Jacob Yoder's Shrine Bowl selection highlights family's athletic achievements
By RYAN RICHTER
To those who know Hillsboro Elementary School principal Evan Yoder and his wife Becky, it shouldn't come as a big shock that athleticism runs in their family.
The couple's four sons have excelled in at least two sports during their careers at Hillsboro High School, and much of it comes from their parents.
Evan remains arguably one of the area's top male road-racers, and both he and Becky run every morning with the two often taking part in many area races.
Becky was a high school standout in both tennis and swimming, and she is the wellness director at the Moundridge nursing home, even competing in occasional marathons.
Their eldest son Alan, a 2003 HHS graduate, was a weapon in the backfield during three of former football coach Dustin McEwen's six Trojan teams that advanced to the state playoffs, while playing on a basketball team that finished third in state.
Alan's success wasn't just on the gridiron either, the speedster still holds the school's records in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes, and was on two of the team's record-holding 4x400m relays while helping the Trojans win a 3A title in 2001.
Alan went on to enjoy success on the track at Fort Hays State.
When you talk about the greatness and the accolades the Trojan boys' cross-country program has enjoyed, few have been as instrumental in Hillsboro becoming one of 3A's premier programs as twins Aaron and Daniel Yoder.
Graduates of the 2004 class, they were a part of three straight Trojan teams that finished runner-up in Class 3A.
In their last go-round, the twins finished third and fourth overall at state, and the two hold seven school cross-country records.
Much like Alan, the twins weren't only one-sport stars.
Daniel holds the school track record for the 800m dash, one he set his senior year while winning a gold medal at the state meet.
Aaron set the school record for the 1600m run in 2004, and both were part of the record-setting 3200m team in 2002.
Aaron was on two Trojan basketball teams that finished third in the state playoffs and Daniel qualified for the state wrestling tournament all four years.
The twins were pivotal in the Trojans capturing both the 2001 and 2004 state titles before also going on to FHSU, excelling both in cross-country and track.
Daniel was voted as the MVP of the Tigers' cross-country team, and both he and Aaron have one more year of eligibility.
Last in line in a family that has spanned athletic success seven out of the past eight years, is current senior Jake.
However, unlike his brothers, he's made an impact in not two sports, but three: football, wrestling, and track.
"A lot of it has to do with my parents," Jake said of his gift of athleticism. "My mom and dad are both road-racers and my brothers definitely make me want to work harder because sometimes I feel like I'm in their shadows."
Jake left his mark in football earlier this month when he joined Chad Duerksen, Tyson Ratzlaff, Jeremy Loewen, Adam Woods, and Lucas Hamm as Trojans selected to play in the Kansas State Shrine Bowl.
He becomes the sixth Trojan selected to play in the senior all-star game.
Members of the state media and football coaches selected Jake as one of the state's 66 top players.
The game will take place July 26 at Emporia State University's Welch Stadium.
"It's exciting and an honor," Jake said of being chosen. "It will be a fun experience I think, and the game is definitely for a good cause. I am honored to have my name in the same sentence as the others who have played."
With graduation tearing apart the majority of the 2006 record-setting football team, many questions surrounded whether the 2007 squad could match the success of the year before.
Only Jake, fellow senior quarterback Spencer Brown, and junior wideout Daniel Jost returned as skill position players with the mostly varsity experience.
The trio played a key role last year in the Trojans going an unlikely 9-4 with Jake and Brown as key components in a loaded, record-setting backfield that featured its first 1,000-yard rusher in seven seasons in Michael Suderman.
The Trojans wouldn't have made it past the regional round of the 2006 playoffs had it not been for Jake.
His catch on a two-point conversion which sent McEwen's Cheney Cardinals packing with a heart-stopping 8-7 loss in overtime set up Jake's favorite football memory — the quarterfinal game against Sacred Heart.
With Suderman's departure, the roles of a big playmaker fell solely on Jake and Brown's shoulders.
The speedy workhorse also stood out at linebacker on defense and as a punter, one coach Len Coryea called the best he'd seen since Gene Lanning 20 years earlier.
Jake got a chance to prove his toughness and grit early this year, sustaining a shoulder dislocation in a heartbreaking 35-32 loss to Wichita Collegiate in Hillsboro's third game of the season.
Much to the chagrin of opponents, the shoulder didn't slow him down.
During Hillsboro's next 11 games, Jake had more than 100 yards rushing in all but four.
He ran over the 7-1 Remington Broncos in a playoff-clinching game for a game-high 152 yards and three touchdowns while intercepting a pair of Cole Cherryholmes' passes that set up Hillsboro touchdowns.
With a season and career-high 186 yards in an opening loss to Nickerson, Jake's second best game of the season came in the first round of the playoffs five days after beating the Broncos.
He lit Sedgwick up for a game-high 156 yards rushing and three touchdowns to crush the Cardinals, 48-13.
Tragedy struck the Trojans right before halftime though, as Brown was lost for the remainder of the season with an injury.
Without Brown in the backfield, Hillsboro was left only with Jake and junior Ishmael Morris against a team that had ended the Trojans' season twice in a four-year span — Conway Springs.
Jake's outstanding career ended on one of the worst possible scenarios, carrying the ball 16 times for a mere 15 yards in a crushing, 35-26 season-ending loss.
The Cardinals ran their record to 3-0 against Hillsboro, using their size and physical play to wear down the Trojans in a game which Hillsboro had a 14-6 lead by halftime.
"That was a tough loss and probably my worst game," he said of the defeat. "It seemed like every time I touched the ball, I was already getting hit."
Jake still became the second consecutive back to run for more than 1,000 yards during the season, accumulation 1,133 rushing yards (1,410 total), and 24 touchdowns.
"He gave us that toughness in the backfield and he could always give us those short yards when we needed them," Coryea said. "His pure athleticism wasn't always noticed, but he brought us good toughness to the game.
"I'm not for certain about the all-time scoring for school, but Jake's got to be right up near the top."
As a reward for his remarkable season, he was selected as an honorable mention running back by both The Wichita Eagle and The Topeka Capital-Journal.
"I guess I'd like to be remembered for how hard I worked and how hard I played," Jake said. "I loved playing with those guys and making the playoffs twice was big."
As a two-year qualifier for the wrestling state meet at Hays, there is something missing from Jake's accomplishments.
He is down to his last chance to do something neither he nor Daniel could — earn a medal at the tournament.
He's off to a 20-2 start this year, dropping a match to last year's defending 160-pound champion and current top-ranked 189-pound Ryan Patterson of Garden Plain.
His other defeat came at the hands of Wamego's 4A state-ranked ranked Hal Rivard.
So far, even with a shoulder that's not fully healed, Jake appears to be one of the Trojans' best hopes to capture a medal, too.
Much of what has driven him this season has been the haunting from last year's tough break at state.
Jake entered the 2007 tournament ranked third in the state in class 3-2-1A's 171-pound class as a third seed. He pinned Scott City's Logan Numrich in two minutes, 19 seconds before his tournament took a turn for the worse.
He dropped a 12-4 decision to Sabetha's Andrew Stover — the sixth-place finisher — and had his day end on an 11-4 loss to Hoisington's Carl Hickel in the consolation's quarterfinal round.
"Losing at state in wrestling stayed with me and really motivates me," Jake said. "This is my last year to do something, and I don't like losing."
Much of Jake's success in football could be because of his experience in the squared circle.
Playing running back helped him stay low to the ground like he needs for wrestling and it's benefited his tackling as well.
"I can get down lower than most people because I wrestle and I'm always down in the stance and in football that helps me stay low," he said. "My brace has helped me quite a bit, but I've had to change up my wrestling style a lot this year.
"I shot all the time last year. This year I'm more under-hooks and throws and upper body stuff."
The time is running out for Jake to make a decision as to what he's leaning toward as he has drawn interest for both football and wrestling.
All of the KCAC schools are after him, and he's attracted some interest from some of the Jayhawk Conference's heaviest hitters like 2007 National Champion Butler Community College and Hutchinson Community College.
Division II Emporia State University has shown some interest as has Fort Hays State, both in football and in wrestling.
He could fit anywhere from running back, to punter, return specialist, linebacker, or in the defensive secondary.
"I'm pretty sure I'm going to play football," he said. "I'm not really sure where I'm going, but hopefully I'll be able to make that decision pretty soon. So far this year has gone great for me, I can't complain."
Exercise science is what currently stands out as a field Jake would be interested in pursuing as a major.
He's currently on the honor roll at Hillsboro, so academics shouldn't be much of a problem for him.
After the wrestling tournament is over at the end of February, Jake goes in for surgery on his shoulder, but he should be ready for the track season.
Should his shoulder hold up, he'll be a force to be reckoned with in 3A track as he returns as the fourth-place finisher in last year's long jump, as well as giving the Trojans a boost with his speed and strength throwing the javelin.
"I should be ready to go when the meets count," he said.
When you've got the background of athleticism that Jake has, it's hard not to see him being successful in anything he does.
Regardless of what he does as far as athletics go, Jake has left his mark, becoming arguably one of the greatest all-around athletes in Hillsboro High School history.
Maybe that shadow just got a little smaller.