Saturday, 20 April 2019
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Sabetha Pratt 3A State Football Preview
By Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports

The Sabetha football team has a chance to win back-to-back state titles as the Bluejays return to Hutchinson on Saturday with an undefeated season and 19-game winning streak in a matchup against Pratt (12-0).  Sabetha celebrated their first state football crown since 1997 and their third in school history last year, holding on for a 7-6 win against Marysville.  The Jays will use the exact same itinerary during Thanksgiving week leading up to the 1:00 PM kickoff at Gowans Stadium on Saturday, November 24th.     

The Greenbacks won the 4A D2 State Championship in 2016 with a dominating 48-14 victory in Salina for the school’s first football title since 1995.  In that game against Hayden, Travis Theis ran for 266 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore.  Theis is now a senior and has 6,494 total rushing yards in his prep career, including 2,358 this year as he transitioned to the quarterback position.  Theis has accounted for 38 rushing touchdowns this year, including six TDs of at least 70 yards.  He has also completed 31 of 60 passes for 842 yards with 10 more scores and only one interception in the flex-bone attack. 

Fellow senior, Brett Winsor has caught all 10 touchdown passes and leads the Pratt receivers with 20 catches for 642 yards, while also snatching eight interceptions. A third key senior offensive weapon is Kadence Riner who has 956 yards rushing and 154 receiving.  All three average more than 10 yards every play they touch the football and along with senior Jadon Koehler, are the top tacklers on a defense that has pitched six shutouts this year and is giving up less than nine points per contest.  The Greenbacks also don’t have a lineman that starts on both sides of the football with a platoon system in the trenches that helped them top unbeaten Andale 21-19 in last week’s semifinals.  They look to battle Sabetha's talent and depth up front, led by one of the state's top lineman, Elliott Strahm.   

Pratt has also beaten Concordia (52-17), Colby (33-16) and Smokey Valley (46-0) in their 2018 playoff run under 6th year Coach Jamie Cruce.  Cruce returns to Hutchinson where he played college football for two years before transferring to Bethany College, where he later became the head coach of the Swedes from 2007-2012 prior to taking the job at Pratt.             

Sabetha is led by Garrett Michael, who has coached at Sabetha for 22 years and has had the Bluejays in the playoffs all 10 years as Head Coach. In fact, the Jays have appeared in 14 of 15 post-season's with an 8-1 campaign in 2007 that led to a tie-breaking rule change in District play.  Consistency is found not just in winning, but a tenured coaching staff with 101 years of combined experience that has built a very disciplined and respected tradition.

In Sub-State against an undefeated Galena team that was averaging more than 44 points and 366 yards per game, the Sabetha defense pitched their fifth shutout of this campaign and is now surrendering a mere 7.6 points per game holding nine of their 12 opponents to a single score or less.  Cauy Rokey and Gabe Garber are two of the best linebackers in the state and both had double-digit tackles again last week in the 21-0 win that put them over 100 take downs for the season.  Braedon Cox intercepted his fifth pass in the last three games and ninth INT of the year as Sabetha has 19 picks among 26 total takeaways this fall.

Sabetha also topped Parsons (62-18) and Perry Lecompton (26-8) as well as Big 7 foe Jeff West (32-7) in this playoff run. In the single wing offense, Sabetha averages 311 yards rushing per game with Garber also completing more than 65 percent of his passes for another 930 yards of offense and 11 touchdowns to just one interception.  Garber has 1,057 rushing yards and 17 scores while Joe Gruber leads the way with 1,286 yards on the ground with 16 trips to the endzone.  Ryan Stapleton has 16 catches for 317 yards and five TDs to pace eight Bluejays that have caught a pass. 

Although Pratt could have a slight edge in the return game, Sabetha might have a leg up in punting while both teams sport a terrific kicker.  Cox has hit 51 of 59 PAT's for Sabetha and also made 5 of 6 field goals, including a couple from 39 yards.  Daniel Sanchez has couple a couple field goals from less than 25 yards and connected on 62 of 69 point-after-tries for Pratt.

Live coverage of the game can be heard starting at 12:30 PM locally on KNZA 103.9 FM and on the Sabetha Channel free online at              

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Hiawatha, KS 66434
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