Looking at who's left: 4A-I

Colton Beebe looks to lead Piper to a semifinal berth in 4A-I. (courtesy photo)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 11, 2014

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East

KC Piper (9-1)

The last two years were the best seasons ever, as far as postseason, for the Pirates. In 2012 they advanced to the semi-finals and last year to the round of eight. This season marks the third year in a row in the round of eight and third all-time for the program. The Pirates are known for defense and the biggest reason for that is senior division I recruit, Colton Beebe (6-3 252 LB), who is nearing the 500 career tackle mark. Piper has 13 interceptions as a team, led by senior Devin McIntosh's four. Junior Sterling Owens leads the rushing attack with over 900 yards and nine touchdowns on the year. Senior all-purpose back Travon Jones has over 1,000 all-purpose yards and is dangerous on special teams and defense. Piper's only loss on the season came in week five against 5A Bonner Springs (31-24 OT). Paola will be a good test for the Pirates, maybe one of their best this year, but the Pirates are 3-0 against Frontier League competition in 2014. Could this be a low scoring defensive battle? Paola has played in three games that went to OT this year, two of them double OT, while Piper has played in one.

Paola (7-3)

The Panthers have played in some very close ball games on the year, including three games that went past regulation. Seven of their 10 games this season were within six points. If they were to replay their schedule they could be 10-0, or potentially not in the playoffs. Piper will be the best team that Paola has played this year, although the Panthers have been tested in their league and against Fort Scott in the districts. The only advantage here may be that Paola has been tested week in and week out in tight ball games. The concern is that Piper is 3-0 against similar league competition, two of which Paola lost to (Spring Hill, Baldwin). This is Paola's fifteenth appearance in the round of eight and the Panthers have an all-time playoff record of 36-18. 

Bishop Miege (10-0)

Miege, led by head coach Jon Holmes, was sent down to 4A-I from 5A this season and is dominating. To be honest, it wouldn't really matter what classification the Stags were in this year to compete for a title. They went undefeated in one of the states best leagues (EKL). Senior quarterback Ryan Willis, a KU commit, has thrown for 2,234 yards and 28 touchdowns on the year. Junior Dawson Downing is having an all-state caliber season at running back with over 1,500 yards rushing and 26 total touchdowns. Miege's closest game was a 15 point win against Blue Valley Northwest (6A) in the opening week of the season. Their signature win this year came against Blue Valley, defending 5A champ and 6A contender, 42-21 in week three of the season. Fort Scott will be better than any of the teams that the Stags have faced in district, but Fort's defense will have to step up big in order to keep this one from getting away fast. If Miege goes perfect on the year this team could go down as one of the best teams to play at the 4A level, even though we are in the first year of 4A-I. Stags last won a state title in 2009 in 4A and are 29-21 all-time in the playoffs. 

Fort Scott (9-1)

Fort Scott is one of the more underrated teams in 4A-I. The Tigers are not being talked about like a team with only one loss that's still active in the state playoffs. Too much hype is being placed on their 41-0 loss to 5A ranked Pittsburg High in week three of the football season. The Tigers didn't play the toughest league schedule but got it done by winning the district championship. Quarterback Mason Knopp led the offense last week with 195 yards passing and 64 yards on the ground. His favorite target was Alex Fink who had 152 of those yards through the air. The concern here is the Tigers may be facing the best team in Kansas at home this week. They will need to score more than their season average of 28 in order to have a shot in this contest. Fort Scott is undefeated at home on the year and has won seven straight ball games. The Tigers are 33-20 all-time in the state playoff and are in the round of eight for the first time since 2005. Hats off to Bob Campbell and Fort Scott for putting together a heck of a season after coming in as a question mark team in 2014.

West

Andover Central (6-4)

The Jaguars, under head coach Tom Audley, are 6-4 in 2014. After a rough 2-3 start, they have won four out of their last five. Junior quarterback, Peyton Huslig, has thrown for 1,955 yards and 24 touchdowns on the year to lead Central's offense. Huslig's favorite targets have been Tyler Harris (835 yards) and  Darraja Parnell (815 yards). Parnell, a 6-foot-2 185 pound junior, is seeing division one looks in basketball. Jordan Birch has also rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season with 17 touchdowns. The biggest concern is that five of their six wins came against opponents with losing records. Their best win on the season was last week against Augusta, who finished at 5-5 on the year. This is Andover Central's second appearance in the round of eight, last making it in 2006. The Jaguars are 6-11 all-time in the state playoffs in the short history that they have been a school. 

Buhler (8-2)

The Crusaders won their first ever state football title in 4A last season and could be primed to make a return trip to a state title game in 2014. The only two teams that Buhler has lost to aren't in the 4A-I playoffs, so that is good news. McPherson was in the playoffs but lost last week and Andale is in 4A-II. Quarterback Jace Williams and running back Dillon Engelland lead the Buhler offense, which racked up nearly 500 rushing yards against Ulysses last week. Buhler has been tested in 2014, have more quality wins, and that could be the difference in this match-up that they will be favored in. Buhler has 13 appearances all-time in the round of eight and is 22-15 all-time in the state playoffs. Can they get back to the title game? Sure, but whoever wins this week will have their hands full with a Topeka Hayden team who is favored in their match-up with Mulvane. 

Topeka Hayden (9-1)

Hayden is no stranger to the state playoffs, this year marking their 24th all-time appearance. The Wildcats have only played four 4A-I schools, those being in the last four weeks. They play in the Centennial League, a league that features all 5A/6A schools besides themselves. When playing 4A-I competition, they have outscored opponents 182-to-71. Their only loss on the year came to 6A Manattan. The offense is led by quarterback Jacob Head, who passed for 240 yards and three TD's against Coffeyville last week. Hayden will be heavily favored in this match-up against Mulvane. Many are already calling for a state title match-up with Hayden and Miege, but we have a ways to go still. 

Mulvane (4-6)

It's was a bit of a surprise that Mulvane got into the playoffs with a losing record and an ever bigger surprise with their upset over McPherson last week. However, the Wildcats have taken care of business this year and have been very tested with their schedule. Three of their six losses are to teams still active in the state playoffs. Mulvane is averaging around 22 points a contest, while giving up 25 on the year. This is the Wildcats fourth round of eight appearance in the state playoffs. Even though that Hayden plays larger opponents, some would argue that Mulvane has faced better competition on the year. Mulvane will have to play their absolute best football on the year in order to have a chance in this one.