Four Chieftains sign on dotted line
The Show-Me State will be where three Chieftains hope they can showcase their talents at the collegiate level.
Justin Walker will play at Missouri Western, while Billy Baska and Luke McCarty will play at Missouri Southern. And another Chieftain, Dustan Sprowls, will continue his career at Dodge City Community College. The four seniors signed letters of intent with their respective schools last Wednesday -- the first signing day for fall sports.
The signing class marks the most prominent in THS coach Mark Elston's four years at Tonganoxie. Walker, Baska and McCarty all will play at NCAA Division II schools in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Sprowls will play in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, one of the top junior college conferences in the nation.
The four seniors were part of Tonganoxie's 8-2 campaign last fall that included a second consecutive trip to the state playoffs.
Here are in-depth looks at each signee:
A scrambling quarterback, Walker received interest from Fort Hays, Northwest Missouri, Washburn, Butler County Community College, Coffeyville Community College, Highland Community College and Dodge City Community College.
Kansas State even offered Walker a chance to be a preferred walk-on in the fall, but Walker was more interested in playing in St. Joseph, Mo.
"The coaching staff has been together forever," Walker said about Missouri Western. "They have a nice campus."
Walker was named to the all-Kaw Valley League second team on offense and was the Lawrence Journal-World's first-team all-area selection as a quarterback.
The senior rushed for 698 and had nine touchdowns on the ground. He also passed for 660 yards and seven touchdowns through the air.
Walker plans to redshirt his freshman year at Missouri Western come August. The Griffons went 9-3 last season under sixth-year coach Jerry Partridge.
Baska might have had a 1,000 yard rushing season, but injuries late in the season held him to 890 yards on 92 carries and nine touchdowns.
The senior also had interest from Western State in Colorado, Benedictine in Atchison and St. Anselm in New Hampshire, but Baska chose the Joplin, Mo., school instead.
"I wanted to play early," Baska said. "I really liked the coaching staff.
Baska certainly could contribute to the Lions' program early. Missouri Southern finished last season at 1-10 and winless in the MIAA.
This season, the running back was named first-team offense and second-team defense as a safety on the all-KVL team. Baska also was chosen for the Lawrence Journal-World all-area team as a second-team selection.
A two-time Lawrence Journal-World all-area first-team selection, McCarty was a mainstay on the offensive and defensive lines.
On defense, McCarty had 21 solo tackles and 61 assisted tackles for 82 total and a team-high seven sacks.
McCarty also could haul in passes on two-point conversions, as the senior was an eligible receiver for extra points. He converted on three two-point conversions.
Washburn, Hutchinson Community College, Highland Community College, Dodge City Community College and Butler County Community College also showed interest in McCarty, but the senior chose to join teammate Baska in Joplin.
"I figured Division II is a good level to play," McCarty said.
Known as Stork to teammates, Sprowls will take his height to Dodge City.
Fellow Jayhawk Conference schools Coffeyville, Butler County and Highland also showed interest in the tight end, but Sprowls chose distant Dodge City in western Kansas.
"They have good coaches," Sprowls said. "It's a good environment for me."
The Conquistadors finished last season at 2-7.