Pike Valley Success Leads To All-Star Game Appearances

Mason Runft

The 32nd Annual 8-Man All-Star Games come to Trojan Field in Beloit on Saturday, where 80 of the best senior 8-Man football players will face off in an East-West battle.  The 8-Man DII Game is first with kickoff at 10:00, followed by the 8-Man DI Game at 1:30.  Both games can be heard on the 8-Man All-Star Radio Network at www.8manallstars.com and locally in Beloit and the surrounding area on KD Country 94.

After going 1-8 in 2013, Pike Valley High School’s group has turned things around, making it to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and having a combined record of 18-5 in the past two.  Last season, the Panthers went 10-2, with their only losses coming to the eventual 8-Man State Champions in each class, Osborne (8M-DI) & Hanover (8M-DII).

Two of the players that were key parts to that success will be playing in the 8-Man All-Star Game on Saturday for the DII East.  Blaze Payeur and Mason Runft were both big reasons why Pike Valley turned their fortune around.  Joining Payeur and Runft will be their head coach, Don Melby, who is an assistant for the DII East squad.

Runft was a player that continued to improve throughout his high school career.  He was a steady force on an offensive line that helped lead the way for one of the top backs in the state, Lane Peters, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards as a junior.  On defense, Runft registered 51 tackles, including eight for loss, with nine sacks and two fumble recoveries in his final year.  For his career, he had 234 tackles, 28 TFL, 18 sacks and five fumble recoveries.  When talking to Runft, he is very excited to play in this year’s game and to have Coach Melby on the sidelines with him.

Blaze Payeur

Blaze Payeur spent just two years with the Panther program, transferring from Concordia to begin his junior year.  He made a quick impact, rushing for 438 yards and 8 TD his junior year and picking up 78 tackles.  As a senior, he ran for 336 yards and 7 TD and was the third leading tackler for Pike Valley with 72 tackles.  He also had 7.5 TFL, two fumble recoveries and an INT.  When asked about getting the chance to play with his teammate Mason Runft one final time, Payeur had a very interesting answer.

As far as the future is concerned for the two Pike Valley representatives, Payeur is headed to Fort Hays State University in the fall, while Runft is headed to Cloud County Community College.

This is not Don Melby’s first rodeo when it comes to the 8-Man All-Star Game.  In fact, Melby was part of the 8-Man Football Association in Kansas that first started the 8-Man All-Star Game in 1986.  Melby has been coaching at Pike Valley for 35 seasons and this past year passed the 200-win plateau.  Melby has seen a lot of players come and go in that time, and he is happy to have the opportunity to coach his two representatives this year, Runft and Payeur, one last time.

Again, all three Pike Valley reps will try to lead the DII East to victory this Saturday in the 8-Man DII All-Star Game.  Kickoff is at 10:00 with pregame coverage beginning at 9:30 a.m. on the 8-Man All-Star Radio Network.

Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.