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Down on the farm
Great Bend's Alex Deist
spt th AlexDeist
Down on the farm - photo by Everett Royer

Great Bend senior lineman Alex Deist has worked for Jack Armstrong at his farm north of Larned for about 10 years. Deist, 17, has always enjoyed the work. He fills a variety of roles, including working cattle, mowing grass and moving supplies.

His dad first started to work for Armstrong, but Deist does the majority of work now that his dad recently had ankle surgery and had to be off his feet for several months. His dad also works at the correctional facility in Larned.

Deist’s dad lives in Larned, while his mom lives in Great Bend. Deist lives with his stepmom, sister and dad.

“I just like the physical work about it,” Deist said. “There is nothing really specific. I just like doing hands on work and getting dirty. It’s something that I really don’t mind about doing.

“I don’t mind getting dirty or getting my hands on stuff,” he added. “He calls me to do the heavy lifting, I don’t mind lifting the heavy stuff for him. I just told him, whatever he needs, I will do it. I will find a way to do it. He can teach me, I am willing to learn anything.”

Deist, a 6-foot, 265-pound lineman, would like to be a cop after college. An honorable mention all-WAC selection, the senior has received letters from different colleges for football, and said, if he stays close, he will continue to assist Armstrong.

“I will help him out as much as I can,” Deist said.

The farm work has helped Deist develop a hard-nosed mindset in the trenches. Great Bend, a state power in the mid-2000s, has dropped back in recent years. The Panthers went 3-6 under first-year coach Tony Crough last fall. Crough, a former Great Bend assistant, took over for Bo Black, who spent 2014 at Hays High School before he went to Shawnee Mission Northwest for 2015.

“I smash my hands sometimes out on the farm,” Deist said. “When I get it in between a helmet, it doesn’t really hurt as much as it used to. You just kind of get used to getting your hands smashed and everything. It doesn’t really affect me as much.”

This season, Deist expects to weigh between 250 and 255 pounds. This fall, Great Bend lists a roster of 87 players, including 17 seniors. The team has just five players more than 210 pounds; Dietz stands as the fourth heaviest.

Since 2008, Great Bend has gone 5-4, 4-5, 4-5, 4-4, 5-4, 4-5 and 3-6 last season. From 2004-07, the Panthers finished 9-3, 7-3, 11-2 and 8-3.

One main difference is Great Bend has lost four in a row against rival Hays High and is 1-5 in the last six meetings. Before then, the Panthers had won eight in a row.

The Panthers ranked a respectable 13th out of 32 Class 5A teams in scoring defense (221 points allowed), but tallied just 173 points, No. 24 in Class 5A.

Great Bend led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring defense and yards allowed (264 per contest).

While Great Bend won one fewer game than 2013, it was outscored by just 48 total points in 2014. In 2013, opponents outscored the Panthers 280-210.

Great Bend graduated its three first team all-WAC players and returns five who received honorable mention honors in 2014. Deist is the lone lineman. Linebacker/corner Jose Batres, running back/linebacker Thomas Bobbitt, wide receiver/free safety Bryce Lytle and linebacker/running back Payton Mauler are back. Mauler led the WAC with five forced fumbles, while Batres collected 54 tackles. Bobbitt was the Panthers’ top rusher at 681 yards, and Lytle was Great Bend’s leading receiver with 399 yards.

“Coach Crough came in, and he has got a great program going for him so far,” Deist said. “We are going to be young this year, and we are going to be small, but he knows what he is doing. He improved our weight program. I can see us all getting stronger and everything. I think we are going to have a really good season this year.”

Statewide delivery of the 2015 issue of Kansas Pregame is nearly complete . The 10th-annual release of the only statewide high school football preview in Kansas is a 144-page comprehensive look at all levels of football in Kansas with a number of new features including All in the Family (a look at some of the top father-son coach-player duos), Down on the Farm (a look at some of the best farmboy football players in Kansas), and Dynamic Duos (a look at some of the top pairs of players in the state). As of press time distribution was more than halfway complete, but some sections of the state were still receiving copies. - See more at: For a complete list of businesses  carrying free copies of Kansas Pregame, visit