Sports in Kansas: Who's Who in the State Title Games?

Troy is back into the state finals and looking for first ever state title. (photo: Joey May)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 22, 2016

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6A State Title Game: Emporia 

Blue Valley (12-0) 

The Tigers punched their ticket to the 6A state title game for the second consecutive year with a 36-35 OT victory over SM East by completing a two point conversion pass to win the ball game. This marks the 13th title game appearance for BV, who has been perhaps the most consistent program in Kansas over the last 25 years. The Tigers are 6-6 in title games and their last championship came in 5A in 2013. Eric Driskell has won two state titles as the Tiger head head coach (2010, 2013), while Steve Rampy, current offensive coordinator at Pittsburg State, won four (1991, 1998, 2003, 2006). Blue Valley is 47-14 (77% winning percentage) all-time in the KSHSAA state playoffs with 21 appearances as a school. First year starting quarterback Matthew Dercher has passed for over 2,900 yards this season with 34 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Will Evans has rushed for 1,575 yards for Blue Valley this season, while picking up over 400 more receiving. Harrison VanDyne has also had a breakout year at receiver where he has over 1,000 yards in 2016. Michael Maffry is one of the best defenders in Kansas and has over 300 tackles the last two seasons.

Head Coach: Eric Driskell, 70-16 (7th year), 12-0 in 2016.

League: Eastern Kansas League

Location: Overland Park, Kansas (population 173,372)

Key Players: Harrison VanDyne (WR/DB), Michael Maffry (LB), Kirrian Kirby (OL), Matthew Dercher (QB), Gus Gomez (WR), Ashkon Saravi (LB), Will Evans (RB), Cade Green (WR)

Best Win: 36-35 OT over SM East in the 6A Semifinal or 35-28 over Bishop Miege in week one.

Derby (12-0)

The Panthers will play in their eighth state title game in school history this Saturday in Emporia and will be going for their  third state title in four years (2013,2015), all under Brandon Clark. Derby has dominated opponents this season to a perfect 12-0 record entering the title game, including a 45-21 win over Free State in Friday’s sub-state championship game, the closest margin of victory throughout the Panthers 2016 playoff run. Derby’s first state title came in 1994 under Tom Young. The Panthers are 41-25 all-time in the KSHSAA state playoffs, with a 3-4 record in the state title game. Brody Kooser leads the charge at running back with over 1,500 yards this season, while Daniel Dawdy has passed for over 2,500 yards. KU commit Kenyon Tabor has 1,128 yards receiving this season for the Panthers.

Head Coach: Brandon Clark, 92-33 (11th year). 12-0 in 2016.

League: AVCTL I
Location: Derby, Kansas (Population 23,509)

Key Players: Kenyon Tabor (WR/TE), Brody Kooser (RB), Daniel Dawdy (QB), Peerlus Walker (DT), Riley Cain (DL), Evan Clark (OL), Kai Lemons (ATH), Tanner Igo (DB), Tommy Carter (LB)

Best Win: 49-21 over Free State in 6A semis, two wins over Hutch, 35-6 win over 5A state representative Goddard at half

5A State Title Game: Pittsburg

Goddard (11-1)

The Lions are in the state title game for the first time since 1988 with their 50-21 playoff victory over Great Bend in the 5A sub-state championship game last Friday. Goddard is 11-1 this season with their lone loss coming to 6A title game representative, Derby, 35-6 in week two. Scott Vang has taken a 6-4 team from last season that returned 13 total starters on both sides into the title game. Goddard hasn’t been known as being a state football power with just 12 playoff wins as a school in the 15 trips to the state playoffs. The Lions will look to make history on Saturday in Pittsburg with their first ever state football title as they will look to knock off the defending state champion Mill Valley. Scott Vang has done an outstanding job with the build-up of this program, which split schools a few years back to make Goddard and Goddard-Eisenhower. Blake Sullivan has passed for over 1,500 yards and rushed for 1,200 more this season, while Kody Gonzalez has over 1,600 yards rushing for the Lions.

Head Coach: Scott Vang, 25-25 (5th year), 11-1 in 2016.

League: AVCTL II

Location: Goddard, Kansas (population 4,719)

Key Players: Kody Gonzalez (RB), Blake Sullivan (QB), A.J. Vang (OL), Justin Dean (OL), Angel Garcia (OL), Garrett Morrow (OL), Cale Davidson (DE), Ethan Wright (DL), Dayton Driskell (DL), Justin Amaro (LB)

Best Win: The dominating sub-state championship win over Great Bend, 50-21. 

Mill Valley (8-4)

Mill Valley is back in the 5A state title game for the second consecutive year, but this year with a brand new cast of players. The Jaguars (8-4), who joined the EKL this year, have been battle tested with four losses this season. Mill Valley is 10-9 all-time in the KSHSAA state playoffs, with eight of those wins coming in 2015 and 2016. Mill Valley opened in 2000-2001 and since then it has made the playoffs 11 times, not bad for a school just a little over 15 years old. The Jaguars punched their ticket to this year’s 5A title game with a 14-13 victory over Aquinas in last Friday’s 5A sub-state championship game, a team they have now went 3-1 against over the past two seasons. The Jaguars lost to Aquinas earlier this year in EKL play before winning Friday’s rematch. MV returned just three offensive starters and two defensive starters off last year’s state championship team. Junior Brody Flaming has passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 in his first year as a starting quarterback. On the defense, Joel Donn leads that unit with 177 tackles in 2016 from his safety position.

Head Coach: Joel Applebee, 56-20 (7th season). 8-4 in 2016.

League: Eastern Kansas League

Location: Shawnee, Kansas (population 65,046)

Key Players: Joel Donn (DB), Brody Flaming (QB), Ben Hartman (WR), Cameron Young (RB), Keegan Zars (OL), Logan Talley (WR), Dylan Smith (LB), Ike Valencia (DL), Evan Rice (DB/WR).

Best Win: 14-13 Semifinal victory over St. Thomas Aquinas, after losing to them in the regular season.

4A-I State Title Game: Topeka

Bishop Miege (11-1)

Miege punched its ticket to their third consecutive 4A-I title game as they dominated previously undefeated Basehor-Linwood, 52-0, in Friday’s semifinal. The Stags have one loss this season, 35-28, in week one, to 6A state championship representative Blue Valley. Carter Putz has passed for 2,907 yards this season for Miege after passing for over 3,000 as a sophomore last fall. Receivers Landry Weber and Jafar Armstrong each have over 1,000 yards receiving for the Stags. Nobody has come close competing with Miege in 4A-I this season, but Buhler should be the best 4A-I team the Stags have faced, but Miege will still be favored by a lot in this one. The Stags are 39-21 all-time in the Kansas playoffs with 28 playoff appearances. Saturday will mark the 10th appearance for them in state football championship game, with a 6-3 title game record. Jon Holmes is 2-1 in state title games a head coach, but undefeated in the 4A-I title game (2014, 2015), as the Stags took second in 5A in 2012.

Head Coach: Jon Holmes, 52-10 (5th season). 11-1 in 2016.

League: Eastern Kansas League

Location: Mission, Kansas (Population 9,516)

Key Players: Landry Weber (WR/DB), Carter Putz (QB), Jafar Armstrong (WR), Colin Grunhard (OL), Dylan Downing (LB), Joe Watskey (LB), Brison Cobbins (RB), Joseph Gleaseon (TE/DE), Djimon Colbert (DB), Cameron Key (DB/RB)

Best Win: 64-21 over 5A championship representative Mill Valley in week three of EKL play.

Buhler (11-1)

Buhler punched its ticket to their second state title game in four years as they defeated Maize South 27-7 in last Friday’s 4A-I state championship game. Buhler last won a state title in 2013, when they won the last ever year of 4A before the split. The Crusaders are undefeated against 4A-I competition this season with their only loss coming to 4A-II Collegiate in in week three (45-21). They are led by senior running back Dalton Brown who has rushed for 1,896 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Ethan White has passed for over 1,000 as a first year starter, while rushing for nearly 500 more. Dalton Smyres has 31 receptions for 763 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Buhler is in their third title game as a school and have now made the title game in three different classifications (4A-I, 4A, 5A). They are 1-1 in title games, winning 4A in 2013, and finishing second in 5A back in 1990. They are 27-17 all-time in the Kansas playoffs with 19 playoff appearances as a school.

Head Coach: Steve Warner, 108-25 (11th season at Buhler), 230-86 (overall). 11-1 in 2016.

League: AVCTL III

Location: Buhler, Kansas (Population 1,327)

Key Players: Dalton Brown (RB), Ethan White (QB), Jack Goertzen (LB/FB), Dalton Smyres (WR).

Best Win: 27-7 win over Maize South in last week’s semifinal, marking the second victory over the Mavericks this season. Several others could also be ranked up there with wins over McPherson, Andale and Mulvane this season.

4A-II State Title Game: Salina 

Topeka Hayden (8-4)

Hayden is in a state football title game for the seventh time in school history and looking for their first state title since 2008. The Wildcats are 8-4 this season but are undefeated against any competition below 5A, as all four losses came to 5A & 6A in the Centennial League. Hayden returned just three offensive starters and five defensive starters coming into the season. Hayden has 26 all-time playoff appearances in the Kansas playoffs and is 54-22 as a school in playoff games, with three state titles (1998, 2004, 2008). The Hayden defense has been solid in the playoffs led by defensive lineman Jake Heit. Tomas Stringer had a big night rushing for 106 yards in the semifinal win over Holton last Friday, marking the second time the Wildcats beat Holton this season. 

Head Coach: Bill Arnold, 93-31 (10th year). 8-4 in 2016.

Best Win: 23-20 victory over 5A Shawnee Heights on a 46 yard field goal by Patrick Ellrich as time expired after trailing by 10 entering fourth quarter.

League: Centennial League

Location: Topeka, Kansas (population 127, 265)

Key Players: Jake Heit (DL), Tomas Stringer (FB), Brent Peavler (LB), Connor Hobart (RB), A.J. Shaw (LB), Andrew Smith (RB), Sampson Huston (QB), Patrick Ellrich (K)

Pratt (11-1)

The Greenbacks finished 4-5 last year and were a team entering the season that nobody even considered to be a team receiving votes in the rankings. Injuries hurt Pratt last year but this year they used that experience of eight starters returning on each side of the football from last year to develop into a contender. The Greenbacks are led by running back Travis Theis, a sophomore, who has over 1,700 yards rushing this season. Senior speedster athlete Hunter Kaufman can do a little bit of everything as he has nearly 1,900 all-purpose yards this season. Pratt is in its first state title game since 1995, when they won it all. The Greenbacks are 18-21 all-time in the Kansas playoffs. Pratt got into the state title game as they knocked off defending 4A-II champ, Holcomb, for the second time this year, 21-14. Jamie Cruce has done an outstanding job in building this team into a state title contender as he entered this season just 11-17 in his three years as the head coach.

Head Coach: Jamie Cruce, 22-18 (4th year)

League: Central Kansas League

Location: Pratt, Kansas (Population 6,835)

Key Players: Travis Theis (RB), Logan Baird (LB), Noah Myers (SL/DB), Hunter Kaufman (ATH/DB), Landen Studer (QB), Nick Lucas (LB), Bryce Stegman (OL/DL), Traik Peltier (OL/DL)

Best Win: 21-14 semifinal victory over Holcomb putting them into the title game for the first time since 1995. It also marked the second time they beat Holcomb this season.

3A State Title Game: Hutchinson

Hesston (10-3)

The Swathers are in the title game for the first time since 1992. What’s also crazy is the last time they were in the title game, they also played Rossville, winning 3-0 on a cold and windy day in Wichita, 24 years ago. The Swathers are into the state championship for the third time in school history and have a 1-1 record in the title game, taking second in 1989. Hesston is 23-16 all-time in the state playoffs with 18 appearances as a school. Everyone knew Hesston was a consistent team to get in the playoffs but not many had them in this position after starting out the season 1-3, as the Swathers were not ranked the entire year until about a week ago. Hesston has caught fire and won nine straight ball games and are led by senior quarterback Zach Essau, who has passed for over 2,600 yards this season, he has also rushed for nearly 1,000 more. Sophomore running back Parker Roth has rushed for over 1,100 yards this season. Zac Vogt and Cameron Cox lead the receiving corps as they each have had huge seasons. Clint Rider has been outstanding since coming to Hesston and has a 36-8 record as the Swathers head coach in four years. Hesston is very balances offensively, averaging 193.1 yards passing per game, while rushing for 171.7 yards per game. The most impressive thing is Hesston has dominated two very physical and run oriented football teams (Phillipsburg, Hoisington) over the last two weeks.

Head Coach: Clint Rider, 36-8 (4th season), 43-19 (overall). 10-3 in 2016.

League: Central Kansas League

Location: Hesston, Kansas (population 3,709)

Key Players: Zac Vogt (WR), Cameron Cox (WR), Zach Essau (QB), Parker Roth (RB), Tanner Bachman (WR)

Best Win: 35-19 home playoff victory over Hoisington in the 3A semifinals or the 38-26 victory over Phillipsburg the week prior to snap their 18-game winning streak, while on the road.

Rossville (12-1)

Rossville is in its third consecutive state championship game. The job Derick Hammes has done in his first four years as the head coach for Rossville is incredible. Hammes is 53-2 as the head coach of the Dawgs, which almost seems made up, especially since state power Silver Lake is next door, who he is 4-2 against. Rossville got into the title game with an impressive hard faught 27-22 victory over Nemaha Central last Friday in the semifinals. They are led by first year starting quarterback Jacob Bradshaw, who is putting together of one of the best seasons in Kansas, after taking over this year from one of the best ever to play at the 3A level in Tucker Horak. Bradshaw has put together Horak type of numbers this year as he has rushed for over 2,400 yards and passed for more than 1,600 this season with 51 total touchdowns (29 rushing, 22 passing). Cole Schumacher has over 1,000 yards receiving for the Bulldawgs in 2016. Rossville defense is led by senior Dawson Hammes, an all-state linebacker last fall who has battled an injury this season, but has still managed to rack up a team leading 156 tackles over 10 games. The lone Dawg’ loss came to Silver Lake back in week five (36-28). Rossville or Silver Lake has been represented in the 3A state title game every single year since 2002, with the exception of one season (Marysville, 2009).

Head Coach: Derick Hammes, 53-2 (4th season), 12-1 in 2016.

League: Mid-East League

Location: Rossville, Kansas (population 1,151)

Key Players: Jacob Bradshaw (QB), Cole Schumacher (WR), Dawson Hammes (LB), Perry Foster (RB), Sheldon Hubert (LB), Trevor Balch (SS)

Best Win: 27-22 Semifinal Victory over Nemaha Central last Friday.

2-1A State Title Game: Hays 

Plainville (11-1)

The Cardinals are in the state championship game for the first time since 1985. They make their third all-time appearance this Saturday in a state championship game where they are 2-0 all-time in title games. Plainville is 21-14 all-time in the Kansas playoffs. The Cardinals got to the state title game with an impressive 14-0 victory over Smith Center in the state semifinals last Friday, the second time this season they got a win over SC this season. Plainville lone loss came in Mid-Continent League play to Phillipsburg (3A), last year’s 2-1A state champion. Plainville has been impressive on defense with five shutouts this season. The most impressive thing about this season is that the Cardinals were 3-6 one season ago. The Mid-Continent League is one of the best 2A/3A leagues in Kansas and has the Cards battle tested this season. They are led by senior Hayden Friend who has done it all this season for Plainville at quarterback and defensive back. Friend has passed for over 1,800 yards this season and rushed for over 1,100 more with 46 total touchdowns. Riley Nyp has also had a huge senior campaign with 1,450 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Ryan Buresh has over 800 receiving yards this season for the Cardinals. Plainville has just a 25 mile trip to Hays, while Troy has a 271 mile haul. 

Head Coach: Grant Stephenson, 14-7 (2nd season), 11-1 in 2016.

League: Mid-Continent League

Location: Plainville, Kansas (population 1,903)

Key Players: Riley Nyp (RB), Hayden Friend (QB/DB), Ryan Buresh (WR), Hayden Gillum (LB), Jared Casey (DL)  Willie Wilkerson (DL), Noah Hanson (DB)

Best Win: 14-0 shutout victory over Smith Center in last week’s semifinal, the second time they beat SC this season.

Troy (12-0)

The Trojans are in their second consecutive state title game after their dominating 28-0 victory over traditional state power, Colgan, on Friday. The Trojans are led offensively by Quarterback Reid Greaser and wide receivers, Cuttar Huss and Brody Winder. Huss is dominant in all three phases of the game and will be a three-time all-state selection after the season is over. He has over 1,000 yards receiving this season and Winder is not far behind. Greaser has had back-to-back seasons of over 2,000 yards passing as a second year starter. Running Back Alex Martinez has also came on strong in the rushing game over the playoffs for the Trojans. Derek Jasper, a former all-state quarterback at Troy in the early nineties, is 39-8 since taking over the Troy program in 2013 and has had them at least in the semifinals in each of the last three seasons. Defensively, the Trojans are led by senior all-state defensive lineman Wil Smith, who leads the team in sacks, they limited a very speedy Colgan team last week to just 65 yards of total offense. Last season the Trojans lost by one point in the state title game to Phillipsburg, a team that is now in 3A, and also in the Mid-Continent League like Plainville. Phillipsburg was the only team to beat Plainville this season and the last team that Troy lost to.

Head Coach: Derek Jasper, 39-8 (4th season), 12-0 in 2016.

Key Players: Cuttar Huss (WR/DB), Brody Winder (WR), Wil Smith (OL/DL), Reid Greaser (QB), Alex Martinez (RB), Wyatt Huss (OL/DL)

League: Twin Valley League

Location: Troy, Kansas (population 1,010)

Best Win: 28-0 shutout victory over Colgan in the 2-1A semifinal last Friday by holding SMC to just 65 yards of offense.