By CONOR NICHOLL
Sports in Kansas
HOISINGTON – Brothers Brandon, Jonathan and Christopher Ball were well-known for their achievements at Hoisington, notably in wrestling.
Brandon was a four-time state champion. Jonathan earned three state medals, including a first and a second. Christopher earned three straight state titles and a runner-up medal.
Each brother was a successful pole vaulter, and notably Brandon and Jonathan performed well for Hoisington football. The three wrestling brothers live together at Fort Hays. Brandon earned All-American honors and was a finalist for the MIAA’s Ken B. Jones Award.
Their younger brothers Joshua and Josiah Ball are on the football roster.
“It’s been great,” Joshua said. “You have a role model ahead of you and always have competition.”
Especially Jonathan likes to dive into the statistics and records to compare the brothers. Joshua, though, is well aware of his standing, especially in football. He is expected to finish as the top football player among the four older Balls.
In wrestling, he has sixth, fifth and third place finishes at state and a career mark of 105-18. The heaviest of the Ball brothers, Joshua wrestled the last two seasons at 170 pounds.
This year, Joshua is part of two trends for Hoisington, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A and the favorite to emerge from 2A West.
Joshua has emerged as part of the Cardinals’ deep running back corps after Wyatt Pedigo, the school’s all-time leading rusher graduated. He is one of many current Cardinals who have competed after older brothers.
“Those have been good bloodlines for us,” coach Zach Baird, a Hoisington native, said. “It’s a blast coaching these guys.”
Baird (66-1) has reached the state semifinals in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Hoisington (7-0, 4-0) relies on a deep backfield group. Among current 2A teams, only Silver Lake (66-9) is better than Hoisington in Baird’s tenure, according to future Hall of Fame Cardinal broadcaster Cole Reif. Hoisington is riding a 16-game home win streak at Elton Brown Field.
“A great environment here, and our fans do a fantastic job supporting us,” Baird said.
Hoisington delivers 335 rushing yards a game with 7.6 yards per play.
“They have got a whole stable of backs,” Halstead coach Jason Grider said.
Hoisington quarterback Mason Haxton joins Holt Hanzlick, and Ball, Hunter Morris, Cade Mason and Cole Steinert.
“Our team chemistry is amazing,” Hanzlick said.
Ball is known for his physical, straight ahead style with 80 carries 573 yards and nine touchdowns. Hanzlick delivered 71 rushes for 564 yards and eight scores. In a great display of depth, Haxton, Morris, Steinert and Mason have 275, 307, 268, 243 rushing yards, respectively.
Morris has six, Steinert five rushing scores. Haxton’s brother, Leyton, is a freshman, and Cole’s sibling, Chase, is a sophomore.
“We always knew he was really good for us,” Baird said of Ball. “We have got a bunch of backs still, and that’s always been the case is we have been back-heavy, so luckily in this offense, we can get three backs on the field every play, and we still kind of rotate guys through.”
“It’s so hard to play a B back in our offense,” he added. “It just takes a wear and tear on you, but so when we can rotate Holt and Josh, and they bust long runs, we send the next guy in, they don’t miss a beat.”
Defensively, Steinert had a key pass breakup late versus Halstead in a 32-22 victory in Week 3. Steinert is playing inside on defense for the first time, and Baird labeled a “great player.”
“He’s always been a running back for us,” Baird said of Chase Robinson. “We don’t have a ton of offensive linemen this year, and so we brought it up, and said ‘Hey, we are going to be better off if you play offensive line for us,’ and without hesitation, took the challenge and he’s huge in our success.”
Hanzlick’s older brothers Hagen and Hunter were also Cardinal standouts. Hunter cleared 4,000 career rushing yards. Chase and Legend Robinson’s older brother Xavier is a long jump state champion currently on Fort Hays’ track team. Middle linebacker/tackle Cole Gilliland is Wyatt Pedigo’s brother. He has started at right guard and recorded 19 tackles, two for loss defensively.
Hanzlick paces with 42 tackles, with Robinson at 35, Steinert with 32 and Ball at 28 after the first six weeks.
Hoisington has previously had a set of twins, Jake and Jared Curtis. Jake was an all-league linebacker, and Jared an all-state defensive end. Baird, formerly a three-year assistant, was on staff when Avery Urban was in school. Avery was all-league, and his younger brother, Landen, was Top 11 all-classes and has played in 26 career games at Washburn. Sophomore center Logan Philbern’s brother, Riley, graduated last season and is at Emporia State.
“It’s been a joy,” Baird said. “They are a bunch of great kids, and they will work hard, and when push comes to shove, they will stick their nose in there.”