Junior high football winning big this season

250 rushing yards in an entire season would be impressive for our typically struggling football team.

Eighth grade running back Miguel Hernandez hit that mark in the first half of the opening game against St. Marys.

The football team is off to a promising start, with a current record of 4-2 and a combined total of 176 points in 6 games.

“This season has been great,” eighth grader Zach Frank said. “It feels like a completely different team. The leadership and team chemistry are definitely a lot better than last year.”

The stats speak for themselves — the team averages 26.4 points per game. In the first two games alone, Hernandez has made his name known around Wabaunsee by being a key player in the team’s success. In the team’s first game against St. Marys, Hernandez had a total of 5 solo touchdowns and over 250 running yards. In the second game against his previous school, Rossville, he scored 3 touchdowns and totaled 150 rushing yards. After these achievements, he gives credit to Wabaunsee’s coaches.

“The coaches here are always rooting for me and pushing me to reach my best self. This helps me improve everyday,” Hernandez said.

Along with scoring more points, the team has a high number of players going out for this 2019 season.

“We have about 25 players out, which is the most I’ve had since I’ve been here. This makes a huge difference in practice to get the right looks, and also gives us more depth in case injuries happen,” head coach Dakota Soderlund said.    

Another component of their success is their use of the high school playbook.

“I believe they have been effective. We have some players that have been running the offense for two years and I think it has helped them gain some confidence and develop consistency to do it right each play. That consistency will help them in high school so they can hit the ground running and know what to do,” Soderlund said.

The players share a similar belief.

“It’s effective in many ways, like if any of us eighth graders start as freshmen; it helps the varsity for sure and gives us a jump start into high school and gets us noticed by high school coaches,” Frank said.

High school head coach Jess Rutledge had a few things to say about this group of kids. “They have an incredible team, great coaching staff, and amazing players. I’m really excited to have this group in high school,” Rutledge said.

In preparing junior high athletes like this group, they always work in the offseason. During the summer they stay busy with weights and camps, led by Rutledge and Garret Eck. During season the high school coaches stay involved.

“When we’re able to, we like to be on the sidelines and talk to the kids and give advice,” Rutledge said.

Other JH sports

Volleyball has a 2-4 record as of October 8. “We’re trying our best, but we have tough competition and as usual, not that many girls,” eighth grader Kaci Meseke said.

They stay connected with the high school by going to summer camps hosted by high school coaches and players and by going to high school games.

The cross country team also has strong connections to the high school, mainly through practicing with the high school team. This gives them the “high school practice” feeling early, preparing them for what is to come.

— Lauren Schutter, @schutterlauren

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