What impressed us after the 2018 semifinals in Kansas?

Olpe headed back to state for first time in four years.
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 17, 2018

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We highlight some impressive performances across the state class-by-class after week 12 (SEMIFINALS) of the 2018 football season. This update is presented by Nex-Tech Wireless, American Implement, Craw-Kan Telephone, Rainbow Communications, Rack Performance, Labette Bank, Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference & Eddy's Toyota of Wichita

All Classes – Title Games are set

6A

Derby (12-0) vs. Blue Valley North (9-3) – Emporia State

5A

Wichita Northwest (12-0) vs. Aquinas (12-0) – Pittsburg State

4A

Goddard (10-2) vs. Bishop Miege (10-2) – Topeka

3A

Pratt (12-0) vs. Sabetha (12-0) – Hutchinson

2A

Phillipsburg (12-0) vs. Riley County (10-2) – Salina

1A

Smith Center (11-1) vs. Olpe (12-0) – Hays

8M-I

Solomon (11-1) vs. Cenral Plains or St. Francis – Newton

8M-II

Osborne (11-1) vs. Hanover (12-0) – Newton

6A

BV North

North punched their ticket to their second consecutive state title game and second in school history. Graham Mertz has 3,746 passing yards and 49 touchdowns passing and had over 500 yards passing with five passing touchdowns in the 51-49 win over Olathe North. The most impressive thing is he’s done it in 10 games with a brand-new cast of players from graduating 35 seniors last season. Cameron Burt (single season receiving record in KS) and Amari Pesek-Hickson (Michigan offer) have turned into all-state caliber players for North. Daymonn Sanchez finished an outstanding career for Olathe North with over 2,300 yards on the season as he went over 200 on Friday Night. It wasn’t enough as the Mustangs knocked off Olathe North 51-49 on the road.

Derby

Derby is in their 10th all-time title game and fourth consecutive under Brandon Clark. The Panthers have been in five of the last six title games in 6A. Everything on 6A West goes through Derby and it did that on Friday night as they knocked off Manhattan 24-6. The defense, led by Isaac Keener, has been outstanding. Hunter Igo is a complete gamer that has stepped up huge in back to back seasons no matter where they need him on the field. He is a football player, bottom line. Tre Washington has also had a breakout year at running back. They get a rematch with Blue Valley North, a team that upset them in last years 6A title game.

5A

Aquinas

The Saints had no trouble as they took care of business with a 67-21 victory over Olathe West on Friday. First off, lets take our hats off to West for an outstanding season of high school football in their first year as a varsity program by making state semifinals. Randy Dreiling has the Saints in the title game for his third time as a coach at STA in five years. He has yet to win one with STA as he won seven at Hutchinson in 5A/6A combined. Aquinas has one of the best offensive lines in the state led by senior Joe Michalksi and junior Jaedon Roberts who have FBS offers. Tank Young is one of the best sophomores in Kansas at the running back position, heck he’s one of the best at any grade level. Cameron Jackson is one of the best blocking backs and can be a frontline running back if needed like he was last year. Zach Goodeyon leads the defensive unit in tackles. Bo Mesenheimer, Matthew Roberts, Jayden Russell and Javier Derrit are also all big-time players for the Saints. Aquinas is good, very good and they didn’t even play their starting quarterback or running back in the blowout win over Olathe West.

Wichita Northwest

Northwest scored 84 last week and scored 67 on Friday in the wild 67-60 semifinal victory over Maize in a thriller. Reagan Jones hit Zion Jones from 28 yards out with 30 seconds remaining to give the Grizzlies a 67-60 win after trailing 60-59 with under a minute remaining. It marks the first time in 22 years that Northwest, led by head coach Steve Martin, gets into the state title game. Breece Hall may be the most complete back in Kansas and is headed to Iowa State. Josh Carter is tough as nails and leads the defensive unit with over 100 tackles for the third consecutive year. Marcus Hicks is a high-level recruit that has committed to Oklahoma also on the Northwest defense. Reagan Jones has had one of the best years in Kansas as a dual-threat and Northwest has so many weapons offensively. While Aquinas scored 67 last week, possessions might be more limited next week as Aquinas can grind out some clock with their powerful offensive line and solid defense. We will still see some scoring I am guessing? There will be eight FBS players combined to take the field between the two teams on Saturday in Pittsburg.

Caleb Grill

Grill threw for 3,122 yards this season with 36 touchdowns. Football is not even his best sport. The senor went over 500 yards and threw seven touchdowns in the thrilling 67-60 loss on Friday night to Wichita Northwest. While Grill is done as a football player, tip of the cap to him for not being a specialized athlete and playing all the sports. He is likely the best multiple sport athlete in the state and has signed to play Division I basketball at South Dakota State University. He had well over 10 division one offers from major conferences. What a season for Maize as they made just their second ever semfinal.

4A

Miege

Miege blasted Basehor Linwood 46-7 on Friday night and it was no surprise as nobody in 4A seems to be able to get anywhere close to the Stags over the last five football seasons. Sam Pedrotti, Brison Cobbins and Phillipe Wesley lead a balanced offensive group this season. Defensive, the Stags are led by three-time all-state linebacker Dylan Downing, arguably the states most underrated player. He has over 100 tackles for the third year in a row and also has added five interceptions this year. Miege is so complete and brings it every down as they go for their fifth consecutive state title. Their only losses are to 5A title representative Aquinas and Missouri Class 6A semifinalist Rockhurst (MO).

Goddard

In one of the most thrilling games of the night, the Lions knocked off previously undefeated McPherson 15-14 on Friday night on the road. A Goddard interception in the endzone with under 30 seconds to play would ultimately send the Lions to their second title game in three years. Its just the third time Goddard is in the state championship in school history. A safety in the third quarter could have been the difference in the game for Goddard as it cut the McPherson lead to 14-9. Congrats to first year head coach Tommy Beason.

3A

Sabetha

Bluejays cruised to a 21-0 victory over a very tough Galena squad on Friday. The defense here is what really shined and kept Galena out of the endzone despite penetrating in the redzone a few times. Gabe Garber is a gamer quarterback that doubles as one of the best 3A defenders. Elliott Strahm is a game changer on the offensive line and defensive line and likely one of the best lineman in all classes of Kansas after garnering Sports in Kansas 3A Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017. Cauy Rokey is one of the best linebackers in 3A and Joseph Gruber has had another breakout year out of the backfield. This group has won 19 in a row and is the defending 3A state champion.

Pratt

There were so many good games on Friday and this one didn’t disappoint in a hard-fought defensive battle. Travis Theis is likely the best two-way player in the state of Kansas and on Friday he was just as good on defense as he was on offense. Theis brings it in all three phases of the game. His 93-yard touchdown run in the forth quarter was the difference maker in this game. Kadence Riner is as tough as nails back that also doubles as one of the top defenders in 3A. The Riner name has been affiliated with Pratt football since 1995 when they won a state title. Six brothers (Cullen, Andrew, Kidron, Asher, Weston, Kadence) have all been a part of this program and have all been all-state athletes. Cullen Riner, the oldest of six brothers, is an assistant at Osborne who is still alive in 8M-II and won a state title in 2016 at Osborne, the same year Kadence won one as a sophomore at Pratt. This will be the final year of the six brothers to be a part of the program. What a run it has been. This is going to be a very, very physical matchup in the 3A state title game just as we saw with Andale. Jamie Cruce has done outstanding work here to put this program on the map.

2A

Riley County

Riley jumped out to an early 25-0 lead and it was all Falcons all night as they cruised to a 46-16 victory at home. Mikey Waggoner is as tough as they come in 2A and is very hard to bring down. He went over 100 yards on the night with five touchdowns. Garrett Harmison is also a dual threat and has a big arm if needed. Riley is athletic on the line and can move very well. They’ve played a battle-tested Mid-East League schedule that many may undervalue. It’s always been the Silver Lake’s or the Rossville’s in this position but there have certainly been some good Mid-East teams that have sat at home that were more than capable because of that. This year Riley County broke through for the first time in 22 years. Jon McGraw was also on hand to see the win as the former NFL player from Riley County was on the 1996 team that last made it to state. Jordy Nelson, current NFL star, is also an alum of the school. How crazy is that as the two are only six years apart?  Riley County (10-2) has never had a state title and will look to change that in Salina next week. Congrats to coach Wagner and the Falcons on their title appearance.

Phillipsburg

It was a better game than we saw of the 30-point blowout earlier this season but Phillipsburg took control in the second hald and won 31-14 over Hoisington at home on Friday. The Panthers are in their second state title game in four years after winning 2-1A in 2015. The quarterback on that team, Trey Sides, is also the quarterback on this team. Treylan Gross has had over 1,400 yards rushing this year and is one of the best backs in 2A. Johnathan Hunnacutt also blocked a punt in this game, despite being one of the best kickers in the state of Kansas. J.B. Covington and the Panthers will look for their second state title in four years next week in Salina.

Wyatt Pedigo

Pedigo went over 2,000 yards rushing on Friday night in 11 games this season, he missed week one with an injury. He also had over 100 tackles. He may be the most complete player in 2A football this season and will contend for Player of the Year honors from Sports in Kansas on both sides of the ball. He’s only a junior and was the 3-2-1A 182-pound state wrestling champion as a sophomore last fall. You’ll be hearing his name a lot over the next year and a half.

1A

Olpe

Congrats to Chris Schmidt and the Eagles for punching their fourth ticket all-time to the state title game. The Eagles last won a state title when this group of seniors were in the 8th grade back in 2014, so these kids have had the opportunity to watch kids they know win one. Olpe won 14-0 against Colgan on Friday night at home and were a takeaway machine with five forced turnovers. Olpe is without one of their best players in Blane Hinrichs but Colby Hoelting has shined this season at the quarterback position. Olpe will be playing for their second state football title in school history.

Smith Center

In a game that we thought had a chance to be a thriller wasn’t, it was all Smith Center as the Redmen cruised to a 49-7 victory at home on Friday night. SC won it all last year and will be the favorite to do it again this year in Hays next Saturday. Ethan Peterson, Hesston Maxwell, Colby Benoit, Austin Hobelmann, Joel Montgomery and Logan Zabel have really shined for Darren Sasse’s group this year. The MCL West has certainly owned the 1A (old 2-1A) west recently as they have had a representative in the title game the last four years with Phillipsburg, Plainville, and Smith Center twice. Zabel also had a scoop and score in the game. His grandfather passed away on Tuesday that he was extremely close with and he dedicated the touchdown in his honor. 

8M-I

Solomon

The Gorillas cruised to a 28-12 victory on Friday as they punched their ticket to their first ever state title game in modern playoff era. Braden Neilsen, Jobe Fowles and Logan Krause have been big all year for the Gorillas. Solomon lost earlier this season to Canton-Galva, 38-20. We actually toured Solomon’s field on Sunday of last week. The Marvin Brown Jr. Memorial statue was chilling and awesome to see. Marvin was a 1969 graduate of Solomon that went on to play at Wichita State and died in the 1970 plane crash in Colorado on October 2nd, 1970 while traveling to take on Utah State in a football game. The field was named after him in Solomon in 1971. Interesting enough, modern era playoffs began in 1969, the first football season after Marvin graduated, so deep down you have to think the first ever title appearance in this modern playoff era was for Marvin Brown Jr. While many would be too young to remember it does strike home for a lot of people in Solomon and beyond. Wyatt Thompson, voice of the Kansas State Wildcats, was in high school at Solomon at the time. I asked him about this last week on our weekly radio interview and he told me the experience was heartbreaking as he heard the news of it from his coach while at a football practice in Solomon 48 years ago. It’s something he or the people of Solomon will never forget.

St. Francis (11-0) vs. Central Plains (11-0) – Saturday – 2:30 pm

8M-II

Hanover

Hanover is going to the state finals for the fifth consecutive season as they dominated Axtell 60-14 in the 8M-I semifinal on the road. This game was 50-42 win earlier this season. Daiken Stallbumer and Carter Bruna are two of the top players in all of 8-man. Thomas Atkins is also one of the best multiple sport small school athletes.

Osborne

Osborne dominated Dighton 46-0 and ended the run of the Dighton 9. Darnell and Darrien Holloway are two of the top playmakers in all of 8-man football. Kade Miller leads the group defensively that will look for their third state title since 2013.