PAOLA — Seventy-eight selections were made for the Tri-County Spotlight Football Team.
The Paola Panther football team featured 12 first-team selections.
Clayton Essex, Connor Hasz, Mikey Stribling and Evan Phillips were first-team selections on both sides of the football.
Essex was first-team on offensive and defensive line. He was named the Tri-County Spotlight defensive player of the year.
Hasz was first-team running back and defensive back. He was the Tri-County Spotlight offensive player of the year.
Stribling was first-team offensive line and linebacker.
Phillips was first-team offense multi-purpose and defensive back.
The Paola Panthers were 11-1 on the season, ending as the Class 4A substate runner-up. The only loss of the season came to the eventual state champion Bishop Miege Stags.
Paola won a share of the Frontier League title, a regional crown, sectional title and substate runner-up trophy. It is only the 11th team in the history of the program to play in a substate championship game.
Essex made 70 tackles for Paola with 30 solo tackles. He made 17 tackles for a loss of yardage and had nine quarterback sacks.
Hasz ran the ball 132 times for 1,213 yards and 15 touchdowns. He averaged 9.19 yards per carry. Hasz made 21 tackles on defense with an interception.
Stribling made 37 tackles with seven tackles for a loss of yardage.
Phillips had 1,247 yards of total offense. He ran the ball 86 times for 725 yards and nine touchdowns. He caught 17 passes for 522 yards and six touchdowns.
Hunter Boone and Dilan Schweer of Prairie View were first-team Spotlight selections on both sides of the football. Boone was first-team at running back and linebacker. Schweer was first-team at wide receiver and defensive back.
Boone ran the ball 167 times for 1,323 yards and 20 touchdowns. He led the Buffalo defense with 77 tackles.
Schweer caught 21 passes for 553 yards and three touchdowns. He made 42 tackles.
Madden Rutherford of Louisburg was a first-team selection at quarterback.
Osawatomie Trojan Braden Bradshaw was a first-team selection at running back. Bradshaw had 177 carries for 950 yards and seven touchdowns.
Zach Knowlton of Spring Hill was a first-team selection at wide receiver. He caught 28 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns.
Gage Klutts of Spring Hill was first-team at tight end. Klutts caught 17 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns.
Other first-team offensive linemen are Chanz Gerleman, Prairie View; Colby Jones, Osawatomie; and Garrett Harding, Louisburg.
First-team defensive linemen are: Kaden Fields, Osawatomie; Carson Downs, Spring Hill; Javier Castillo, Paola; and Chase Bloodgood, Prairie View.
Fields led Osawatomie with 93 tackles. Fields made 16 pancake blocks on offense.
Castillo made 28 tackles with four tackles for a loss of yardage.
Downs made 46 tackles, including 29 solo tackles.
Bloodgood made 71 tackles with 32 solo tackles.
Evan Peuser of Paola, Boone and Stribling were first-team selections at linebacker.
Peuser made 43 tackles with four tackles for a loss of yardage and a quarterback sack.
Dom Scheerer of Spring Hill, Phillips, Hasz and Schweer were first-team selections at defensive back.
Scheerer made 57 tackles with 37 solo tackles.
Ryan Wokutch of Paola was first-team kicker. Logan Greenhalgh of Spring Hill was first-team punter.
Wokutch made 59 of 63 extra-point attempts and made one field goal.
Greenhalgh had 41 punts with an average of 40.5 yards per punt.
Strong Wright, a Paola Middle School seventh-grader, is the Spotlight team captain. Wright is fighting cancer. The Paola Panthers made him an honorary captain.
The Paola Panther family surrounded Strong and his family for a Nov. 15 playoff game against Chanute. Players, cheerleaders, dancers, students and fans wore “Strength for Strong” stickers with a football and folded hands in prayer.
“Sometimes we get caught up with a game, and forget there are people out there battling some pretty tough things,” Paola coach Michael Dumpert said.
The Paola Panthers made Strong one of their captains for the game and he was the first one to run through the banner on the field with his arms raised high.
“It was fun,” Strong said. “That was pretty cool.”
Strong walked out to midfield with the Paola captains for the coin toss.
“God amazes us,” said Strong’s mother, Jennifer Wright. “Our hearts well with joy to see all the love, in and around Strong’s heart.
“We thank God, all the coaches and players who took the time to show Strong that they love and support him. In the picture of him running onto the field, you can see his arms raised in victory, breaking through. God is great.”
Garrett Williams of Paola, Ben Weidenmann of Louisburg, Fletcher Aude of Paola, and Boyd Cole of Osawatomie were second-team offensive selections at back.
Williams completed 25 of 45 passes for 646 yards and eight touchdowns. He ran the ball 105 times for 722 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Aude was a power back at fullback for the Panthers, picking up the tough short yards. He was also a blocking back. Aude ran the ball 134 times for 799 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Cole completed 44 of 112 passes for 718 yards and eight touchdowns. He ran the ball 57 times for 256 yards and four touchdowns.
Brayden White of Louisburg, Aron Dominick of Spring Hill, Castillo and Fields were second team selections on the line.
Weston Guetterman of Louisburg and Daulton Davis of Osawatomie were second-team at wide receiver.
Peuser was second-team at tight end.
Andy Hupp of Louisburg was second team multi-purpose.
Harding, Jones, Gerelman and Dominick were second team selections on the defensive line.
Dominick made 31 tackles with four tackles for a loss of yardage.
Colton McCammon of Prairie View, Jakob Stovall of Spring Hill and Ethan Wallace of Osawatomie were second-team at linebacker.
McCammon made 62 tackles with 30 solo tackles.
Stovall made 102 tackles, averaging more than 11 per game.
Wallace made 75 tackles, averaging 8.3 tackles per game.
Hunter Willyard of Spring Hill, Davis and Williams were second-team selections at defensive back.
Jackson Earlywine of Paola was second-team multi-purpose on defense.
Bear Gardner of Spring Hill was second-team kicker.
Rutherford was second-team punter.
Gardner was a perfect 20-for-20 on extra-point kicks. He made four of seven field goal attempts.