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The Student News Site of Renwick School District

Renwick Review

The Student News Site of Renwick School District

Renwick Review

A Season To Remember

A+Season+To+Remember
John Bloomquist

The Garden Plain Owls 2023 football campaign came to an end after 10 games. A loss last Friday night eliminated the Owls from the playoffs, and sent the Ellsworth Bearcats to take on the undefeated Norton Bluejays this week. Ellsworth struggled to move the ball, though they found success late with their perimeter run game which ultimately helped them seal the win. 

Garden Plain jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to a field goal from junior kicker Seth Dugan. Ellsworth would answer right back with a touchdown and then recover the ensuing kickoff. The Bearcats marched down the field and scored to make the game 14-3. The extra possession would ultimately make the difference as the Owls would end up losing by only 3 points (Ellsworth 34, Garden Plain 31). 

A back and forth game came down to the final play. A hail mary pass fell incomplete as the clock struck all zeros. Emotions began to sink in, as players were devastated knowing how hard they worked this offseason to come up short of a Regional Championship. The Owls would finish the year as the No. 5 ranked team in class 2A scoring to MaxPreps.

The postgame huddle lasted for what seemed like an eternity. Coaches expressed how blessed they were to be along for the ride with such a great group of players. After a breakdown, the player’s hugged it up. Tears of sadness ran down the player’s faces knowing they will never play another down of football with this same team. After their meeting on the field, the Owls made their way to the stands to find their biggest supporters. Parents and fans from the community provided their condolences, but also were optimistic for what Garden Plain has to offer next season. 

Garden Plain only suffered two losses this season, both coming to teams who are still competing in the 2023 playoffs. The Cheney Cardinals bested the Owls 41-14 in their week two matchup. Their second loss came last week to the hands of the Ellsworth Bearcats 34-31. Last season, the Owls lost five total games. In their 2023 campaign, the Owls were able to get revenge beating three of the five teams they lost to the year before. 

In just their second year under head coach Todd Rice, the Owls were able to right the ship from their sub par 2022 campaign. Garden Plain shocked the entire Central Plains League, as they were projected to finish in the bottom half of the division. Not only did the Owls finish second in league play, they were able to win their first district title since 2020. Head coach Todd Rice says, “The key to our success this season was our leadership and the development of our players. This season, our guys formed a bond where they play for one another, rather than being worried about their own success.”  

Commitment is one of the things coach Todd Rice values in a team. Last season the team struggled with players not being committed to the program. This year, the Owls were determined to prove themselves. It’s simple to see that they did just that. Ranked in the middle of the pack to start the year in 2A, they would jump as high as No. 5 in the rankings. A truly outstanding feat considering they were without many key players for parts of this season. Garden Plain didn’t have any players quit once the season was underway, whereas last year players wanted the season to end for a number of reasons.  

A big key to this season’s success was the senior leadership. The Owls had 6 senior starters this season. Offensive Coordinator, Corey Brack, could not express enough gratitude to the senior class for their determination to the program and hopes that next year’s seniors will do the same. Next year, the Owls will turn to guys such as Kaeden Kasselman, Brady Brack, Seth Dugan, Cooper Scheer, and Devin Rau to take over the leadership role. 

The sophomores on this year’s team were also a big help. Pete McGregor, Emrick Hays, and Cooper Baker all started on both sides of the ball at some point this season. All three of them also started on at least two special teams for the Owls. Running backs Pete McGregor and Emrick Hays carried the Owls to a 21-7 week 1 victory against the visiting Conway Springs Cardinals. Both backs had over 100 yards on the ground filling in for injured upperclassmen Gage Lee and Cooper Scheer. Cooper Baker was one of the Owls biggest players on defense, being put in a number of different places on that side of the ball. Garden Plain will likely turn to these young athlete’s next season to fill the spots of this loaded senior class. 

Injuries killed the team this year, as four of their athlete’s suffered season ending injuries.  By far the biggest loss was Senior Aden Stuhlsatz, who was a two-way starter at the time of his injury. A leader on the defensive side of the ball, and a mentor to the underclassmen, was on pace for his best season yet. After only two games however, the all-league middle linebacker suffered a season ending knee injury in practice. Two-way starter Cooper Scheer also suffered an injury that cost him a good portion of his season. Unlike Stuhlsatz, the junior was able to make it back to finish out the season. Scheer would go on to be one of the leaders for the Owls defense in interceptions (three way tie with Pete McGregor and Seth Dugan), one of which sealed their District Championship game against the Kingman Eagles. Head coach Todd Rice said, “The willingness of our guys to step into new roles was outstanding. We had no idea who would start for us each week, but regardless of playing time our players came to compete.” 

By far the biggest loss this offseason will be running back Gage Lee. The senior ended the year averaging over 190 yards per game, and 10 yards per carry. He was also able to tack on 10 touchdowns this season in only 8 full games (missed week one and was not 100% week two). These numbers would have the Owls rushing attack ranked No. 3 in the State amongst all 11-man teams. Lee was one of the best running backs in the state of Kansas, and would be a great addition to any college football team in need of a determined student-athlete. A shoulder surgery this summer helped keep him on the field, whereas his junior year was cut short after he dislocated his shoulder against the Chaparral Roadrunners in 2022. 

While Lee was a staple in the Owls offense, he couldn’t have done it without their outstanding offensive line. The offensive line is by far one of the biggest in class 2A averaging 6’3”, 240 lbs. Unfortunately, next year Garden Plain loses three of their five starting linemen. Seniors Gage Dexter, Mason Hoheisel, and Jaxen Bolinger will all be graduating this year. They will likely turn to junior Devin Rau and sophomore Kyle Koester to fill these positions, both of which saw varsity playing time this season on the line. Thankfully the Owls are able to keep two starters on the line in junior right guard Hank Lilly and junior right tackle Kaeden Kasselman. 

In their loaded senior class, Garden Plain was able to get two first and second year football players to come out for football. Two-way starter Tjaden Moring was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball, as he was one of teams leaders in sacks. Wyatt Nickelson didn’t see the field much, but was quote “blessed” to be a part of the GP tradition. “I have never been a part of something like this in my life,” says Nickelson. “The bond I have formed with each one of my teammates is unreal. I am so glad I decided to come out this year, regardless of how much I saw the field, and be a part of a family like this.” 

Garden Plain also loses 3 seniors in their already thin receiving core. The biggest loss out of the receiving core is by far Ty Scheer. The senior wideout was an amazing mentor to the underclassman, especially after the injury to tight end Aden Stuhlsatz. Quarterback Brady Brack hopes the team can find more threats like Scheer who are great after the catch. Garden Plain experimented with different player’s at wide receiver, so it is hard to tell who will be playing out wide next season. 

First year receiver’s coach Brent Vancuren helped keep the receivers sharp and ready for any situation the defense threw at them. Since the Owls are a ground and pound team, he emphasized physicality and toughness when blocking. Tight end Tjaden Moring and wide receiver Ty Scheer were a big help in the Owls run game. Their blocks helped spring outside runs, and were constantly praised by Offensive Coordinator Corey Brack and play caller Tyler Chan. 

  Now, the Owls look to compete in their winter sports. Star senior running back Gage Lee looks to dominate in wrestling this year. He looks to improve this season after having shoulder surgery in the offseason. Athletes such as Cooper Scheer and Kaeden Kasselman take to the basketball court this winter under second year coach Mark Powell. Kasselman was the leading scorer for Garden Plain last season. He looks to earn all league honors this season, and carry his team to a deep playoff run. Other athletes are spending their offseason in the weight room, looking to stay in shape for next season. 

An unfortunate ending to an outstanding season for Garden Plain. Everyone counted them out, but they continued to thrive under pressure. The Owls took down top teams such as the Centralia Panthers (currently ranked No. 6 in 1A) and the Kingman Eagles (currently ranked No. 6 in 2A). In a season where they shocked their league and the entire class of 2A, they ultimately fell short of becoming Regional Champions. 

Even though the season didn’t end as they had hoped, the Owls hope everyone will stay hopeful for what is to come next year. Not only did the team win games, they brought the community closer together. Garden Plain wishes everyone thanks for supporting their program this season, and is excited to prove what they can do next season.

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About the Contributor
Hunter Hayden, Garden Plain HS - Renwick Review
I am Hunter Hayden, and this is my first year writing for the Renwick Review. I am a sophomore at Garden Plain High School. I am a 3 sport athlete (football, basketball, and track) and spend most of my time at practice/games. I appreciate how supportive we are as a community in Renwick. Whether it's a concert, play, sporting event, or even a dance, many show up to show support. Someone who inspires me is Kobe Bryant. My favorite quote of his is, "The moment you give up, is the moment you let someone else win."
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