Two football players, coach receive top post season honors
Sabetha High School seniors Cauy Rokey and Elliott Strahm, and Head Football Coach Garrett Michael are recognized.
The Sabetha Bluejays clinched the 2018 3A State Football title on Saturday, Nov. 24, when a two-point conversion in overtime sealed the team’s second consecutive 3A State Championship. The Bluejays defeated Pratt 43-42, and finished the season with a 13-0 record, which was the first undefeated season for Sabetha since 1993.
The success of the season was a team effort, but three members — players Cauy Rokey and Elliott Strahm, and Head Coach Garrett Michael — of the Bluejay football team have been honored for their individual roles in the team’s success.
Rokey, a senior linebacker, was named as one of Sports in Kansas’ 3A Defensive Player of the Year.
Strahm, a senior lineman, also was named as one of Sports in Kansas’ 3A Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to being named as a Top 11 Player in both the Topeka Capital Journal and the Wichita Eagle.
Other players being named as finalists in the 3A Defensive Player of the Year were Daquan Johnson of Parsons, junior, defensive back; Mason Fairchild of Andale, senior, defensive end; and Wyatt Hayes of Scott City, senior, defensive end.
Additionally, Head Coach Garrett Michael was named the Topeka Capital Journal’s All Class Coach of the Year, and Sports in Kansas’ All-Class Coach of the Year and 3A Coach of the Year.
Rokey was one of two Bluejays named as 3A Defensive Player of the Year by Sports in Kansas. Rokey said that the honor means a lot.
“It feels pretty great, especially with Elliott,” he said. “We have been working at it our entire lives.”
Throughout the season, Rokey tallied 119 tackles – 54 unassisted and 65 assisted – two fumble recoveries and one blocked kick.
Sabetha’s defensive football coach Nate Bauman said that the important plays he executed throughout the season is what helped him earn this honor.
“Cauy led our team in tackles this year with 119 and always seemed to be the guy to come up with the big hit or big play,” he said. “From batting down a two-point conversion versus Perry, to making tackles on the goal line or on fourth and short situations, it always seemed like Cauy was in the action. He is definitely our biggest hitter, and those certainly jump out on his highlight film. He missed some games last year with injury, so wasn’t able to earn as many post-season accolades, but he has been a great player for us all four years.”
Coach Michael agreed, saying Rokey’s performance this season was highlighted with his determination and endurance.
“Cauy has been playing linebacker for the last three years,” he said. “I’m proud of Cauy for coming back after being injured four games his junior year to have an outstanding finish to the 2017 year.”
“He tore his ACL in February and was ready to go full tilt at the end of July, that takes true determination and the desire to let nothing stand in your way,” Michael said. “Cauy worked very hard in his rehab and in the weight room and that really has paid off. I feel he had his two best performances on the biggest stages in high school football – in both state championship games. We’ve had many great linebackers come through Sabetha, but Cauy ranks right up there with the best of them.”
In addition to Rokey being determined, Coach Bauman and Coach Michael both said his attitude was contagious.
“Cauy was very coachable, likable and keeps everyone in a good mood!” Michael said.
“He was just a fantastic teammate,” Bauman said. “There were many times, where the game plan called for him to not necessarily make the tackle, but to take on a lead blocker so someone else could make the tackle and he would bring the wood on those hits as much as he would his tackles in the backfield. He’s another example of a great kid with great God-given talent, who was also an extremely selfless teammate. It was an honor to coach him!”
When asked why he thought he was honored, Rokey said his fellow defensive players did a lot for him and the overall unselfishness of the team.
“They allowed me to make the tackles that I did and allowed me to play like I did,” Rokey said.
Strahm was awarded with multiple post-season top honors. He was named as 3A Defensive Player of the Year by Sports in Kansas, one of the Topeka Capital-Journal’s Top 11 in the State, and one of the Wichita Eagle’s Top 11 in the State.
“Receiving these awards makes me feel good,” Strahm said. “I think it finally shows that all of my hard work has paid off and I couldn’t have done it without the other 10 helping me get there. It’s a big accomplishment.”
Throughout the 2018 season, Strahm totaled 45 tackles – 22 unassisted and 23 assisted – three sacks and one blocked kick.
Bauman said that even though Strahm did not rack up a lot of stats throughout the season, he was the player that other teams needed to contain.
“I think coaches and media personnel from around the state started realizing last year how much of an impact Elliott could have on the game, even without racking up a lot of stats,” he said. “His ability to demand double and triple-teams from the opponents’ offensive lines required teams to game plan specifically for containing him and allowed other guys on our defense to go unblocked.”
Michael agreed, saying he was a constant leader on and off the field.
“Elliott has been starting for four years and had a ton of experience in big time games,” Michael said. “Elliott is one of the best players in the state of Kansas and proved it his senior year. Every team prepared to try to slow him down. Our defense started with him, but he would be the first to tell you, it’s a total team game.”
“Elliott is relentless on the field and in the weight room. Sometimes we had to slow him down in practice because he goes game speed all the time,” Michael said. “Elliott knows that his position is one not very many people give credit to, but he knew he was allowing others to make plays. He lead our team on and off the field.”
Bauman concurred, saying that Strahm has earned all of the awards he has been given.
“The 3A Defensive Player of the Year award is nice because he was able to earn it in back-to-back seasons, even with our opponents game planning for him specifically,” he said. “The real feather in his cap this year, however, is the Top 11 honor. There have been very few Sabetha football players — and small-school players for that matter — who have earned that award, and Elliott has done exactly that. He has earned the respect of coaches and media around the state with his talent and effort. More importantly, he has earned the respect of his teammates, coaches and community with his incredible work ethic and selflessness.”
“There are not many 6 foot, 2 inch, 275-pound humans that can do the things he does on the football field or in the weight room,” Bauman continued. “He is obviously big and strong, but he is also incredibly agile for someone that size. I think his wrestling background really helped him in that department. There are even fewer humans, however, who are willing to take what God gave them — size and strength — and push to become the best version of themselves they can. Elliott’s work ethic in the weight room, the class room, the practice field are all second to none, and that makes him very deserving of these honors. It was an honor to coach him!”
Strahm said this was a team effort, and it wouldn’t have happened without everyone else on the team.
“I credit these honors to all of the hard work that we put in this summer and the coaches pushing us to better ourselves everyday and our teammates being there for us when stuff isn’t going exactly the best and behind us pushing us along and helping us,” he said.
Coach Michael was also awarded with multiple top honors following Sabetha’s second consecutive 3A State Championship. He was named Topeka Capital Journal’s All Class Coach of the Year, and Sports in Kansas’ All-Class Coach of the Year, as well as Coach of the Year for 3A.
Although Michael was recognized individually, according to Sabetha’s Athletic Director Scott Burger, Michael said it was a staff award.
“What says everything about why Coach Michael is deserving of this award is what he told me,” Burger said. “He said, ‘It was a staff award, not an individual award.’ He has reiterated that he has the best assistant coaches in Kansas, and that’s why our program is successful. He truly cares about all his players, managers and assistants. He constantly says that his number one priority as a football coach is to make good men, husbands and fathers out of each one.”
Bauman said it was definitely a team effort, but the success of the team has a lot to do with Coach Garrett.
“Obviously, these types of awards don’t go to coaches of teams with losing records, so our players should take great pride in this award too, because their talents and work ethic allowed our program to have the success it has had,” Bauman said.
“I had the privilege of joining the high school football staff the same year Coach Michael became the head coach. So we have been through a lot together. Some rough times, and now really good times — as far as wins and losses go,” he said. “I think when we were having some 3-7 and 4-6 type seasons, he really took that personally and felt like he was letting the team, the school, and the community down.”
“But his amazing perspective and focus on Faith and Family and THEN Football allowed him to regroup and refocus on what was truly important in dealing with the young men,” Bauman continued. “That is what sets him apart from other high school coaches, is his ability to develop relationships with his players. Relationships that last and are meaningful. I think there are probably 1,000 former students and athletes of his that truly believed they were his favorite, because that is how he made them all feel. That is what is truly important in high school teaching and coaching, and Coach Michael does it better than anyone I have ever seen.”
Lastly, Bauman said he takes great pride in being a part of the Bluejay football team.
“As an assistant, I am always extremely proud to wear my Sabetha Bluejay football gear in and out of town and be associated with our program, in large part because of the culture Coach Michael has created here,” he said. “I hope our school and community are proud, not just of the wins and state championships, but of the type of program Coach runs and the principles and morals we try to teach our players.”