What impressed us after the 2017 state championships?

Hoxie (8M-I) won its first ever state football title on Saturday in Newton. (courtesy photo)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 26, 2017

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6A

Blue Valley North 49 Derby 42

It’s been a breakout year for Blue Valley North junior quarterback Graham Mertz and it continued that way on Saturday in Emporia as he accounted for five touchdowns, four through the air, one on the ground, to lead the Mustangs to their first ever state title. Mertz was 24-of-30 with 462 yards passing in the contest. His game winning 15-yard score with 57 seconds left capped off a 97-yard drive in the 4th quarter as it was the difference as the Mustangs knocked off Derby, 49-42. Wide Receiver Nigel Roberts had three receiving touchdowns for BV North and 188 yards on the day. Tight End Dylan Freberg had 222 yards receiving in the game for the Mustangs. Running back Grant Hamel added 62 yards on the ground and a score for BV North. Derby was led by quarterback Hunter Igo with 175 rushing yards and Brody Kooser with 123 yards rushing. North head coach Andy Sims picked up his first state title with the program. Prior to this season, BV North had only made one semifinal all-time back in 2003.

5A

Carroll 38 Aquinas 28

It was the Braden Howell and Thomas Helten show on Saturday at Carnie Smith stadium in Pittsburg as the Golden Eagles knocked off the Saints of St. Thomas Aquinas, 38-28. The Saints defense had no answer for the pair as Helten had 13 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown. Joseph Holthusen also had two receiving touchdowns in the contest. Howell capped off his last game in his career as his best as he threw for 324 yards with three touchdowns while rushing for 96 more with two scores. It gives him 3,086 passing yards on the year with 33 touchdowns, making him one of the best in all classifications of Kansas. The last time the Golden Eagles won a state title it was Howell’s older brother, Colton, at quarterback. Colton is now a junior quarterback at Northern Iowa and played as the back-up in the Panthers 46-7 playoff win on Saturday against Monmouth. The 5A title win gave first year head coach Dusty Trail his first state title as the head man at Carroll, after serving 22 years as offensive coordinator for Alan Schuckman who retired last December after winning two state titles in his legendary career. We credit the offense of Carroll but how about the defense. Aquinas gained just 69 yards on the ground in the contest and averaged 355 rushing per game entering. Aquinas did have some success through the air and some big plays with quarterback Will Swanson throwing for 169 yards and two scores, but failed to establish anything on the ground. Drew Hicks had a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown for STA. Jared Flood of Aquinas also had an 84-yard kickoff return for score late to cut the lead to 38-28 before the Golden Eagles would go on to claim the 2017 5A crown. Carroll now has four state titles in its program history as they finished the season with a 12-1 record.

4A-I

Miege 47 Andale 7

Another year, another Miege title. Andale and Miege both entered undefeated but ultimately Miege proved to be in a class of their own in 4A-I once again as they defeated the Indians 47-7 on Saturday in Topeka. It was 12-7 early in the 2Q but it was all Miege all afternoon as they led 26-7 at the half before adding 14 more in the third and seven in the fourth. Carter Putz, the all-time career passing yards & touchdowns leader in Kansas history, threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another in leading the Stags to their fourth consecutive state title in 4A-I under Jon Holmes. Miege had over 580 yards of offense in the contest, led by 303 yards passing from Carter Putz. Four different players caught a touchdown from Putz in the contest who also had 106 rushing yards. Sophomore Daniel Jackson had over 100 yards receiving in the contest for the Stags and a touchdown. Brison Cobbins and Cameron Clark also combined for over 150 rushing yards out of the backfield. The Stags closest game in 4A-I this season was a district matchup with DeSoto (31-0). The next closest was a rematch with DeSoto (56-24) and third closest Saturday’s title game with Andale (47-7), proving that nobody was a heavy threat to hang with the Stags throughout a full-game. Miege however did have EKL challengers in 5A and 6A this year. They beat the 6A state champion BV North (33-19) and the 5A state runner-up Aquinas (27-14), their closest contest of the year. Miege skill guys get a ton of credit but have to give it up for their outstanding offensive line led by senior Jack Burns and loaded cast of defensive players that feature Dylan Downing, Joe Watskey, Cameron Key, Jalen Williams and Jasir Cox. Miege is the best team in the state, but the way Carroll finished out the 2017 campaign handling Aquinas for a 5A state title, that’s a game we would love to see. Andale finished at 12-1 while the Stags finished a perfect 13-0 season.

4A-II

Holcomb 40 Frontenac 20

It was all Holcomb as they took advantage of costly turnovers in the 4A-II title game as the Longhorns led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and 27-6 at the end of the first half. Frontenac would cut the score to 27-13 early in the 3Q but Holcomb’s defense was all over the place, along with their offense and the Longhorns went on to win the 4A-II title, 40-20, in Salina on Saturday. Holcomb picked off three passes and recovered two Frontenac fumbles to create five turnovers in the contest. The Longhorns, who have been as balanced as any team in Kansas, had 431 yards of total offense in the game, but they were more pass heavy on Saturday. Trey Gilbert threw for 264 yards with four touchdowns and also added another score on the ground. Chance Rodriguez had three touchdowns receiving in the game with 80 yards as Peyton Leonard had 109 yards receiving with another score. Reece Morss was all over the place defensively for Holcomb with 10 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in the contest. He also had 73 yards rushing and a score on the offense, while Kaden Tichenor added 77 combined yards of offense. Rodriguez also added eight tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Carter Blackburn also had an interception in the game. Frontenac did show some bright spots and the game and never gave up as Peyton Brown still threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns, despite throwing two interceptions. Brendan Ishiumura had five catches for 105 yards with two touchdowns for the Raiders. He also had an interception in the game to give him seven on the season. Andrew Mays led the Raider defense with nine stops. Kent Teeter is 43-7 since coming to Holcomb at the beginning of the 2014 season with two state titles (2015, 2017). They have at least been in the semifinals every single year with him as the head coach. Frontenac fell to 9-4 on the season as the Longhorns improved to 12-1. 

3A

Sabetha 7 Marysville 6

This game that we expected to be a high scoring shootout ultimately came down to having/not-having a kicker or converting/not converting on a two-point conversion. Sabetha had just 122 yards of offense to Marysville’s 340 but all that would matter is the scoreboard as the Bluejays picked up their first state title since 1997 on Saturday in Hutchinson. Marysville led 6-0 at the half after a Gabe Pieschl 16-yard pass from Jack Blumer but the Bulldogs would go for two and not convert. Sabetha would answer back in the second half on an eight-yard run by Wyatt Beyer to open up the third quarter which would tie it up 6-6, before a successful extra point kick by Braeden Cox that would ultimately be the game winner as neither team scored for the rest of the game. Marysville had scored 58 touchdowns entering the contest but had only kicked an extra point on 13 of those 58, converting only six of those. They had successfully converted 14 two-point conversions heading into Saturday. Marysville racked up yard’s but Sabetha ultimately kept them out of the endzone and forced three turnovers as they picked up a huge one on the last drive off the game as Gabe Garber’s interception on the goal line kept Marysville from scoring and gave the Bluejays a 7-6 victory for the 3A title. Jack Blumer, perhaps the best 3A quarterback this season, had 300 combined yards with the one Marysville TD being a pass to Gabe Pieschl for 16-yards in the second quarter. Sabetha got the bulk of its yards from Joe Gruber who had 91 rushing yards. Sabetha picked up its third all-time state football title but first in 3A with the last two coming in 4A (1993, 1997). Sabetha finished the season with a 13-1 record, with their only loss coming to Nemaha Central in their own district, while Marysville finished at 11-2. 

2-1A

Smith Center 43 Colgan 7

The Redmen won their first state title since 2008 on Saturday in Hays over the St. Mary’s Colgan Panthers. Darren Sasse also picked up his first state title as a head coach since taking over for Roger Barta who has all eight other Smith Center state football titles. Smith Center dominated the run game as they had 371 rushing yards on 65 attempts. The defense was just as impressive if not more impressive as they limited the Panthers option attack to just five rushing yards in the contest. Jesse Staples had 17 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Redmen. Smith Center controlled the whole game and led 15-0 at the end of the first, 29-0 at the half. Colgan was led by Jeremiah Buche who had the only touchdown in the game from quarterback Bryce Hutchins. Buche had seven receptions for 75 yards with the touchdown. Smith Center (12-1) outscored their opponents 659-to-78 this season. They only allowed 35 points over the last 10 games and outscored opponents 242-to-21 in four 2-1A playoff games this season. Colgan finished the season 10-3 under first year head coach Shawn Seematter. 

8M-I

Hoxie 54 St. Paul 14

Hoxie picked up their first ever state football title in dominating fashion as the Indians knocked off St. Paul, 54-14, in the first of two 8-man state championship games on Saturday in Newton. It was all Latham Schwarz for the Indians as he had 33 carries for 204 yards with four scores in the game. He finished the season with 1,722 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns. Jared Kennedy also stepped up big on Saturday at the quarterback position with three combined scores. Hoxie who is known for its defensive only allowed 35 yards rushing in the contest. Chris Cox, Colton Heskett, Luke Schippers and Taye Washington had combined for 31.5 sacks entering Saturday. All four gave St. Paul fits on Saturday. Cox perhaps one of the best pass rushers in 8-man this year had 14 sacks this season. Troyal and Taylor Burris also combined for 14 interceptions this season. Hoxie, led by head coach Lance Baar, finished the season at 12-1 while St. Paul finished 11-2.

8M-II

Hanover 54 Hodgeman Co. 48

Just went it seemed to be all over in the third quarter as they led 48-14, Hodgeman County would cut the lead to six with just seven seconds left in the game as Hanover would win their second consecutive 8M-II title with a 54-48 victory over Hodgeman County in the second 8-man game of the day in Newton on Saturday. The Wildcats (13-0) have now won 25 straight games as Matt Heuer won his fourth title in seven title appearances under him. It was all Daiken Stallbaumer for the Hanover offense with over 300 combined yards on the ground and through the air with five total touchdowns. He added a sixth score of the game on an interception return. Jacob Salmans, who has been a big-time player for Hodgeman County over the last four years, put up huge stats in the game as well. He had over 370 yards of combined offense as the quarterback with six total touchdowns. Hodgeman County finishes its season at 10-3.