Archive for Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bobcats had their share of stars

August 17, 2006

Football at Basehor-Linwood High School has been an up-and-down adventure.

During my first couple of years with the paper the Bobcats played at the top of the Kaw Valley League and were among the school's most successful sports programs.

The Bobcats reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons and were building a program that seemed capable of competing with anyone.

However, hard times followed and it led to the resignation of coach Paul Brown and a couple of rough seasons.

While the seasons were rough -- few wins, numerous double-digit losses and a dip in participation, they also led to the arrival of new coach Steve Hopkins, a man the BLHS community got behind immediately.

Hopkins brought a new focus and a new attitude to the program and under his direction, the Bobcats found their way back into the playoffs.

Wins and losses don't always tell the story of high school football. Sometimes talent-rich teams have a tough time playing together. Other times, teams with a fair amount of talent get roughed up during a tough year in league play.

Both situations plagued the Bobcats at least once in the past five years, but through it all Basehor-Linwood suited up a handful of serious football players. Here's my list of the top five players to hit the gridiron in the green and gold.

Justin Ishmael

Class of 2002

Ishmael was one of the first dominant linemen I ever covered. He had tremendous size and strength and used it to his advantage.

In my early days with the BLHS football program, the team was known for its offensive line play, as the men in the trenches opened up huge holes for tailbacks, fullbacks and quarterbacks to run through.

In addition to dominating on the offensive side of the ball, Ishmael was tough on defense, as well. Although his play on the D-line was often overshadowed, he was instrumental in clogging up the middle.

Stephen Brown

Class of 2003

Stephen Brown made the list because he always reminded me of my favorite NFL defensive back -- Steve Atwater of the Denver Broncos.

Like Atwater, Brown delivered big-time hits and bone-crushing blows to ball carriers, receivers and even quarterbacks.

In addition to roaming the defensive backfield as the team's enforcer, Brown made his mark as a kick returner, as well.

Will Peterson

Class of 2006

Peterson secured his place in the BLHS record books by rushing for 1,000 yards last year, the first Bobcat ever to do that in a single season.

But his teammates and coaches will tell you that his contributions in the weight room and locker room were just as important.

Peterson was the consummate team leader, he always had a positive attitude and always gave credit to his lesser-known teammates. When it came to strength and conditioning, nobody worked harder than Peterson and his example spurred many of the other Bobcats to push themselves harder.

Michael Armstrong

Class of 2005

Armstrong burst onto the scene his junior year with an unforgettable performance in his first game as the team's starting quarterback.

He scored three touchdowns, one rushing, one on a punt return and one on an interception return to lead BLHS to a 28-15 victory over Bonner Springs.

That was just a taste of things to come, as Armstrong went on to use his breakaway speed and sizzling moves to score many more touchdowns in his career.

He didn't have the strongest arm, but as an option quarterback he was tough to beat and his athleticism also made him a heck of a defensive back.

Ryan Heffley

Class of 2004

As a lineman Heffley was rarely one to get glory or headlines, but he formed the backbone of the Bobcats on both offense and defense his senior year.

He earned first-team All-Kaw Valley League honors on the defensive line, where he was a stout run-stopper and opportunistic pass-rusher. He earned second-team honors on the offensive line where he helped pave the way for Tyler Dowdall, who rushed for almost 900 yards.

In perhaps the biggest play of his career, Heffley teamed up with Michael Hancock on a safety that led to a 2-0 victory over Santa Fe Trail, ending a 13-game losing streak that stretched over two seasons.

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