As the Kansas 8-Man All-Star Games approach on Saturday, the Little River Redskins have a great contingent for the DI East squad after winning the 8-Man DI state title in the fall, their third championship in school history. Their coach Kevin Ayers is an assistant at the All-Star Game and Jayden Garrison and Graham Stephens will have one final opportunity to put on the pads as high school players.
Kevin Ayers came out of coaching retirement to take over the Little River program in 2019. He inherited a group that went 7-2 in 2018 and kept that momentum going. The Redskins went 9-2 in 2019, losing to Wichita County in the 2nd round of the 8-Man DI playoffs on the west side.
In 2020, Ayers’ squad would get redemption. Little River went 6-2 in the regular season, losing to Clifton-Clyde in OT and also falling to 2019 8-Man DI State Champion Canton-Galva in district play. The Redskins avenged their loss to Clifton-Clyde in the 2nd round of the playoffs and in the sub-state round picked up a 48-24 win over previously unbeaten Madison. In the State Championship, Little River redeemed their loss to Wichita County the previous year, winning a 70-58 shootout. Ayers claimed his fourth title as a coach as he won two championships at Jetmore in 2001 and 2003 and also won at Sharon Springs in 2008. He was excited to see his Little River group put in the work and claim a title in the crazy year that 2020 brought.
Leading Little River’s squad on the field were their top skill players in Jayden Garrison and Graham Stephens. Both players are playing in the All-Star Game on Saturday.
Garrison was a star athlete in multiple sports, but didn’t join the football team until his junior season when Ayers took over. He ran for over 1,200 yards and 26 TD as a junior and topped that in his senior season. Garrison had 1,677 yards and 37 TD rushing, added 721 passing yards with 13 TD and no interceptions and also had eight receiving touchdowns. He compiled 2,480 all-purpose yards as a senior. Garrison was named the 8-Man DI Offensive Player of the Year by the Wichita Eagle in 2020 and was also named a 1st team all-state RB and DB. He had 86 tackles, six tackles for loss and three interceptions on defense. Garrison enjoyed the journey to the state title, but he’s hoping the program can sustain success.
Stephens played all four years of high school and was a beast on both sides of the ball. As a senior, he ran for 903 yards and 21 TD and on defense, he led Little River with 135 tackles and 25 TFL and had three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Graham was chosen as a 1st team all-state linebacker and kicker. Stephens gave his thoughts on building the program and having a final opportunity to play with his teammate.
The Little River all-stars have one last chance to play high school football on Saturday as the 8-Man DI All-Star Game kicks off at 1:30 at Trojan Field in Beloit. Fans can hear the game on the Kansas 8-Man All-Star Game Radio Network with pregame coverage at 1:00. Listen on KD Country 94 in the Beloit area, 8manallstars.com or the adastraradio.com Sports #1 stream.