Josh Lopez, Cody Helsel and Bryce Hofmeister are headed to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference football ranks.
Great Bend High School seniors Lopez and Hofmeister have signed to play for Dodge City Community College, while Helsel has signed with Garden City.
A running back, Lopez rushed for a team-high 763 yards in 140 carries while also leading the Panthers with 10 touchdowns during their 5-4 campaign in 2012.
“Lopez was such a great player for us as a junior,” said Great Bend head coach Bo Black, alluding to his 709 rushing yards and nine TDs. “He is someone that is hard-working, dependable and accountable, just a kid that everybody enjoyed being around.
“After he had such a good junior year, we really felt like we wanted to go back to the I-formation and make him our featured back. There were a lot of questions at quarterback and a lot of questions going into the year, but there was never a question who our tailback would be.”
The Conquistadors are reportedly interested in moving Lopez, a 5-foot-8, 221-pounder, to fullback.
“I’m trying to get stronger and a little bit faster,” Lopez said. “The thing I need to work on is my speed and quickness.”
A load to bring down carrying the ball, Lopez holds the squat record in the GBHS weight room at 605 pounds.
“Something he needs to work on is speed, probably, and quickness,” Black said. “He’s a kid that still comes to weights every day and wants to get better.
“He had a very productive year and is a very talented kid. We’re hopeful he sticks with it and will contribute almost immediately at Dodge City, you would think.”
Helsel says he’s willing to play on either side of the line for Garden City. All he wants is an opportunity.
“Cody is a big kid who started for us at right guard for a while,” Black said. “I think, honestly, if you’re 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, if you’re that, there’s going to be a JUCO that’s going to take a chance on you and try to coach you up.
“He’s a kid that has worked extremely hard, and he’s going to continue to develop. He has a real chance to contribute.”
Playing strong safety, the 5-10, 173-pound Hofmeister recorded 67 tackles, including 43 solo stops. He likely will be seeking playing time in the defensive secondary at Dodge City, and he said he wouldn’t mind returning some kicks, too.
“Bryce didn’t play his junior year,” Black said. “It’s really hard, essentially, when you’re missing 365 days of being in the weight room with teammates and going to the functions that go along with that.
“We tried to ease him back into it and put him in a position where he didn’t have to learn (the playbook for) both sides of the ball. During the summer, we went to a couple team camps and strong safety was a big question mark going into the football season. But, after the first week of June, it wasn’t a question anymore. He was someone who really flourished.”
The Panthers also eased Hofmeister into the slot position, where he was a receiver, and also utilized his speed with kickoff returns. He had two catches for 18 yards, and rushed nine times for 150 yards and two scores.
“I need to get a lot faster,” Hofmeister said. “I know they’re looking for speed in the secondary at Dodge City.”
Hofmeister, who had 416 kickoff return yards in 18 attempts for a team-leading 23.1 average, was the guy that returned the opening kickoff the length of the field for a touchdown in the Panthers’ district game with Hays, only to have it called back because of a penalty.
“I think about it a lot,” Hofmeister said of the return that didn’t count. “It motivates me to work harder every day.
“I can play pretty much anywhere they put me, outside of the line.”
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