Bobcats reflect on wild season
While the season didn’t necessarily end how Basehor-Linwood coaches and players had hoped with an extended playoff run, the BLHS football team still turned in a record-setting season.
School records were set for victories and winning percentages. BLHS dominated the majority of Kaw Valley League teams with a 7-1 record in league games.
The record included a dramatic double-overtime victory against Tonganoxie and a district title-clinching victory against Piper on the last night of the regular season. The lone loss was to Mill Valley in a game that went down to the wire.
Football season can seem like a blur where pads are checked out to players one day and turned in the next.
Nine days ago, the Bobcats were on top of the world.
They were league champions, having won a 15-12 thriller against Piper to capture the KVL crown. In the final minutes, Colin Murphy made a dramatic catch in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I still think it is one of the greatest high school catches I’ve ever seen. It was real scary good,” coach Steve Hopkins said, reflecting on the landmark victory.
The 6-foot-4 Murphy’s catch served as the exclamation point on a season that ended soon after. BLHS took the field five days later, Tuesday, Nov. 3, in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Not much went right. The Bobcats turned the ball over multiple times and fell behind by 28 points before ultimately losing, 41-27, to Jefferson County West.
“Every mistake we made ended up being magnified: two turnovers for touchdowns, long return for a touchdown,” Hopkins said. “I felt like we were evenly matched. If played well, I thought we would win. Well, we didn’t play real well.”
The loss ended the team’s season.
“Only one team is pleased at the end of the year, we hoped to be the one,” Hopkins said. “Those are things that are true for 63 of the 64 4A teams in a season, but we felt like we had a good year.”
Hopkins said it was a little early to truly reflect on the season, the team’s legacy and what the run meant.
He would like to step away a little bit before discussing those items in detail, but on the surface, it was a phenomenal regular season for BLHS football.
Basehor-Linwood’s 8-1 regular-season record was the best in school history. The team’s 8-2 overall record and .800 winning percentage also set a school records.
Quarterback Brandon Leppke had a record-setting season in leading a cast of playmakers on offense.
Rushing the football, he set school records with 265 attempts for 1,632 yards and 18 touchdowns.
He also set passing records as he completed 98 of 173 attempts for 1,391 yards at 56.65 completion percent and 20 touchdowns.
Combined, he totaled more than 3,000 yards of offense this season, and the Bobcats tallied 3,600 yards of total offense.
Twin receivers Ryan and Colin Murphy were big-time receiving targets. Ryan had 33 receptions for 601 yards and nine touchdowns. Colin had 31 receptions for 557 yards and eight touchdowns.
Cole Bittel caught 23 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
Basehor-Linwood averaged 361 yards and 33.8 points per game of offense.
The Bobcats made plays behind an experienced offensive line that included longtime starters Zach Ross and Caleb Johnson.
Basehor-Linwood also excelled on defense, holding opponents to an average of 251 yards a game and surrendering 171 points all year.
The system was set up for the team’s defensive linemen to take up the majority of opponents’ blockers, allowing linebackers to earn the majority of tackles. Linebackers Chandler King and Jesse Hiss took full advantage, as each recorded more than 100 tackles this season.
Hiss recorded 101 tackles with 13 tackles for loss and two sacks. King recorded 109 tackles with 23 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Linebacker Jake Potts recorded 80 tackles and five sacks.
Up front, Jon Schewmon, Richie O’Donnell, Ben Johnson, Derek Shandy and Ross led a group of linemen that kept opponents from blocking their linebackers on a lot of plays. They also accumulated some nice stats. Shandy and Shewmon led the team with five quarterback sacks.
In the secondary, Tim Stephens, Bobby Courtney and Nathan Quigley led a group of talented players who limited opponents’ ability to throw the ball.
BOBCATS MOVE FORWARD
When the season ended, coaches and players had a to-do list. The team checked in equipment and planned a banquet, and Hopkins attended an All-Kaw Valley League coaches meeting to help determine end-of-season awards.
The end of the season also meant saying farewell to some talented seniors.
“This group’s legacy is just outstanding,” Hopkins said. “They set a standard other classes will shoot for. That will make a huge difference for us.
“They are also outstanding students and did what they needed to do in the weight room. They had the best character of any group we have had top to bottom. They’re just a large number of kids who go to class, do the right things and go to work.”
Some players will explore opportunities to play college football, and Hopkins is working with those wishing to pursue those opportunities.
In addition to saying ‘goodbye,’ they also said ‘hello’ to a new season and began plans for offseason work.
“Our guys had a great meeting Thursday. This is still an opportunity for us to keep going with what we have started,” Hopkins said. “We had five starters on defense and four on offense that are returning.”