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Balanced East or just SM East?
The East teams all seem to be beating up on each other, have out of state losses or out of class losses. What do we mean? BV North is very well a contender on the east bracket and is 3-3 with losses to Blue Valley (6A), Miege (4A-I) and Aquinas (5A). Blue Valley is also a contender with losses to St. James (5A) and Miege (4A-I). If we had to pick a favorite, we like SM East on the east at this point and they are undefeated against Kansas, with their only loss coming to Rockhurst. Lawrence is also 4-2 on the season and meets SME this week. The Sunflower League seems to be down as a whole compared to where it once was with the Olathe schools near the top, but it isn’t out of the question that you could see an All-SFL 6A final with Free State, who goes west bracket, meeting SM East. A lot of contenders will look to prevent that from happening on both sides of the bracket.
Free State remains the only undefeated team in 6A football out of 32 total teams. What does that mean? Nothing besides a one seed if they can go 8-0 into week nine but the Firebirds seem to be the most impressive team in 6A football so far, however some EKL teams have played better schedules. The Free State defense led by Gage Foster is very impressive, holding every opponent to no more than two scores. The offense has scored at least 31 against all Kansas competition. The most impressive victory came back in week three as they beat the #1 team in Missouri at the time in Park Hill (21-16). Since then the schedule hasn’t been the greatest but they’ve dominated. Olathe East and Lawrence could be good tests before Free State goes west again for the 2017 playoffs. Derby, Free State, Topeka, Wichita Northwest, Manahttan? The west is starting to seem like there are multiple contenders in 2017. Garden City and Hutch are also off to 5-1 starts.
The Grizzlies continue to win after dropping their season opener to Bishop Carroll in the last 15 seconds of the game. They have won five in a row and even trailed 23-6 at half last Friday against Garden City before going on a 30-0 run in the second half to win 36-23. The Grizzlies defense stepped up big in the second half and an interception return for touchdown by Jordan Herrman with under two minutes remaining would seal the deal. Austin Anderson, Breece Hall, and Jax Reynolds are big weapons offensively for the Grizzlies while Josh Carter and division one recruit Marcus Hicks lead the defense.
Ivan Webb, Schlagle
As long as he is the leading rusher in the state he will continue to get a mention. Webb picked up his first FCS offer on Friday morning from Missouri State and a few hours later he was rushing for 283 yards in the win 54-7 win over Sumner. On the season Webb has 1,928 yards to lead the state of Kansas in all-classes.
Only two remain unbeaten as we approach week six, one on the east in KC Schlagle (6-0) and one on the west in Goddard (6-0). Schlagle has benefited from a softer schedule than the majority in this class but they do feature one of the top backs in the state as mentioned above in Ivan Webb. Goddard has one of the best wins in Kansas this year as they dominated Derby. They shouldn't be challenged too much until the playoffs, however Valley Center (5-1) is on the schedule this coming week. Goddard may have the most impressive win this season out of 5A but maybe the most impressive team is the Saints of St. Thomas Aquinas (5-1). Their offense is rolling and the defense is playing lights out recently. The Saints will be a hard out in November with their rushing attack and will be the favorite to reach the title game on the east. Pittsburg is also 4-2 on the year with two losses to Missouri Class 4 powers #1 Webb City and #2 Carl Junction, without their starting quarterback. St. James wasn't on the same level as Aquinas this past week, but we've also seen rematches go the other way if they were to meet up again, see Mill Valley last year. Mill Valley is really struggling at 2-4 but they were also 3-4 after seven weeks last year and won a title. Shawnee Heights may be the best 5A team from Topeka and Seaman is also 4-2. As far as West goes, Bishop Carroll (5-1) will also be a hard out as well Wichita Heights (4-2), they both meet each other this week. Kapaun (4-2) has also showed improvement from last year as they have lost two competitive games in a row to Wichita Northwest and Heights.
Andale is 6-0 yet not very many people outside of Wichita seem to be talking about what could be the most consistent 4A level program in Kansas over the last 15 years. They dominated Wichita Collegiate 35-7 on Friday, they also dominated a very good Mulvane team when Jayden Price was healthy earlier in the season. The defense is the strength of this program with three shutouts and four games under a touchdown or less. They get Buhler this week. Many would call an upset if Andale were to win, but we don’t feel that way. This should be a very even matchup. Andale fell 28-21 last year. For us it seems like Andale, Buhler, McPherson and Maize South are all the same caliber. It’s been proven with that of the AVTCL-III teams, but now Andale gets it’s crack at Buhler. These 4A-I district/playoffs are going to be some fun and may even see rematches. First year Andale head coach Dylan Schmidt, a multiple sport all-state himself at Andale, has done a great job with this year’s group.
DeSoto, Miege, Tonganoxie remain the only three unbeaten teams on the east in 4A-I, while Andale remains the only unbeaten on the west. None of that matters as we enter district play this week in week seven, the last year of districts, as next year we will go to an everyone makes playoffs system in week nine by seeds 1-16 on east and 1-16 on west. DeSoto and Miege will meet in week eight. DeSoto has been dominant and is one of the nice surprises out of the Frontier League, but you’re going to have to be very dominant to hang around with the Stags in week eight. Tonganoxie is off to a solid start, but strength of schedule is a concern, while Andale gets their chance to take another step against a loaded Buhler squad this week.
Sam Hardin, Wichita Trinity
The senior dual-threat quarterback continues to dominate the stat columns in Kansas. He has passed for 1,606 yards with 22 touchdowns while rushing for 563 more with four touchdowns. He had seven total touchdowns in Friday’s win over Belle Plaine, six with his arm and one with his legs. Wichita Trinity is 3-3 entering 4A-II district play but all three losses to 3A competition that is a combined 18-0.
Mason Strader, Holton
Strader, also a known track and field athlete in the state, is the Holton quarterback, which essentially means you don’t pass much in the wishbone aka “Barta-Bone”. On Friday he rushed for 249 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Hiawatha.
Scott City and Pratt remain the only unbeaten teams in 4A-II football after Columbus fell 33-29 to Galena last Friday. This is definitely a classification when we say records don’t really matter, they really don’t. This class has teams that play in bigger leagues and teams that play in smaller leagues, so records can be a bit deceiving. Wichita Collegiate (3-3) and Hayden (2-4) are still very much alive to make deep playoff runs in this class. Pratt, last years 4A-II champ, has won 14 in a row dating back to last year. They have figured out a way to close out games, with three of their wins being by 10 points or less. The much anticipated district match-up between Pratt and Holcomb (5-1) awaits in week eight. Scott City seems to be getting it done with their defense as nobody has scored over two touchdowns on them this season. As far as the east, nobody remains unbeaten but Columbus and Hayden definitely highlight the list of heavy contenders and you can never count out a Brooks Barta coached team at Holton.
Conway Springs & the loaded district
The Cardinals continue to roll and have dominated everyone they’ve played this year. Whether its Trenton Jones, Colton Terhune or Riley Akiu carrying it they are producing big in the single-wing. Jones has 1,176 yards on 53 carries this season with 20 total touchdowns. His yards per carry are 22.2 after six games. Entering last week he had only 31 carries on the season for 912 yards, a 29.4 ypc average. His 22 carries on Friday almost were as many as he had all season prior. Conway is rolling right now but so is nearby rival Garden Plain. The two meet this Friday and are both undefeated. Also another note of this district: Conway Springs (6-0), Cheney (6-0), Garden Plain (6-0), Chaparral (5-1). Only two get out. Best of luck to the teams going through this gauntlet in the next three weeks. Will we see the point tiebreaker again?
Galena ended its CNC five year losing streak to the 4A-II #1 Columbus Titans on Friday at home with a 33-29 victory. A sack with under a minute by Drake Adams of the Bulldogs would seal the deal for the Titans. Quarterback J.C. Shelton has seemed to emerge as one of the top junior play makers in 3A this fall, getting it done with his arm, legs and on special teams. On Friday, Shelton had two rushing touchdowns, a passing touchdown, and a punt return for TD. The Bulldogs, led by head coach Beau Sarwinski, are a blue-collared, hard-nosed, run-first team with a solid offensive and defensive line that will make them a contender in November. The Bulldogs feature several weapons offensively that makes it hard for defenses to key on just one player. 3A is a loaded division this year but so are the Bulldogs.
After dropping a game to Pratt in week five it seemed like going into this game Nickerson may be given the edge, but that wasn’t the case on Friday night as the Cardinals beat the Panthers, 32-14. Hoisington defense played outstanding as they forced six turnovers, five of which were interceptions. That was ultimately the difference in this CKL matchup as Hoisington knocked off the #4 ranked 4A-II team in the Kpreps Poll.
Austin Hunt, Southeast-Cherokee
Hunt is the only senior on a team that hasn’t won a game since the 2014 season. Hunt is also one of the smallest players in the league, standing 5-foot-7 and weighing 145 pounds, but it hasn’t stopped him from continually showing up, working hard, and doing his job despite not winning a game since his freshman year. He has four interceptions this year which rank second in all classes of Kansas. Southeast also has had two open dates on their schedule, so Hunt has done that in just four games. Often times we get carried away covering the teams at the top and not at the bottom, but it’s not to take away what some kids are doing on struggling teams. Hats off to Austin for a solid season on defense in 2017. Southeast should have a shot to be competitive against an 0-6 Riverton team this week, a win in this game would be be the first since October 10th of 2014 (NE Arma, 27-20).
The Eagles finally put a full game together which could have been their best game all year in the five they played, one week they had off due to Wabaunsee forfeit. After some struggles with turnovers and penalties in past games, the Eagles offense put it together out-gaining Riley County 399-to-91. The defense of Silver Lake is the strength but with the offense clicking right now it could make the Eagles a very hard team to beat on 3A East. We may have Nemaha as the favorite on East, a team who knocked the Eagles off in the playoffs last year, but as you know only Marysville (2009) has been the only non-Silver Lake/Rossville team to make a 3A title appearance on east since 2002.
Neal Bever, Sedgwick
Bever continues to be a ballhawk for Sedgwick. In 16 career games he now has 16 career interceptions. ON Friday against Medicine Lodge he had two interceptions returned for touchdown. He had 11 interceptions as a junior last fall and has five this season to rank tied first in Kansas. What’s most impressive is he is well known after last year and continues to do it this year with a target on his back.
Dexton Swinehart, Lyndon
He is the swiss-army knife of Kansas high school football. According to Brent Maycock of the Capital-Journal Swinehart had 236 yards rushing, five touchdowns, completed a pass, had two catches for 53 yards, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions on defense. If there was a statewide player of the week, he gets our nod. Swinehart has scored 25 total touchdowns this season in six weeks. In his career he has scored in five different ways: pass, rush, reception, kickoff return, punt return. Now we just need him to take an interception to the house and a fumble recovery to the house
Not that the Wildcats schedule has been anything great but they were preseason #5 (coaches poll) picked in their league (TRL) this year out of six teams and are 5-1 with their only loss coming to an out of state opponent. They have also beat two teams picked ahead of them in preseason. Polls don’t matter obviously but the Wildcats are coming off back to back impressive victories over Sedan (36-28) and Madison (46-6). They get the league preseason favorite St. Paul this week at home to prove if they are the real deal. St. Paul is coming off a district loss to West Elk last Friday. Marmaton and West Elk remain 2-0 in district play, while Sedan and St. Paul have a 1-1 record. This is a key match-up for at least that second playoff spot this week against the Indians. The following week they get West Elk. Marmaton Valley is led by Trevor Wilson who continually puts up big rushing stats week in and week out, averaging 127 yards per game. Congrats to head coach Gavin Cole, a former Shrine Bowl selection for Marmaton, on the great start to 2017.
The Buffs would knock off the #1 team in the Kpreps poll on Friday 40-32 to win the yoke against St. Francis. This was a major upset in the 8M-I loaded district that also features Hoxie, who beat Rawlins Co. and lost to St. Francis. If all teams finish 5-1 in district play, which is very likely, it will come down to a point tiebreaker for the two playoff spots. With three district games remaining, according to Kpreps districts standing, Rawlins Co. can finish no better than 5-1 with a district point margin of 76 points, while Hoxie can finish with 92 and St. Francis can finish with 84, both being 5-1. Rawlins Co. will have to not only win all of their games but hope for an upset or close games by St. Francis and Hoxie.
Only four teams remain unbeaten in 8M-I football. Burlingame, Satanta, Spearville and West Elk are all 6-0 in 2017. However, the west has contenders with losses in Central Plains (5-1), Hoxie (5-1), Rawlins Co. (4-1) and St. Francis (5-1) that have probably played better schedules. Same can be said about Osborne (5-1) and Victoria (5-1) on the east, who both meet this week in district play.
Ty Brummer, Beloit St. Johns-Tipton
The senior is proving to do a little of everything this season with over 600 in rushing, nearly 200 in receiving and 14 total touchdowns with five 2-point conversions. However, what he is becoming known for is his play on defense, leading all of 8-man in tackles with 91 after six weeks. That also included five TFLs and two sacks. He had 186 total yards of offense and 15 tackles on defense this past Friday in the win over Tescott (48-12). SJT is 4-2 this season but has not lost to a 8M-II team. Pike Valley and Rock Hills both still do remain on the schedule and both are currently unbeaten until Friday’s game between the two is resumed Monday night.
Seven teams remain unbeaten after six weeks, which is a bit surprising compared to the four in 8M-I, however scheduling always factors in. Pike Valley is one of those undefeated teams and even has a big quality win over 8M-I contender and defending champion Osborne. They currently lead Rock Hills, also undefeated, 22-6 in the second quarter, a game that was delayed Friday and will resume Monday night. The others are Caldwell, Dighton, Hanover, Hutch Central Christian, and Sylvan-Lucas. Dighton still has Otis-Bison (5-1) and Hodgeman County (5-1) on its schedule.