Wristen: Jayhawk Conference embraces LHS football
The Jayhawk Community College Conference has long been regarded as a football player factory for NCAA Division I programs.
I suppose that makes the Lansing High football program a manufacturing plant for the Jayhawk Conference.
Counting four signees from this year's senior class - Angelo Barron, Daniel Eyerly, Joe Kohl and Peter Willcott - LHS has produced 10 college football players in the past three seasons. Eight of them have played, or will play, in the Jayhawk Conference. The other two play at the University of St. Mary.
That's something LHS coach Bill Pekarek said he and his staff take pride in.
"We've had some pretty good players here in the last few years," he said. "Lansing's had its share of some pretty talented athletes, and these guys have had a lot of success in their career at Lansing. We're just proud of them and glad to see them move on and play at the next level."
Pekarek said hard work and commitment have made all of Lansing's college signees successful, but he was quick to point out that those who have gone before them helped create those opportunities.
Pekarek looks at his own former high school coach as the starting point of the food chain.
"My high school coach provided the opportunity for me to go from being that JV guy to varsity starter, and then I played in college at an NAIA school," he said. "I've been in football ever since, so that was a great opportunity for me."
Pekarek has spent his time as a coach creating opportunities for players to excel. Pekarek said those players who've gone on to the next level in the past now are opening doors for the current class of Lions to play college football.
John Tytla, a 2005 LHS graduate, played for a year at Coffeyville Community College. That's where Barron is going.
Logan Ryan, a senior on last year's squad, earned honorable mention All-Jayhawk Conference honors this year for his play on the offensive line at Highland Community College.
"Their coaches are really pleased with what he's done out there," Pekarek said of Ryan. "We've got a lot of good feathers in the hat right now."
Then there's Dodge City, where Class of 2006 seniors Jeff Slater and Ryan Robbins recently completed their freshman season.
"Dodge City was the first junior college - and the first college period - that came back inside our doors to start looking for players," Pekarek said. "They were the first ones, and they came back three more times."
That's proof to Pekarek that it's the players that are opening doors for each other.
Now, Pekarek said, it's Barron, Eyerly, Kohl and Willcott's turn to seize that opportunity and run with it.
"Somebody has given them an opportunity, and I think it's great that these guys are getting the opportunity to do something that they love to do," he said.