Looking at who's left: 5A

Dylan Becker has over 900 yards receiving for Salina South in 2014. (photo: Joey Bahr)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 10, 2014

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East

Leavenworth (6-4)

Pioneers may be one of the most underrated 5A teams in the state. They have not lost to a 5A opponent on the year and the four losses came to 6A Sunflower League opponents. They feature a quality win against Free State, a team in the 6A playoffs, in week four on the road. Running back Sanchez Williams has over 1,000 yards rushing on the season and Isaiah Ross has nearly 1,000 yards of offense combined as a receiver and running back. The defense is led by Anthony Hunt who has 124 tackles in 10 games. Leavenworth got their first all-time playoff win last week and are now 1-4 all-time in the state playoffs. Expect a competitive match-up against Aquinas on Friday. 

Aquinas (7-3)

Aquinas may be a surprise contender to some in 2014, but not if you have followed Randy Dreiling's career as a coach. We knew they would be pretty good, just maybe not a state title contender so fast. Aquinas (7-3) has played one of if not the toughest schedule of teams left in the 5A playoffs. The Saints will be without one of their top players in James Cosentino, a 1,000+ yard rusher who was injured in the loss to Pittsburg in week nine. Aquinas had a bit of a down year in 2013, but still made the playoffs and finished at 3-7. Keep in mind, its not hard to have a losing season in the loaded EKL league. The Saints have 25 playoff appearances as a school, this is their 20th appearance in the round of eight. Aquinas has never won a state football championship in playoff era, going 0-for-2 in state title games. 

Shawnee Heights (6-4)

The Thunderbirds started off the season rough at 1-4, but have regrouped to win their last five ballgames. They feature a quality win against Topeka High (6A) in week six of the season in overtime, and also knocked off 6A playoff team Junction City in week three of the season. The Heights offense is led by Camden Wheatley (1,760 pass/17 TD) and Tony Barksdale Jr. (1,483 rush/22TD). Senior linebacker Dejuan Gardenhire has 165 tackles (16.5 per game) to lead the defense. It's hard to tell how the Centennial League matches up with that of the EKL or Sunflower leagues, but that won't matter this week as they take on the Pittsburg Purple Dragons out of the Southeast Kansas League. Heights has played a better overall schedule than Pittsburg on the year, but the concern here is how good is the Centennial League? Pittsburg should be the best opponent that Heights has faced in 2014 and they will have their hands full with Alex Barnes. Expect a hard fought contest in Pittsburg on Friday. This is Heights fifth round of eight appearance in the Kansas playoffs.

Pittsburg (9-1)

The Dragons are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Everyone has heard of KSU commit, Alex Barnes (6-0 218 Sr. RB/DB) and his 2,100 plus rushing yards (37 TD), but he has a lot surrounding him to make it happen. A veteran offensive line helped pave the way for 300 yards and 6 TDs for Barnes against Mill Valley this past Friday. The biggest concern coming into districts was the league (SEK) that Pittsburg plays in and zero 5A schools being in it. Not playing in full games cause of competition may have cost them a loss to Blue Valley West, but now the Dragons are in form to make a run at a state title appearance. Pittsburg has been in the round of eight 26 different times in playoff era but not since 2004. The Dragons last played for a state title in 2001 and are 3-4 all-time in title games.

West

Bishop Carroll (10-0)

The Eagles are one of the most hyped teams in Kansas, as they should be. Some are even saying this team is the caliber of their 2012 state title team. They have only one loss in the past three football seasons, that coming to Salina South in last years playoffs. KSU commit, Denzel Goolsby, is one of the most complete players in Kansas and has scored 37 touchdowns in 2014. Quarterback Colton Howell has 1,500 plus yards of offense and 23 touchdowns. The defense has been the most impressive thing about Carroll football in 2014, allowing only 5.1 points per contest, and shutting out its last three opponents. This is a rematch with Wichita Heights from week four in which the Golden Eagles won 70-15. Lets hope that this game is a bit closer. Carroll has now made it to the round of eight on 21 different occasions. The Eagles are 2-3 all-time in state title games.

Wichita Heights (8-2)

Heights would be perfect in 2014 had they not played the two Catholic schools (Kapaun, Carroll) out of the city league. Heights best win on the season was last week against Salina Central in the opening round of the 5A playoffs. The only concern here is six of their seven wins in the regular season came against teams that ended up with losing records. Heights is scoring 31.4 points per contest and allowing 18.4. They will have their hands full in a rematch game this week, in which last time they lost 70-15 to Carroll. If Heights wants to hang around in this one they will have to score more than their season average of 31 points. Heights is 16-8 all-time in the state playoffs and has made it to the round of eight on nine different occasions.

Salina South (9-1)

The Cougars, under head coach Sam Sellers, were a huge question mark team coming into 2014. They lost the majority of their team off a state runner-up finish in 2013 and had a lot of holes to fill. They have answered anybody who had questions on them and are now a contender on the West. Quarterback Dalton Wassenberg (6-6 185 Sr.) has stepped up big in his first season as a starter, throwing for over 1,600 yards and has 32 total touchdowns. His favorite target has been junior, Dylan Becker, who has over 900 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns. The Cougars defense has picked up 14 interceptions in 2014. Their only loss on the season came to the hands of 6A Derby (9-1) in week six of the season, since then they have won four in a row. Salina South has played a better schedule, than their opponent, Maize South, on the year and will be favored in this match-up. South has 17 playoff appearances in the history of their school with a 23-14 record in the state playoffs.

Maize South

The Mavericks who are up to Class 5A this season from 4A last year have an 8-2 record, but are a big question mark team in the classification. They have played one of the states best teams (Bishop Carroll) and that didn't go to well, losing 37-0 in district play. They only have one win over a Kansas program with a winning record in 2014 (Andover Central). The Mavericks are scoring 26 points per game while allowing 16.7 on the year. They will have to tighten up their defense to have a chance in this one as Salina South averages over 36 points per contest. Hats off to South for getting past their new rival, Maize, in the first ever match-up of the two schools this year. Maize South has made the playoffs in all five years of the programs existence. This is their first appearance in the round of eight, so this years team has already made history.