Maliek Collins, Center, senior. An under-the-radar player who doesn’t say much, Collins (6-2, 285) lets his game do the talking. A two-way starter, Collins’ impact was particularly impressive on defense. He tallied 102 tackles, including 43 for loss to go along with 15 sacks, five forced fumbles and three recovered fumbles.
Elijah Lee, Blue Springs, junior. After transferring from St. Joseph Central, Lee (6-3, 210) fit right in with the Missouri Class 6 champion Wildcats as a defensive end with speed to burn off the edge. He was the winner of the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top lineman or linebacker in the Kansas City area, after compiling 72 tackles and 15 1/2 sacks.
Cody Stanclift, Lawrence Free State, senior. Another Top 11 selection by The Wichita Eagle and Topeka Capital-Journal, Stanclift (6-1, 245) was a two-way starter for the Firebirds, who finished 11-2 and reached the Kansas 6A semifinals. He finished with 46 tackles, including 28 solo stops and six tackles for a loss, and also returned an interception for a touchdown.
Jordan Willis, Rockhurst, senior. Using his combination of speed and size, Willis (6-5, 230) recorded nine sacks and 58 tackles in 11 games. He also forced two fumbles for Rockhurst, which won nine games. Willis has committed to Kansas State.
Max Bullard, SM West, senior. Bullard (6-0, 220) enjoyed a terrific regular season, but he was arguably the Vikings’ best defensive player during a run to the Kansas 6A championship. He finished with 119 tackles, including 16 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. Bullard, who also started on SM West’s offensive line, made a touchdown-saving (and potentially game-saving tackle) in the state final, despite playing with pneumonia.
Brad Ivey, Bishop Miege, junior. The heart of the Stags’ defense, Ivey finished with 153 tackles despite missing the regular-season finale and helped key a run to the Kansas 5A championship game. Ivey (6-2, 220) had 19 tackles for a loss with three sacks. He also forced two fumbles, blocked two punts and blocked three field goals.
Matt Plank, Gardner Edgerton, senior. The East Kansas League defensive player of the year, Plank (6-2, 215) was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award. Despite a tendency by offenses to run scared from him, Plank posted 104 tackles for the Trailblazers and also recovered three fumbles. He also had an interception and a forced fumble.
Mamu Tauiautusa, Fort Osage, senior. The Indians shut out half the teams they played while finishing as the Missouri Class 5 runner-up, and Tauiautusa (5-11, 190) was at the center of it all. He tied for the team lead with 107 tackles and added five sacks while playing middle linebacker.
Walter Eastwood, Harrisonville, senior. Although he may be considered undersized, Eastwood (5-10, 162) played fearless for Harrisonville, which reached the Missouri Class 4 semifinals. The leader of the Wildcats’ defense recorded 92 tackles, picked off one pass and forced five fumbles.
Kyle McFarland, Lawrence Free State, senior. A two-way star for the Firebirds, who went 11-2 and reached the Kansas 6A semifinals, McFarland (6-3, 185) was a two-time All-Sunflower League first-team selection at defensive back. He only made 18 tackles, but finished with four interceptions and eight passes defended. He also completed 97 of 186 passes for 1,582 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for 755 yards and seven TDs.
Joseph Tuimaseve, Fort Osage, senior. A playmaker in the Fort Osage secondary, Tuimaseve (5-11, 165) took part in forcing five turnovers. He tied for the team lead with 107 tackles and was a run-stopping safety for the Indians, who allowed only 8.1 points per game and recorded seven shutouts.
Dalton Parks, Staley, senior. The Falcons didn’t punt often, but Parks proved reliable when they did. He averaged 43.8 yards per punt, and half of his attempts stopped inside the 20-yard line.
Griffin Bins, Rockhurst, senior. The new career scoring leader for a Rockhurst program rich in history, Bins made 11 field-goal attempts this year, nailing a long attempt of 48 yards in the Missouri Class 6 sectionals against Blue Springs. He also connected on 30 of 32 extra points.