Maybe this is the year for the likes of Great Bend and Hays high schools to close the gap on Dodge City’s enormous success the past couple years.
Dodge City won Western Athletic Conference championships in football, volleyball and boys and girls basketball last season — successfully repeating in all but football.
The Red Demons need to replace conference MVPs in four of their sports from last season — graduated quarterback Jared Helfrich in football, the graduated A’zlynn Thompson in volleyball, two-sport star Rico Hogan, who was the WAC MVP in basketball, and Kesha Buckner, the WAC MVP in girls hoops.
Hogan moved to Norman, Okla., and Buckner reportedly suffered a knee injury during summer basketball in Nebraska earlier in the summer and won’t be back until January.
Hogan will be attending Norman High School, where he plans to play both football and basketball.
Hogan ranked as one of the WAC’s top receivers last season, accumulating 648 receiving yards — second in the conference to Kansas State signee Jade Cathey of Liberal — on 32 receptions and scoring five touchdowns. He also will play defensive back in Norman.
Behind Hogan on the hardwood, the Demons won the WAC championship for the second straight year, although they lost in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament for the second straight season.
Buckner is expected to miss the entire volleyball season and likely will be out of action until basketball season in January.
In fooball, Dodge City won its first 11 games last season, advancing all the way to a state semifinal playoff game, where it blew a 28-0 lead as eventual state champion Wichita Heights rallied for a 42-38 victory in the closing seconds.
The Demons also lost Shrine Bowl lineman Jesse Trent (Fort Hays State University) and defensive linemen Bruce Campbell (Butler Community College) and Alec Schmitt (Garden City) to graduation.
The cupboard is far from bare for second-year football coach Dave Foster, who has wide receiver/kick returner Trey Hallman and running back Parker Davis coming back.
Running back Jace Banner, a 2010 graduate of DCHS, has transferred to Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif., located in San Diego County. Banner played at Butler last season after an electrifying senior season with the Demons, rushing for 1,715 yards.