Four Braves claim seven spots on all-KVL squad
Bonner Springs football coach Lew Kasselman is all for having a postseason football team to honor the league's top performers.
But in Kasselman's eyes, each year it seems as if something doesn't add up. This year was no different, as the Braves landed four players at seven slots on the all-Kaw Valley League postseason squad.
"I look at it this way," Kasselman said. "Since we had that much representation on the all-league team, maybe we should've been a better football team."
That's not a knock on his players, rather a knock on a season that went unlike anyone expected. The Braves finished 1-8 in 2004, but were a handful of plays away from having a winning record.
Despite the rocky road, Kasselman said those players who did earn spots on the all-KVL squad, were certainly deserving of the honor.
Leading the way for the Braves was the team's only first-team selection, senior Brad Rittinghouse. "The House," as he was known, was the third offensive linemen selected to the five-man first team. Rittinghouse also earned second-team honors for his play on the defensive line, and he was just one vote away from a first-team selection on that side of the ball, as well.
"Brad was so consistent all season," Kasselman said. "Coaches remember players who make plays, and Brad made enough of them to make an impression on them and to be one of the top linemen selected."
Kasselman said he was a bit surprised by Rittinghouse's omission from the first-team on defense, as he felt that's where Rittinghouse made the most of his plays. But the three-year starter and co-captain was a steady force on the offensive line during each and every series.
Joining Rittinghouse in receiving accolades for his play on the line was junior Emmanuel McComb. McComb received honorable mention on both sides of the ball, meaning he received at least three votes from the league's coaches.
Kasselman said, like Rittinghouse, McComb had a knack for making big plays at big moments.
"Sometimes he made a big play for us out of nowhere," Kassleman said. "I think that's what got him votes."
But with the junior returning for his senior season, and figuring to take on more of a leadership role, Kasselman said he expects McComb to be among the league's elite in 2005.
"He's got to be a dominant player for us," Kasselman said. "That's just it. He has those capabilities, and I've already seen him stepping up as more of a leader."
One of this year's most visible leaders received honorable mention honors for his play at quarterback. Senior Jordan Lamb, who threw for 983 yards and six touchdowns in 2004, secured a spot by receiving enough votes from the league's coaches to earn the top spot among the honorable mention honorees. Like Rittinghouse with the first and second teams, Lamb was just one vote away from a spot on the second team. Lamb tied with Bishop Ward's Terry Roblez, but lost out on the second-team spot when the coaches re-voted on those two players. Still, Kasselman said he was happy Lamb found his way onto the team.
"Overall, Jordan had a good season," Kasselman said. "He had a couple of games where he didn't play that well, but overall he was very solid."
Lamb's yardage total was the highest for any quarterback in Kasselman's career; something the coach said illustrated two things.
"I've never had a player throw for that many yards," he said. "Part of that was that Jordan could throw the ball, and the otherpart of it was that we tried to be more balanced this year. But a lot of the reason we chose to throw on first down sometimes was because I had a lot of confidence in Jordan's ability."
The final piece of the Braves' postseason pie was reserved for the focal point of their offense. Starting tailback Christian McDonald, who also served as the Braves' defensive captain at middle linebacker, earned second team honors for his play in the backfield. McDonald carried the load for the BSHS offense this season, rushing for 712 yards on 134 carries. Both numbers led the team. His 5.3 yards-per-carry average showed what a force he could be. McDonald also factored into the Braves' passing game, as he snagged 11 receptions for 215 yards.
"Christian had a solid year," Kasselman said. "He was what you would call an impressionable runner. They knew he was physical and he was tough to stop. He was a little inconsistent, particularly with his mentality. Every down needed to be played with the attitude of 'you can't stop me,' and he didn't do that on every down."
But Kasselman said he was more than pleased with McDonald's heart and effort this season, citing his respect for the player who never asked to come out.
"He always kept performing and he always gave it his best shot," Kasselman said. "That's all you can ask for. There were some pretty good offensive players this year in the league, and for him to be in the top group speaks highly of the season he had."
McDonald also received honorable mention honors for his play at linebacker.
Three of the Braves' four all-league performers will graduate this year, leaving uncertainty as to what the future will hold. However, Kasselman said a quick look at the roster showed that there are a few players that should make an impact on the field next season.
"I think there are two or three guys coming back who should expect to be on this list next year," he said.
For a complete look at this season's all-KVL football squad, see Page 2B.