday, October 21 – Home with Goessel
(William is a free-lance writer covering McPherson County Activities – he can be reached at email@example.com)