June 19, 2024

Dodge City dominates All-WAC football selections

Courtesy of the Western Athletic Conference

Dodge City High School’s Red Demons, who won the outright Western Athletic Conference football championship with a 4-0 record, led the way on the all-WAC selections announced by the league’s coaches.

Quarterback Beau Foster (6-0, 185-pounds) was voted the league’s Offensive Player of the Year as the Red Demon senior passed for more than 1,500 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 yards to lead the Demons to an 8-0 regular season record and 9-1 overall mark.

Junior Alden Knedler, a 6-3, 205-pound junior, was voted as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year after posting 81 tackles (25 unassisted, 4 interceptions) from his inside linebacker position.

The Red Demons’ Dave Foster was named Coach of the Year.

Five Dodge City players were named to the all-WAC first team offense while three made the all-league first team defense. Runner-up Great Bend secured four players on the first team offense and three on the defensive side.

The seniors who played as sophomores on the 2017 Dodge City Red Demon football team took more than their fair share of lumps during a season in which they won just three games against suffering through six losses. The season came to an end in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs.

Progress came during the 2018 season, when as juniors, the Demons improved to 6-4, capturing an opening-round victory over Junction City before losing to eventual state champion Derby in the second round.

The turnaround for the Demons continued to go upward for the Demons in 2019, going 8-0 in the regular season, including 4-0 to capture the Western Athletic Conference title and once again advancing to the second round of the state playoffs before falling to Junction City.

Despite the playoff loss, the Demons enjoyed one of their best seasons under head coach Dave Foster and the resulting postseason awards came flowing in when the league’s coaches voted quarterback Beau Foster, the coach’s son, and linebacker Alden Knedler as the WAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

Foster, a 6-0, 185-pound senior, proved that experience and maturity can go a long way on the field as the signal caller produced a season to remember by throwing for 1,537 yards (87-174, 50 percent) with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Proving to be a dual threat, Foster was just as evasive on the ground, rushing for 1,120 yards on 203 carries (5.52 avg.), and crossed the goal line 12 times.

“It was a good run this year,” the younger Foster said when learning of his WAC honor. “I was shocked when I heard about the honor because I’ve just been totally focused on the team to have a successful year.”

Foster credited the hard work in the offseason by his senior teammates and for the leadership that was provided to the younger players on the squad for this year’s successful campaign.

“Everybody was doing their part and stepping up to file whatever role we needed,” said Foster, who also played in the secondary on defense (49 tackles, 24 solos, 1 interception). “We were senior-heavy this year and when we were sophomores, we lost a lot of close games. It’s one of those things where a few plays can make or break you. This time, we got those close ones (26-23 OT vs. Wichita Heights; 24-21 vs. Great Bend; and 17-7 rally over Garden City in fourth quarter).”

Foster credited the team’s offensive success to a rebuilt line after the team suffered heavy graduation from the 2018 team, as well as different players moving into new positions and adapting well.

“We were undersized for a 6A school, but they put their bodies on the line,” Foster said of his blocking crew. “There were different guys cycling through, but we made progress because of learning all the fundamentals and how well they work when each person does their job.”

Winning the WAC will be one of Foster’s best memories as he closed out his high school career, including a come-from-behind (down 7-3 in the early fourth quarter) victory over rival Garden City to retain the one-year ownership of The Hatchet.

“Winning the Hatchet at Garden was the big one for all of us,” Foster said. “Getting a home playoff win (Campus) also was one of our goals. This senior class set a good example by showing a lot of heart.”

Foster, who is undecided on where he may play college football, says he plans to pursue a degree in education and hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a coach some day.

“He’s the best coach I could have played for,” the younger Foster said of his dad/coach. “The amount of time and effort he puts in, he’s been the way as long as I’ve been alive. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Foster’s junior teammate, Knedler, was one of the mainstays of the Red Demon defense that forced 20 turnovers in 10 games (11 interceptions, 9 fumble recoveries). Knedler (6-3, 205) was second high on the team in tackles with 81 (25 solo), and had a team-high four interceptions from his inside linebacker spot.

“It (season’s success) all started off in the summer,” Knedler said. “We had a hard-working group of guys and the seniors really pushed us. They really provided great leadership for the underclassmen.”

Those close early-season wins over Heights and Great Bend boosted the team’s confidence, Knedler said, paving the way for making that run through the regular season.

“We were 2-0, then 3-0, and we were all just saying ‘dang,’ we can make a statement this season,” Knedler said. “Some of the games came too close, but we got our (postseason) match with Campus and it was big to win a playoff game at home.”

Like his elder statesman senior quarterback teammate Foster, Knedler said during his freshman year, those close games that were losses were difficult to stomach.

“We lost some of those we shouldn’t have,” said Knedler, who saw his football season and most of his junior sports year end with a knee injury in the season-ending setback to Junction City. I think one of the reasons for our success is that we read our keys, and most always did our job and then know that someone else has your back. If everyone does that, you’re helping out your team.”

Knedler said he was surprised at receiving the WAC honor as he heard about it online while he was awaiting an appointment with his doctor to have his knee evaluated.

“My plan is to rehab and be ready to go next year,” Knedler said. “I’m excited because lots of hard work paid off and I think it’s something we can all build on for next season.”

The Red Demons’ success also resulted in Coach Foster being named the WAC Coach of the Year.

All-WAC: Five Dodge City players were named to the all-WAC offensive squad, while Great Bend, the league runner-up, placed four. Garden City had two on the first unit, with Liberal and Hays getting one each. The offensive squad included a placekicker, and athlete to up the total to 13.

Defensively, Dodge City and Great Bend each had three selections to the first team, Garden City and Hays two each and Liberal with one.