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Kinsley Coyotes enjoying historic football season
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By CONOR NICHOLL Sunflower Sports Solution


Sunflower Sports

KINSLEY – Kinsley head football coach Corey Dunlap and assistant Kyle Burkhart were displeased with the Coyotes early in the second quarter Sept. 22. South Barber faced fourth-and-13 from the Kinsley 21-yard line. Then, standout senior defensive lineman Efrain Holguin jumped offsides and gave the Chieftains five yards. On the next snap, South Barber completed a short pass and narrowly earned the first down.
South Barber scored three plays later and cut Kinsley’s lead to four points. The veteran coaches gathered the team together on the left sideline. Dunlap especially pointed out Holguin, the team’s physically strongest player and one of eight-man’s better linemen.
After that, Kinsley allowed highly explosive South Barber just one more offensive touchdown the rest of the contest. In a game closer than the final score, Kinsley won a marquee Eight-Man, Division 2 contest, 56-30, and continued its breakout season.
“I jumped him pretty hard,” Dunlap said. “And he responded exactly like I expect a senior to respond. He was like, ‘Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir,’ and then he goes out and dominates the second half and was a big reason why we won the game.”
Kinsley has eight seniors, five whom start on defense. Kinsley had four players score a touchdown and five Coyotes finished with a tackle for loss/sack.
“Our defensive line in the second half, they dominated,” Dunlap said. “And that’s what did it for us. We won the battle up front second half.”
On a night where many surprising 3-0 teams and top-five ranked squads lost, Kinsley had another milestone victory behind its senior-laden depth and improved physicality.
Kinsley (5-0) has a strong chance for the best season in school annals. Kinsley won the pivotal District 7 opener versus South Barber (4-1). 

“One of my biggest things in life is I do not like disappointing people who are coaching me or disappointing any adults that look to me, anything like that,” Holguin said. “I don’t like disappointing people. So when I saw that I disappointed him, I let my team down, I jumped (offsides). Something just clicked in my mind where like, ‘I can’t do that, I have got to lock in.’ Like this game, it’s now or never, I have to play like it’s my last game.”

Senior Cason Lemuz delivered a mammoth game with 20 offensive touches for 260 yards and four scores, plus a huge game-changing first down off a deflected punt, and a touchdown-saving pass breakup. Senior Conner Chamberlain, hobbled by a knee/ankle ailments, stayed in the ballgame. He had seven rushes for 89 yards and two scores.
“I told Cason, we knew that Conner was a little banged up,” Dunlap said. “Cason is a very good player, and tonight he really showed that.”
Defensively, Chamberlain had a huge hit for a tackle for loss on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to thwart SB’s final scoring chance.
Senior quarterback Peyton Schmidt bounced off tacklers and showed toughness with 110 rushing, 85 passing and three scores accounted for. Kinsley returned all but one player from a 4-5 squad last season. The Coyotes rolled up 41 plays for 461 yards.
“I tell everybody all the time, I think we have got the hardest working group of boys in the state, and these guys have worked their tail off, and they deserve to be here, and I am just happy that they get to experience it,” Dunlap said.
Earlier in the season, Dunlap told Schmidt that he wasn’t playing physical enough. After Schmidt broke a tackle with a stiff arm and bulldozed in for a two-point conversion, he came over to Dunlap with a message: Don’t ever tell me I’m not physical enough.
“So I told him I am not going to,” Dunlap said with a smile.
Overall, the 231-pound Holguin finished with double-digit tackles, three sacks, and two quarterback hurries, including one that yielded an intentional grounding penalty. He has six sacks this year, all in the last two weeks. Holguin has benched 295, squatted 385 and cleaned 260.
“Me being that guy, I am not used to that,” Holguin said. “Like I am still building up, getting used to that, and just being able to be that guy for my team when they need me to be there, it just feels amazing. It’s probably the best feeling in the world. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.”
South Barber has been top-11 in Division 2 scoring offense the last four seasons under longtime coach Matt Cantrell, known for his offensive diversity and motions. Kinsley lost, 60-30, to South Barber last fall.
“They are more physical than they were last year,” SB coach Matt Cantrell said. “They’ve have guys who got bigger, faster, stronger. That was our biggest problem.”
This year, Kinsley entered Week 4 much improved defensively and had allowed the fewest points in Division II, per the Sunflower Sports Solutions database. The Coyotes are one of four remaining undefeated Division II squads. Kinsley limited South Barber to 71 plays for 289 yards, or 4.1 yards per snap. Kinsley held SB four times without points inside the Coyote 25-yard line and forced two key turnovers.
“We like to set the tone early,” Lemuz said. “It’s just something that we didn’t do a great job of last year, and this year, we just really stepped up and decided that we wanted to be physical, and set the tone.”
Kinsley took a 20-6 lead off three long plays: a 65-yard TD run by Lemuz on the game’s first scrimmage play, a 67-yard screen pass to Lemuz and a 64-yard Chamberlain run. On the screen pass, Lemuz tipped the ball in the air to himself and received a great block from senior Kaden Arensman.
“My lineman was standing right in front of me, and I couldn’t see, so he knew that the ball was coming, because I said, ‘Duck,’ and he ducked down, and I just tipped it just right,” Lemuz said.
Then, Kinsley nearly had South Barber stopped before the penalty, fourth down conversion and touchdown on a five-yard run by Briggs Jewell with 7 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half.
Kinsley eventually scored on a 17-yard pass from Schmidt to freshman Woodrow Lancaster. However, SB ran the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown just before halftime. Kinsley led 26-22 at the break.
“We just didn’t tackle good enough,” Cantrell said. “We missed way too many tackles.”
South Barber would have taken the lead on the opening second half drive. SB had first and goal at the Coyote 10-yard line. On second down, the Chieftains appeared to have an open receiver, but Lemuz made a great play and broke up the pass in the end zone. Lemuz said he “broke the wrong way.” Lemuz knew he had to “get there fast enough” or South Barber would score.
“That individual play was very good,” Dunlap said. “He was right in the right spot, and got his correct hand up, so we just try to force them to the sideline, and he kind of squeezed him into a small spot, had to be a perfect throw, and he got a hand on it.”
The next drive changed the game. In Week 1, Kinsley had its milestone win against Victoria, currently ranked third in Division 2. In the win, Lemuz had a punt that ricocheted off a teammate back to him. He picked up the live ball and gained yards. The same thing happened three weeks later.
Lemuz’s punt hit a teammate on fourth-and-seven from the Kinsley 34-yard line. He picked up the ball and ran around right end for nine yards.
“Snap was great to me,” Lemuz said. “And I threw it a little bit too far out in front of me, and got more of a (line) punt than high, and I just saw it hit the guy’s facemask, and I knew that I could play the ball, and I took it, and got a great block from my quarterback and just jumped for the first down.”
Three plays later, Lemuz scored on a 27-yard run with 5:07 left in the third quarter. SB never got closer than 12 points.
“Our defensive attitude changed,” Dunlap said of the second half. “…We decided that we were going to tackle.”
Kinsley’s pass defense and defensive line play was physical and forced Jewell to often hurry his throws.
“We stalled out inside the red zone two or three times,” Cantrell said. “And that’s my fault. I have got to figure out better packages.”
The Coyotes are so much improved in pass defense from 2022 when they allowed 63 of 117 passing for 984 yards with 16 scores against five interceptions.
This year, Kinsley has allowed 29 of 66 passing for 305 yards with two scores against six interceptions. Dunlap, a former all-state quarterback at Natoma, wanted to throw off Jewell’s timing. Kinsley worked on being physical off the line against SB’s receivers and not allowing them to break into routes.
“If we could throw his timing off at all, we knew had a better shot,” Dunlap said. “And  I think there was a couple of those throws that were just a little off, where I think his timing was affected.”