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2022 Class 2A State Football Championship Preview – Presented by Visit Wichita

Class 2A

Who: Nemaha Central (12-0) vs. Kingman (12-0)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Salina District Stadium

Overview: 

  • Winning the state championship in 2019, Nemaha Central looks to do the same here in 2022. 
  • Making their first appearance since 1972, Kingman is looking to end the 50-year drought with a state championship. 

Nemaha Central Thunder

Coach Michael Glatczak

Key players: 

RB/LB Cooper Hajek, senior, 6-2, 230 pounds (285 rushes for 1,882 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 74 total tackles)

QB Brayden Uphaus, senior, 6-0, 185 pounds (79-131 1,181 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns and five interceptions)

WR/DB Gavin Cain, senior, 6-0, 175 pounds (25 receptions for 549 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions)

OL/DL Connor Deters, senior. 6-6, 285 pounds (42 total tackles)

OL/DL Holden Bass, junior, 6-4, 275 pounds (62 total tackles)

LB Blake Stallbaumer, senior, 6-2, 225 pounds (68 total tackles and 13 TFLs)

LB Jake Hundley senior, 5-10, 170 pounds (63 total tackles)

LB Wade Leonard senior, 5-10 185 pounds (52 total tackles)

What makes your team special?

“This started back in June in summer workouts when we had great attendance all

summer. The boys worked their butts off and had one common goal, and that was to be

state champs. These kids have done a great job of focusing on week to week work and

not looking ahead to Thanksgiving weekend. This is a tight-knit group that has great

leadership by these seniors that expect perfection during practice and games.”

Who have been key players for you this season?

“Offensively Cooper Hajek and Brayden Upahus have been tremendous for us. Cooper

runs the ball extremely hard and gets better and better throughout the game. Brayden

leads the offense at the quarterback position. He is a great dual threat athlete that can

make plays. Our offensive line has played very well through 12 weeks. Connor and

Holden lead the other three new guys on the front. Gavin Cain is a deep threat receiver

that can take any catch for a touchdown, he is a great kid that is a phenomenal route

runner. Defensively Hajek has been the leading tackler at the linebacker position. This is a senior-led defense with seven seniors on it. Connor and Holden lead the defensive line and do a great job at stopping the run. Hajek, Leonard and Stallbaumer have been playing the linebacker position since their sophomore season and are great leaders on the field.”

Have any players been a surprise?

“Cooper Hajek has been having a terrific season. The newcomers on the offensive line have

been the biggest surprise. We knew Connor and Holden were going to lead them but

Abram Keim, Josh Gonzalez and Abe Hilbert have been doing a great job as first year

players paving the way for Cooper and the offense.”

What got your team into the state championship game?

“Our seniors have been the backbone to this team. They have been great leaders from

back in the summer to now. We opened up with Holton to begin the year and that told us

right away where we were at and what we needed to work on. Playoffs came and we

saw the likes of Rossville and Sabetha for the second time and I thought our kids stayed

focused during those big games and handled the adversity very well. We like to establish

the run game throughout the game which opens up the passing attack. Defensively we

have been holding teams to 11 points per game. Our kids buy into the system and they love to just

go out and compete, play in and play out.”

What does your team need to do in order to win the state championship game?

“We need to focus on ourselves and battle through adversity throughout the game.

Kingman is a very athletic team that flys around on both sides of the ball. They have

been holding teams below seven points per game on defense. Each possession we get on offense, we must limit turnovers and penalties and control the clock. It is going to be a grind it out

game and it will be won in the fourth quarter. I am excited to see our kids compete one last

time in Salina.”

Kingman Eagles

Coach Tanner Hageman

Key players:

QB Nolan Freund senior, 6-0, 195 pounds (1,938 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns two interceptions, a 65% competition rate, 868 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns)

RB Jake Fischer, senior, 5-10, 205 pounds (80 rushes for 346 yards and six touchdowns)

WR/RB Carter Helm, junior, 5-10, 185 pounds (35 receptions for 414 yards and five touchdowns, 329 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns) 

TE/DE Tristen Davidson, junior, 6-3, 195 pounds (36 receptions for 610 yards and nine touchdowns and 85 total tackles and 8 sacks)

WR/DB Avrey Ablright, senior, 5-10, 160 pounds (27 receptions for 630 yards, eight touchdowns, 25 carries for 338 yards, seven touchdowns and 65 total tackles and three interceptions)

LB Ty Birkenbaugh, senior, 5-10, 185 pounds (108 tackles and four sacks) 

LB Colin Schreiner, sophomore, 5-6, 180 pounds (101 tackles and 11 TFL’s)

What makes your team special?

“I think the thing that makes this team so special is their resiliency. This comes from leadership from our upperclassmen as well as relying on our experience to help us through tough situations. I think the toughness our kids have shown and the effort they make to each other has been special.”

Have any players been a surprise?

“Dalton Barber has added great depth to our offensive line and has been instrumental on the defensive line. Bo Watkins has stepped in and been an extremely reliable third down receiver and blocker. Chase Webster had an early shoulder injury and we are thankful he has been able to recover. He has been incredible for us defensively as our strong side outside linebacker. He is gifted in both stopping the run and in pass coverage.”

What got your team into the state championship game?

I think it took a total team effort from our coaches, to starters, to the scout team players. We have all bought into a common goal not only in the season, but each and every day taking advantage of an opportunity to get better.”

What does your team need to do in order to win the state championship game?

“We certainly have to be able to handle the atmosphere and the emotions that come with the game. We also will have to do an excellent job tackling and being able to match a team that has shown they haven’t been stopped all year long.”

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