6 Bobcats named all-KVL
Evidence of a turnaround appears on all-league football list
The improvement in the Basehor-Linwood high school football program did not go unnoticed by the rest of the coaches in the Kaw Valley League.
Evidence of this comes from last week's announcement of the football all-league team, and the placement of six Bobcat athletes on it.
Garnering first team all-league honors were Michael Armstrong (Sr., QB/DB), Tim Brownlee (Sr.,OL), Seth Lashbrook (Sr., P), and Alex Smith (Jr., DL). Earning second team honors were Josh Ishmael (Sr., LB) and Kyle Speichinger (Sr., TE/DE).
The all-Kaw Valley League postseason squads are determined solely by the league's football coaches.
One night after the season ends, all 10 coaches get together and conduct the all-league meeting. In the meeting, coaches battle for their players and do their best politician impressions to get their guys named to the squad.
But the political tactics only influence a few selections. For the most part the coaches know who the league's top players are, and they're more than prepared to recognize them.
After hearing the cases for all of the nominees, the coaches then vote individually for their all-league teams. Coaches may not vote for their own players, and the players are assigned points for each selection, with the highest number of points making up the first team
Basehor-Linwood coach Steve Hopkins, who participated in his first Kaw Valley vote last week, spoke in glowing terms about each of his Bobcats. He said he was thrilled that so many of his players were recognized for their play, and he added that there were things about each of them that impressed him equally.
For instance, he was ecstactic when he saw his senior tight end step up and take more responsibility as a leader down the stretch.
"In the last month, after the Tongie game, Kyle took more responsibility individually, especially on defense," Hopkins said. "I think he might have been one of the top three players on the field at that game. I know he impressed (Tonganoxie) Coach Elston enough that he's sending every college recruiter who comes there down to our place to talk to Kyle."
Speaking of defense, one player who played a key role as the Bobcats' glue was Ishmael. Hopkins said Ishmael deserved a ton of credit for coming to play with intensity each and every game.
"He held us together on defense all year long," Hopkins said. "He was so beat up by the end of the year. With him playing linebacker and fullback for us every game, he was in on roughly 110 collisions every contest. For him to continue to play with us is incredible."
As for Brownlee, who injured himself in the final game of the season, a 34-10 playoff loss to Tonganoxie, Hopkins had nothing but great things to say about Brownlee's future.
"He tore his ACL on the last play of the Tongie game," Hopkins said. "But, really, I think the sky's the limit for him. If we ever needed a yard we ran behind 58. The other coaches in the league told me that they knew if we ran behind him, they couldn't stop us. He is just a dominant run blocker."
Hopkins said Smith was recognized in a similar fashion.
"Alex was poised to be a dominant defensive lineman when he got hurt," he said. "Several of the coaches in our league recognized what a force he is."
As for Lashbrook, who earned his spot as a kicker, but played a much more important role than just booting the ball, Hopkins said Lashbrook's contribution to this year's success was worthy of recognition.
"He contributes so much all around, not just as a punter," Hopkins said. "He was one of our best receivers and defensive backs this year. He could always kick the ball strongly, but, by the end of the year, he had really learned how to place a punt inside the other team's territory."
Yet Hopkins reserved his most praise for departing senior signal-caller, Michael Armstrong.
"We don't win five games without Michael," said Hopkins. "He was such a threat offensively for us. He could throw, catch, or run with the ball. Defensively, one of the things that made a difference for us as a team was when he moved back into the free safety spot because he could cover so much ground. Sometimes I was just amazed watching him."
Hopkins pointed to one contest in particular where Armstrong's talent made his own coach pause.
"During the Piper game, I was mesmerized at times just watching him run," said Hopkins, referring to the final district game for the Bobcats -- a 48-28 dismantling of the Pirates in which Hopkins ran for over 150 yards and three touchdowns as well as passing for two scoring strikes.
"People forget that he was also our kickoff guy. He is going to be the toughest one to replace."