8MAN FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW

It's a rare championship matchup of unbeatens as Sedgwick County visits Fowler for the 8man crown. Both teams are 12-0 and each seeks their own piece of history. PHOTOS BY BILLIE CARLSON AND VAN HOLLIS.

History is set to be made in the eight-man championship game on Saturday. Either Sedgwick County becomes the first team in the long history of the classification to win five consecutive titles, or Fowler, with a storied past in 11-man, earns its first crown as an eight-man program. The game is slated for a 1pm kickoff on Saturday in Fowler.

#1 SEDGWICK COUNTY COUGARS (12-0) AT #3 FOWLER GRIZZLIES (12-0)

Sedgwick County opened the preseason ranked #1, receiving 11 of 12 first place votes. The Cougars did not spend a week at any other spot in the poll all season. They began the season with back-to-back shutouts, and blanked three of their first four opponents. The Cougars have posted shutout in each of their last five contests, giving them eight on the year, which is tied for the eighth-most in state history. Only one of their 12 games this season did not end with the running clock, a 34-0 win over Hoehne in their second outing.

The Cougars defense has allowed a total of 42 points heading into the title game. That was on six touchdowns and three conversions. Meanwhile, that unit, along with special teams, has scored seven touchdowns. Two have come during the postseason.

Seniors Beau Parker (73 tackles) and Fabian Lopez (72) tackles leads a very balanced unit. Nolan Carlson (65), Tate Goddard (63), Trevor Barowsky (53), Terrance Heath (53), and Dalton Carlson (47) all average more than four tackles per game, while playing limited reps. Lopez (16 TFL), Heath (15 TFL), and Barowsky (12 TFL) all have recorded more than 10 tackles for loss. For Heath, eight have been by way of sacks, while Barowsky and Lopez each have three sacks. The defense has recorded 32 takeaways, 24 of them on interceptions. Jaciel Villalobos leads the squad with six picks, while Kaleb Fowler is right on his heels with five. Dalton Carlson and Heath each have two of the team’s eight fumble recoveries.

Offensively, Jared Ehmke has continued the family tradition of solid QB play, throwing for 928 yards and 14 TDs, with no interceptions. Heath is his go-to target, hauling in 17 balls for 351 yards and six touchdowns. Barowsky (7/193/3) and Parker (5/158/1) are also big play threats in the passing game.

Parker leads the ground attack with 1571 yards and 35 TDs. He’s coming off a career-high 261 yard, four touchdown performance in the Cougars’ 48-0 semifinal victory over Dayspring Christian. It was his fifth game this season with four touchdowns. The senior is five yards away from 4000 in his career. Fowler (707 yards, 14 TD) is nearly averaging a first down on every carry, while Brody Parker (278), Dalton Carlson (268), and Goddard (214) have all rushed for more than 200 yards on the season. As a team, the Cougars have amassed 3319 yards and 67 touchdowns on the ground.

Sedgwick County is the third 8-man program to win four consecutive titles, joining Hugo (1968-71) and Stratton (1992-95). If the Cougars make it five in a row, they would join Valor Christian (2009-13) and Limon (1963-68) as the only programs to do so. Limon owns the record with six straight titles during its dominant run in the 1960s. Sedgwick County is 66-7 in six seasons under Chris Michel.

Fowler started things off ranked #8 in the preseason, but the Grizzlies quickly shot up into the top five after blasting rival Swink 54-6 in the season-opener. They would spend the rest of the season in the top four, finishing the regular portion of the schedule at #2, receiving three first place votes. While their defense has not been as dominant as Sedgwick County’s, the Grizzlies do have a pair of shutouts on the season and they have held eight opponents to a single touchdown or less. Six of those came in a run that saw the Grizzlies outscore the opposition 323-26. The twelve wins this season are the most in the six-year run with Mark Van Sickle at the helm, surpassing the nine from two seasons ago.

Gabriel Proctor leads all tacklers heading into the final contest with 174 stops this season. That’s 109 more than his closest teammate, Braxton Bates, who checks in with 65. Orin Carnes (58), Luke Bitter (57), Johnathan Mobbley (53), and Thor Schiffer (50) all have at least 50 tackles on the season. Carnes has gotten to the opposing quarterback six times this season, while Schiffer has three sacks. Fowler’s defense has forced 25 turnovers to date, with 15 coming as interceptions. Braxton Bates has six of those, and the junior also has a fumble recovery. Bitter and Carnes each have four takeaways, and Mobbley has three.

Bitter, a three-year starter at QB, has thrown for 1064 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. He’s also added 652 yards and 11 touchdowns with his legs. Six different receivers have more than 100 yards on the season, led by Mobbley (22/310/5). Braxton Bates (13/179/4) and Rylee Smith (10/188/2) are the only other players with double figure catches, while Damien Romero (182), Jackson Bates (153), and Joshua Daniels (108) are the others with triple digit yardage totals.

Daniels (1238 yards, 21 TD) and Jackson Bates (1237 yards, 19 TD) power the offense for the Grizzlies, who have also seen Erick Hernandez (296) and Schiffer (282) rush for more than 200 yards on the season. As a team, Fowler has piled up 4073 yards and 64 touchdowns in the rushing game.

Fowler won the Class B title in 1957, beating Palisade 27-20 for that crown. The Grizzlies did not return to the championship game at any classification until 1986, when they beat Limon for the 1A title. They made four consecutive championship game appearances from 1989-92, losing to Strasburg in 1A and 2A, before beating West Grand and Caliche for 2A titles. This is their first championship game appearance since a 1998 loss to West Grand in 1A.

This is just the second postseason meeting between the two programs, as Sedgwick County took a 44-6 victory at Fowler in the 2017 quarterfinals. The Grizzlies did have some playoff history with one half of the Sedgwick County co-op, beating Julesburg twice during the 1990s.


Kerry Sherman

Kerry Sherman

Kerry Sherman is a lifelong resident of eastern Colorado. He started covering high school sports in 1991, focusing on the smaller classifications. He has also coached boys basketball at Woodlin, Otis & Weldon Valley. In his spare time, Kerry substitute teaches at area schools. He and his wife, Colleen, live on the family farm near Anton, along with their three Corgi mutts, Selene, Caesar & Helios.

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