Sports in KS: What caught our eye headed into Week 8?

Matthew Dercher (14) has been a huge part of Blue Valley's 7-0 start. (photo: BV Touchdown Club)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Oct 17, 2016

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Things happening around the state in high school football as we head into week eight of the football season. We take a look at some of them by the numbers. If you have a tip or something you think we should know about you can always tweet us @sportsinkansas or email: chetkuplen@kansas-sports.com 

First year starting quarterbacks continue to impress

First year starting quarterbacks have highlighted the quarterback category in 2016. We can’t get to everyone but we will mention a few that have jumped off the page to us this year. Matthew Dercher is the one of them as he has 6A Blue Valley at 7-0 and has thrown for 1,848 yards in his first year as a senior starting quarterback. He has 20 touchdowns to just three interceptions and completed 64 percent of his passes.  Brody Flaming of 5A Mill Valley (3-4) had more success early but he is still putting together a great season statistically in his first year as a starter with 1,880 yards with 19 touchdowns, while adding another 525 yards on the ground with another TD. Austin Anderson, junior quarterback of Wichita Northwest (4-3), has done outstanding as a first year starting quarterback. He has thrown for 232.7 yards per game for a total of 1,629 passing yards with 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Wichita Northwest has struggled defensively at times this year but their offense has been outstanding, and features one of the top backs in 6A Jahlyl Rounds and top receivers Martese Mullins. Senior Jacob Bradshaw of 3A defending champion Rossville (6-1) has passed for 819 with 12 touchdowns and is the leading rusher in the state at the quarterback position with 1,265 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, not bad for a guy who replaced the best ever dual threat quarterback statistically in Kansas history in Tucker Horak. Other first year starters with big numbers include junior Cody McNerney of 4A-II Collegiate (1469 pass/526 rush 22 total TD), senior Trey Gilbert of Holcomb (1320 pass/ 21 TD), freshman Jack Caudle of Maur-Hill (1,149 pass/15 TD), Zach Witters of SM West (1,139 pass/518 rush 18 total TD).

Garden City (6A) & Great Bend (5A)

The Buffaloes and Panthers were expected to be pretty good this season, but we are not sure anyone thought they would be 7-0 at this point with their schedules. Great Bend is coming off a huge win over Liberal and Jacob Murray has played as well as, if not better than anyone in Kansas at QB this season. On the other side, Garden City is coming off a huge Hatchet victory over Dodge City and features a QB in Jesse Nunez, who is also one of the top dual-threats in the state, even though he is more of a runner. The WAC title is on the line between these two on Friday in Great Bend and both have us overly impressed after the first seven weeks of the season.

Manhattan (6A)

Manhattan (7-0) is ranked in the Kpreps 6A top five poll at #4 but is anyone actually considering them as a team that can get to the 6A title game? It doesn’t seem so with Derby on that side and maybe they aren’t as tested as a whole as Derby, but they’ve handled business every week. A huge reason for their success is senior quarterback Ian Trapp. Trapp had a huge night last Friday in which he accounted for five total touchdowns. A thing Manhattan can’t do this week is overlook BV Northwest. Northwest has played a much better schedule than the Indians and their 2-5 record out of the Eastern Kansas League is a bit misleading. Their win over Junction City proved to us that the Indians may be one of those 3-to-4 teams you have to start looking at on the 6A West Bracket, but right now Derby is and should be the favorite. It’s been since 2008 since a Centennial League team has won a 6A state football title, when Junction City won it. The Indians, who won’t miss the playoffs this season because of the new system have missed them the last two seasons, and haven’t been to a state title game in 6A since 2001. The Indians last state title came in 1988.

Free State (6A)

Can Free State still make a run in the 6A playoffs? Sure they can and not very many people are talking about the Firebirds because they lost in week one and lost in week three. Their week one loss was to 6A SM West 41-40 and their week three loss was to a Missouri opponent, Park Hill, 34-21. What does that mean? Anything can happen in week one and Missouri dominated Kansas competition that week as they went 12-0 against Kansas. Since that loss the Firebirds have won four in a row but their schedule hasn’t been the greatest. We will know more as they take on league and cross-town rival Lawrence (5-2) this Friday at home. Free State has been led by Zack Sanders at receiver and Dallas Crittenden this season, both near the tops of the leader board in 6A receiving and passing yardage.

Blue Valley North (6A)

Blue Valley North (4-3) we thought may have been a one-year wonder last season with all that they graduated, but that doesn’t seem to be the case so far in 2016. Yeah they have three losses but all three losses aren’t bad as they came to ranked teams in Aquinas, Blue Valley and Miege. They played powers Blue Valley and Miege to both 18-points losses. Andy Sims and the Mustangs got a huge win on the road last week over 5A defending champ Mill Valley 52-23. Grant Hamel has proved to do a little bit of everything recently for BVN as he has over 525 yards of all-purpose yards with 10 touchdowns in the last two games combined. You can’t look into records in the Eastern Kansas League, any given week anything can happen, just look at the Aquinas loss last week over BV Southwest, who entered 0-6. This week North gets BVSW.

Blue Valley Southwest (5A)

Obviously Blue Valley Southwest deserves a shoutout here as they did the unthinkable on Friday and defeated previously 5A #2 ranked St. Thomas Aquinas 30-27. Why is this a big deal? Well Southwest had zero wins on the season and Aquinas was starting to look like the favorite on 5A East so far this season. Doesn't still mean that Aquinas cant be the 5A east rep, but the one thing that it does mean is not to look into the records of the Eastern Kansas League. It shows on a given night, anyone can beat anyone and some times you have those nights where the football just doesn't bounce your way. BVSW deserves a lot of credit here and four of their losses are by a combined 21 points. Records can be mis-leading. If the 5A playoffs started today, BVSW would be the #13 seed in 5A West and would get #4 seed Pittsburg (4-3), a game that wouldn't be out of reach for the Timberwolves. These 5A playoffs are going to be interesting with everyone making them in week nine, there are a lot of teams with a shot. 

Goddard (5A)

The Lions have continued to impress us every week. Nobody, outside of people close to the program, had them at 7-1 at this point and ranked in 5A, but they are. A 29-point loss to Derby is their only loss on the season but that has nothing to do with 5A as Derby is looking to be on a whole different level than anyone in Wichita this season and is number one in 6A. Goddard got a statement victory over previously undefeated Valley Center, 49-7, on Friday as they head into the final week of the season against Newton. Goddard is one of those four teams that have really stood out to us on the 5A west bracket including Great Bend (7-0), Bishop Carroll (5-2) and Wichita Heights (6-1). 5A playoffs are going to be exciting this year, because there is no clear cut favorite on either side of the state. Last week statewide was certainly shook up with the losses by Heights and Aquinas.

Topeka Seaman (5A)

Topeka-Seaman continues to win under first year head coach Glenn O'Neil, the longtime successful football and basketball coach at Scott City. The Vikes won just two games last year and are off to a 6-1 start in 2016. They got an impressive road win last friday over 6A Washburn Rural, 34-27. This week will be a huge challenge for Seaman as they take on 6A Junction City (6-1). They may not have the Eastern Kansas League schedule as some of the 5As will have as they head into the playoffs in week nine, but the Centennial League will have them prepped to be a team to watch on 5A East this season. Emporia State commit Dalton Cowan leads the Seaman offense this season and is one of 5A's top quarterbacks. 

Miege (4A-I)

Can anyone hang with the Stags in 4A-I? It doesn’t seem like it when we look at in on paper but that’s not to say someone won’t give them a game this season, but don’t be surprise if anyone comes within a few touchdowns. Eudora was no challenge for Miege on Friday as they won 51-0. Carter Putz continues to be up in the top passing leaders in Kansas, they have a back-up in Graham Mertz that could probably start for about any other program in the state and feature Mizzou signee Jafar Armstrong at wide receiver, who continues to be double-teamed every week and still has 600 yards receiving in limited action. Landry Weber, an all-state defensive back, has stepped up huge in 2016 as a receiver for the Stags as he leads them with over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns. The offensive line has been led by Colin Grunhard, a four-year starter and FBS prospect, while freshman Bryson Cobbins has stepped up big as a running back. The defense has been led by senior Joe Watskey with 60 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Dylan Downing has 53 stops on the season. Also throw in big years from Iowa commit D’jmon Colbert and Joseph Gleason. They don’t have many weaknesses on this team, look out 4A-I, Miege is looking to three-peat.

De Soto (4A-I)

Nobody is talking about De Soto in 4A-I and it isn’t exactly a football powerhouse with seven playoff wins in the history of its program, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give them a lot of credit for what they’ve done so far in 2016. Outside of a week three loss to then ranked Louisburg, the Wildcats have won four consecutive and have only allowed 20 points during that time. They will have a very hard time this week keeping up with Bishop Miege, who anybody in 4A-I will have a hard time doing anything against the Stags, but De Soto has Eudora in week nine and look to be the favorite to get that second playoff spot after their impressive 14-13 win over Spring Hill last Friday. The Wildcats have shown the ability to close out games and also did so in a come from behind victory in week one over Ottawa, 28-27. Hats off to De Soto for the impressive 6-1 start.

Frontenac (4A-II) & Columbus (4A-II)

These two programs seem to be ones emerging in 4A-II since we’ve started the classification just two years ago. Both are in the same league (CNC) and in the same district and will play each other this week, both also 7-0. Columbus was the state runner-up in 2014 but lost to Frontenac in their districts that season, and Frontenac was ousted in the second round by Santa Fe Trail. Last season, Columbus was a semifinalist in 4A-II losing to Holton as Frontenac lost to Holton in the second round. Friday night will have the CNC league title on the line along with the district championship. This could very well be a game we could see once again in the playoffs. Frontenac, led by head coach Mark Smith, has been outstanding in 2016 as they have only allowed 47 points in seven weeks. They also feature arguably the best quarterback in the classification in senior Brandon Mlekus. Columbus, led by head coach Dan Grundy, has been more challenged by the CNC league schedule this year but have been led by one of the top playmakers in 4A-II in receiver/running back Keenan Stanley, one of the state’s top juniors. This will be the game to watch in the Southeast Kansas are this week at Columbus. Right now our four teams to take a serious look at on 4A East are Frontenac, Hayden, Holton and Columbus.

Topeka Hayden (4A-II) & Holton (4A-II)

You probably get sick of us saying Topeka Hayden is still a contender to get to the 4A-II title game despite their early losses, well we are still saying it. Big win for Hayden as the knocked off previously undefeated Santa Fe Trail, 27-6, in week seven of the district. Their four losses this season came to 5A/6A programs and have helped them prepare for 4A-II play. The Wildcats aren’t one of the typical Hayden teams, but they don’t have to be. This is the first year Hayden is in 4A-II and the district championship is on the line this week against Holton. Do keep in mind, Holton losses aren’t bad either as the three teams they’ve lost to combine to be 19-2. Right now our four teams to take a serious look at on 4A East are Frontenac, Hayden, Holton and Columbus.

Nemaha Central (3A)

The Thunder, led by head coach Warren Seitz, are at team we need to start considering as a contender on 3A East. Yeah we know it all goes through Silver Lake and Rossville, in fact the two have played for every single state title game in 3A since 2002, with the exception of one (2009, Marysville). The Thunder beat their rival Sabetha at home on Friday 20-14 and also have an impressive victory over 4A-II Holton, 43-42, in week three. To us Nemaha seems to be a top 3-4 team in that Eastern side of the state at this point. Kpreps rankings have them at #5 in 3A Kansas as they jump into the poll for the first time this season.

Southeast of Saline (3A)

Southeast of Saline isn’t ranked in the Kpreps poll but let’s face it, becoming ranked in 3A is very difficult to do compared to other classes. We have 64 teams to choose from and it seems to be 10-deep about every year, so let’s not always put a lot of stock into rankings. Quarterback Bryce Banks and athlete Ben Murray have this team off to a 7-0 start and their last two weeks have been what’s most impressive as they’ve beat two previously undefeated teams by a combined score of 96-to-32. This weeks home game against Hesston (4-3) won’t be easy and should be the biggest test that Southeast has had so far. Hesston has been tested and has lost to quality 3A teams like Garden Plain, Halstead, and 4A-II Nickerson.

Troy (2-1A) & Jeff County North (2-1A)

These are teams of two different hypes. Troy is expected to be undefeated on the year and expected to win a state title this year after falling by one point to Phillipsburg in last year’s 2-1A title game. Jefferson County North (2-1A) is a team nobody expected to be 7-0 at this point, although they made the playoffs and were 6-4 a year ago. Troy has played a pretty quality and average schedule for a 2-1A program this year, but they’ve played a much tougher overall schedule than that of JCN. They are also coming off a victory over a ranked team in Washington County. In fact, JC North strength of schedule is ranked 34th out of 35th by Prep Power Index, while Troy is at 19th.  Troy will be the favorite for sure in this contest and dominated North last year 51-16, but we can expect a better game than what we would have thought back in September this Friday in Winchester.

St. Paul (8M-I)

The Indians, who were a known power in the 80s, 90’s, early 00’s have an undefeated football team through seven weeks of the season. Keith Wiatrak has SPHS at 7-0 headed into week eight with a match-up of a struggling Southern Coffey County squad. With a win the Indians would improve to 8-0 and have a match-up with Sedan (6-1) for the district title in week eight. SP had a good year last season at 6-3 but really struggled in 2013 and 2014 with just four combined wins. St. Paul will look to make the playoffs for the first time in six years as they last made it in 2010 under long-time successful coach Doug Tuck. St. Paul is 27-20 all-time in the Kansas playoffs with 20 appearances as a school.

St. Johns Tipton (8M-II), Pike Valley (8M-II), Rock Hills (8M-II)

St. Johns Tipton and Pike Valley have been impressive in 2016 and are off to a 6-1 start and 3-0 in district play. SJ/Tipton lost to 8M-I ranked Osborne by 32 in week two, while Pike Valley also lost to Osborne by two in week four. So if we’re basing it off of score comparisons, Pike Valley will be the favorite, but it’s a good thing we’re not, anything can happen with a lot on the line. Both of these squads will battle each other on Friday for what will have a lot to do with who wins the district championship, however Rock Hills is still in the mix with a 2-1 record in district play despite falling to Pike Valley. Just getting the runner-up spot to get into the playoffs with be brutal for all these schools. Pike Valley and Rock Hills have a week nine meeting that could either decide the district title or district runner-up spot at this point.