It’s not often when a down year is qualified as two losses, key injuries and oh yeah, a state title.
But that’s the case for Bishop Miege, as the Stags – recently named by MaxPreps.com as the most dominant football program in Kansas – sustained in 2018, en route to winning their fifth straight Kansas Class 4A championship.
“We learned last year that our schedule is hard in those first eight games,” said Bishop Miege head coach Jon Holmes, who has racked up a ridiculous 62-4 record in the last five years. “We got through it with all the injuries at 6-2, which was great – but only good to get one home playoff game. Our expectation for us is to win the championships and for the first time since 2012, we lost two regular season games. We finished the year strong, especially with sophomores and juniors, and they’re ready this year.”
Particularly ready will be the skill position guys for Miege, as most sustained injuries last year. Wide receiver Daniel Jackson, the 6-0, 185-pound Minnesota commit who ripped off 1,270 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in his sophomore year, was out after the first quarter in the season opener in 2018.
In his absence, heralded sophomore wideout Phillipe Wesley (5-foot-11, 185) stepped up with 987 yards and 11 scores. Now the two will be healthy at the same time, along with junior Trey Ausler (6-foot-1, 165).
“The best thing for Phillipe was Daniel getting hurt – not that we ever wanted that, but because he had to step into a bigger role,” Holmes recalled. “Now the ability to have both together will be big for us. They played just a quarter together last year and each had a touchdown. Now we get two FBS caliber receives out there, and that puts a lot of stress on the defense as to what to do.”
At running back, senior Brison Cobbins (5-foot-8, 175) returns after a 1,300-yard, 23-touchdown year on the ground – but nursed a hamstring the final five weeks. Cobbins, who had 1,294 as a sophomore and career totals of 3,435 yards and 49 touchdowns, looks fresh entering the year.
“The last six weeks of the summer, he looks like what he was before the injuries,” Holmes said.
Tyquez Agnew-Whitten returns as a threat on both sides of the ball. (Photo: Darryl Woods, 810 Varsity)
Also joining Cobbins will be senior Tyquez Agnew-Whitten (6-foot-1, 205) – who suffered a torn ACL in 2018 – and senior DeAunte Parker (6-foot-1, 200) to share carries and relieve the duties.
“We’ll need those guys on both sides of the ball because they’re too skilled to keep off the field,” Holmes said. “They’ll be able to collectively take 15 carries from Brison and keep him fresher.”
Junior Timothy Dorsey (6-0, 180) will take over at quarterback, and have access to all the weaponry.
“He has a chance to be pretty good,” Holmes said. “He got a chance to play in some games, and came in during the St. James game and led us to three touchdown drives. He’s a smart kid, always played quarterback and prepared this offseason for how to be a starting quarterback. With the skill players we have coming back, he won’t have to do too much and just get the balls in their hands.”
Also taking advantage of the speedy threats will be tight ends Connor Doble (6-foot-4, 215) and Mack Moeller (6-foot-3, 190).
“They can play attached or in the slot,” Holmes said. “Both guys have that ability. With three big play guys on the outside, they can be guys making plays that no one knows about.”
Protecting Dorsey will be the offensive line, led by the sole returning starter in senior Brian Burns (6-foot-5, 260). The Harvard commit will shift from right guard to left tackle.
Joining Burns will be sophomore left guard Jackson Hoshor (6-0, 265), junior center Hayden Thilges (6-0, 250), senior right tackle Matt Virgil (6-foot-1, 26) and a battle at right guard between junior Nathan Smith (6-0, 225) and senior Jahmari Cross (5-foot-11, 265).
“If there’s a question mark, it’s our offensive line after graduating four starters,” Holmes said. “But when you can start Burns, that’s a great place to being. We have a couple of seniors who have worked really hard to be in this position. They all are a hard working group.
Defensively, the Stags return eight starters from a year ago. Up front, senior defensive end Mason Weber (6-foot-4, 255) comes back as a three-year starter, while on the other end, sophomore Kyle Williams (6-foot-3, 22) lines up. Senior defensive tackle Max VanMeter (6-foot-4, 245) will help clog the middle, while senior James Jackson (5-foot-1, 235) also will rotate into the trenches.
At linebacker, senior Mikey Welsh (6-0, 200) will take over as the main cog with the graduation of longtime force Dylan Downing.
“Mikey was the second-leading tackler behind Dylan, and got to see the way he did things,” Holmes stated. “Mikey came into his own in the second half of the year, made play after play, and will anchor our linebackers.”
Junior Jack Kincaid (6-foot-3, 205) also returns as a starter. Parker will see time, as well as sophomore Jake Welsh (5-foot-11, 185). Seniors Trenton Mandl (6-foot-1, 18) and Nick Fahlstrom (5-foot-9, 165) also could see time.
In the secondary, Miege will bring back Agnew-Witten at safety, as well as senior Grant Fussell (5-foot-11, 180). Speedy senior cornerback Rishi Rattan (5-foot-10, 17) will line up opposite the likes of senior Niko Barber (5-foot-10, 155), junior Justin Fountain (5-foot-8, 15), junior Jaden Stevenson (5-foot-10, 175) and Carson Key.
Brison Cobbins has rolled up 3,400+ yards and nearly 50 rushing TDs in his career. (Photo: Darryl Woods, 810 Varsity)
“They all could see time early, which will help rotating the secondary and keeping guys fresh,” Holmes stated.
Overall, Bishop Miege looks to getting back atop the Eastern Kansas League and tying Hutchinson’s Kansas record of six straight state titles.