Several things across the state impressed us after the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. We take a look at them in this update presented by Nex-Tech Wireless.
Blue Valley North (7-4, 4-4 EKL) proved just how tough the Eastern Kansas League is with their dominating 45-10 victory over SM East, who was undefeated in the Sunflower League with one loss to Rockhurst (MO), in an away quarterfinal match-up on Friday. Graham Mertz has been as good if not better than expected this year as a first year starting QB for the Mustangs. The Wisconsin commit has thrown for 2,919 yards with 38 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Tight end Dylan Freberg (885 yards) and receiver Nigel Roberts (809 yards) lead the receiving corps for BVN. Darin Robertson leads the defense with 87 tackles, Thather Robertson has 74, while Ander Johnson has nine sacks. Division I recruit Miles Emery has also been lights out with six sacks and 53 tackles. North gets a rematch with Blue Valley this week in the 6A semifinals a game they lost 34-33 earlier this season.
The Panthers have been in big moments over the last several seasons and what a bigger moment than an overtime win over the #1 team in 6A in Free State, 55-49. A 10-yard touchdown run by Brody Kooser in OT sealed it after the Derby defense stopped Free State in the first overtime possession. Hunter Igo had a huge night at quarterback for Derby in which he had a hand in five scores with over 360 yards of offense. Kooser was huge on the night with 197 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Derby has ended Free State’s season the last three years in a row. Free State also played three quarters without all-state hopeful Jax Dineen, a junior running back, who entered with over 1,400 yards that was injured in the contest. We may see a lot of points once again this week as Derby will get Wichita Northwest in the semifinal, one of the best offenses in the state.
It was a total team effort for Northwest and they may be playing their best football of the year. Breece Hall had over 220 yards rushing while Roy Johnson had over 140 yards. The offense rolled up 653 yards of offense. The Northwest offense, led by an outstanding offensive line, averages 487.8 yards per game with 321.8 of those coming on the ground. The real story has been the defense this year. They limited to Garden City to just six points in the quarterfinal victory. Last year Northwest had to try and outscore teams, this year it hasn’t been the case with the likes of Josh Carter and Marcus Hicks playing like all-state players. Jaxon Reynolds has also been used two ways and that has been a difference maker on the defense with his 3 interceptions in addition to leading the squad as their top receiver. Percelle Finch also has nearly 60 tackles this year on the defense. Garrett Bridwell has also stepped up big and is second on the team in sacks behind Hicks. It marks the first time in 21 years that the Grizzlies are in the semifinals. Outstanding work for head coach Steve Martin and company.
The Jaguars seem to figure it out in November under head coach Joel Applebee. They lost four of their first six games but have since won five games in a row including a 21-14 victory over St. James to put them back into the semis for the third consecutive season. How much can a team change from week one until week 11? Well Mill Valley lost to St. James 45-21 back on September 1st. It also helps when you’ve had experience and won the last two 5A state titles, so you’re not in unchartered waters. It’s no secret the offense goes through senior quarterback Brody Flaming who has thrown for over 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns this year. Logan Talley and Evan Rice, as expected to be two of 5A’s better recievers, have been combining for over 1,800 yards this season and 18 touchdowns. The running game struggled early on this season but Cameron Young has come up big in recent weeks and has over 800 yards this season.
Kyler Semrad, Goddard
Blake Sullivan is one of the best players in Kansas with over 2,000 combined yards and 36 touchdowns at the quarterback position. He was injured and sat out the second half but freshman Kyler Semrad, who we have seen do this earlier this season, stepped up big with two touchdown passes in this one, both going to hybrid TE/WR Owen Beason. Can you imagine being a freshman playing in a 5A quarterfinal game? Well he can and he did great doing it. Semrad has 486 yards passing with nine touchdowns this year when he has had to come in to relieve Sullivan. The defense, led by 76 tackles by Justin Armaro and six interceptions by Ian McSwan, has been big all year for the Lions. Goddard keeps rolling as they defeated Eisenhower 28-13, setting up a showdown with Bishop Carroll in the 5A semifinal with a berth to the 5A state championship in Pittsburg on the line.
The Bullpups got it going offensively and defensively in this one. In a game they lost 9-0 earlier this season in week two, the Pups came out and took care of business to avenge that loss as turnovers seemed to be key leading to two Bullpup scores. Mac is also in the semis for the first time in nine seasons. Where McPherson really stands out to us is depth as senior all-state hopeful Wyatt Seidl is the only full-time two-way player. Offensively the Pups are led by quarterback Kyler Hoppes and running back Jace Kinnamon. Tayln Huff, Gabe Hoover and Chandler Wiard are all valuable options to catch the ball for Hoppes. Defensively McPherson is led by a solid cast of players defensively that include Wyatt Seidl (14 sacks), Jayse Alexander (82 tackles), Kollin Goering (62 tackles), Drew Labertew (4 INT), Gunnar Reiss (42 tackles) and Michael Mendez (60 tackles). Honestee Whittker and Tyson Stites have also combined for four interceptions.
The Raiders have lost in the quarterfinals the last three seasons in a row. That wasn’t the case as they made the long road trip on Friday night to Holton, who they had lost to in each of the last two seasons. Frontenac graduated one of the best classes they had seen there in recent memory and the expectations, outside of the program, weren’t to be anywhere near where they were last year. Well that has changed and a lot can be said about this group of seniors who got the Raiders into the semifinals for the first time since the 2000 football season. Offensively it was all Peyton Brown, Jake Wilbert and Broc Ginavan for the Raiders, as FHS had nearly 400 yards of total offense. Brown had three touchdown passes, two of those to division one prospect Ginavan, who holds a Wyoming offer. Wilbert had over 100 yards rushing with scores. Defensively Ginavan was all over the place as was senior Andrew Mayes. The Raiders forced turnovers and held Holton to nearly under 100 yards of what their season average is. It was a total team-effort for the Mark Smith led group. Smith is one of the top young coaches in the game. To take a team that returned one offensive starter from 2016 to a state semifinal is quite impressive. The Raiders get Topeka-Hayden in the 4A-II semifinals at home this week as they look to get their first state football berth since the Raiders took state runner-up in 2000 in 3A, losing to Wichita Collegiate.
Kent Teeter, Holcomb
Holcomb and Kent Teeter have seemed to be the perfect fit for each other. In his fourth year as the head coach he has them to their fourth consecutive semifinal. Over the last two years when you lose players like Trey Teeter, Conner Van Cleave and Dillon Williams, you expect some drop-off. It hasn’t been the case. The Trey Gilbert led Longhorns are playing their best football and really stepped up big defensively to hold Smoky Valley to only 154 yards and six points last Friday in the 26-6 victory. What impresses us so much about Holcomb is outside of Gilbert it’s hard to key on what exactly they are going to do. They are nearly a 50/50 run/pass team averaging 170 yards passing and 160 yards rushing per game with it spread out to multiple players. When they go on the ground its Gilbert or Kaden Tichenor, Teeter’s nephew, who has had a breakout year with 753 yards on the ground. Chance Rodriguez is Gilberts top target as he has over 600 yards receiving but it’s not all Rodriguez. State hurdles champion Carter Blackburn is one of the fastest guys on the field and a major threat. Andrew Morrs & Peyton Leonard have also combined for over 600 yards receiving this season. Defensively Paden Cornelsen and Reece Morss leads the charge with nearly 200 tackles combined this season. Tichenor and Rodriquez each have 67 tackles as well. Holcomb (10-1) is a complete team and get a rematch with GWAC league rival Scott City (11-0) this week in a game they lost 23-14 back in week two.
Silver Lake has been in the shadows of Rossville in recent memory, it was the exact opposite for years before. They were also in the shadows of Nemaha Central headed into this year and they shut that down real fast last week winning 25-7. Going into this week it was thought to be a dead even matchup with that of Galena. It seemed to be about as good of a game as advertised in a low scoring defensive battle. The Eagles are proving to be worthy of where they always are and that’s deep in the 3A playoffs. The Eagles won 13-6 on the road against Galena on Friday. The Eagles jumped out to an early 13-0 lead before Galena scored on the final play of the first half. There wasn’t any scoring for either team in the second half. The Silver Lake defense, led by Josh Boyd, Will Boyd and Keenan Baird, is proving to be one of the top units in 3A this season. Silver Lake is known for its passing game but don’t let that full you as they can run it and are about a 50/50 team this season, averaging 171 passing yards per game and 161.5 rushing yards per game. Mason Griffin (1,617 passing yards), Mason Jones (908 rushing yards), and Trent Byers (719 receiving yards) lead the offensive charge for the Eagles.
Phillipsburg continues its domination as they dominated Hesston 47-7. This was a game that they lost one year ago in the same round. John Gower, known as an all-state linebacker, doubles as a back on offense as he had over 100 yards with three scores. Junior Treylan Gross and Kirk Coomes also huge nights going for over 100 each. The last-time Phillipsburg won a state title they were led by a freshman quarterback in Trey Sides in 2015. Trey, now a junior is expected to be out for the year with a thumb injury, but his freshman brother Ty is now the starting quarterback for the Panthers. Will we see another Sides as a freshman with a state title? It sure looks like they are on their way. They get the air-raid attack of Marysville (11-1) at home this week.
The Blue Jays rushed for over 600 yards against Osage City, dominating them to a 56-13 final in the 3A quarterfinal on Friday. Sabetha is in the semifinal game for the first time in 11 years with the victory. They lost the 3A semifinal in 2006 to Silver Lake, a team that they will get this week in the 3A semifinal. Sabetha was the district runner-up and their only loss is to Nemaha Central in district play.
In double-overtime Plainville came up with a 27-20 win over Ell-Saline to advance back to the 2-1A semifinals for the second consecutive year. Plainville is in the semifinals for the eighth time in school history. Plainville is a run-first team and is led by their sophomore quarterback Jordan Finnesy who has rushed for over 1,300 and passed for 1,061 with 23 combined touchdowns. Hayden Gillum and Jared Casey are two of the better two-way players in 2-1A that can play in multiple spots. Defensively Jared Rathbun leads the Cardinals with 82 tackles, while Noah Hansen has 77 stops. Chase Cellmer leads Plainville with five interceptions. The Cardinals get a rematch with their league MCL rival, Smith Center. Smith Center won this game 16-7 back in week one. Plainville has played a battle tested MCL schedule with their only losses to Smith Center, Phillipsburg and Plainville, all coming in the first three weeks. Phillipsburg is perhaps the top small school team in the entire state this season. Grant Stephenson has done outstanding work with this Plainville program.
St. Mary’s Colgan
Shawn Seematter has the Panthers in the semifinals in his first year as the head coach since replacing the legendary Chuck Smith this season. SMC has used a battle-tested 4A-II, 3A schedule to put them at a 9-2 record this season. Bryce Hutchins one-yard score with 31 seconds gave the Panthers the 25-18 win after trailing 18-17. All-State senior Max Wilson had a big game for the Panthers in which he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Hutchins also had a touchdown pass to senior Jeremiah Buche and Luke Orender had a field goal before the half. Colgan hasn’t been in the title game since the 2010 season, a win over Olpe this week would put them in that position.
Burlingame lost its starting quarterback, who has led the team to the semis the last two years, in the first half against Victoria last week. The team has stepped up big since as they are led by Montana Giffin who had over 190 yards passing and two touchdowns through the air. Sporing was out early in the year and Giffin’s reps early in the year are paying dividends in the 8M-I playoffs. Seth Greenwood has also showed the ability as a running back this season with over 200 yards and five touchdowns. Tristan Lee is one of the best two-way lineman in the state for 8-man football. Burlingame is in the semifinals for the third consecutive season, all under head coach Jeff Slater. Prior to him, the school had just two appearances. Burlingame is looking to get to their first state title game since 1972 when they won it in 1A. Burlingame has never made it to the state championship in the 8-man ranks, a win this week over St. Paul would change that.
Hoxie is in just its fourth semifinal appearance in school history after their impressive 30-25 victory over South Central as Lathan Schwarz scored with under four minutes remaining in the game. Hoxie was last in the semifinal four years ago. They haven’t been in a state title game since 1981. A win over Spearville would change that. Schwarz leads the Indians with over 1,200 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns on the season. Luke Schippers leads the defensive unit with 72 tackles, while Colton Heskett has 67 and Chris Cox has 11 sacks. Taye Washington, a 6-foot-4, 335-pound, junior lineman, is a size mismatch for anyone he faces. Troyal and Taylor Burris have combined for 13 interceptions for a defensive unit that has 19 total this season.
What a wild finish to this one as Spearville would score with one second remaining on a Kolby Stein pass to Waylon Strecker to knock off the Oilers of central Plains, 32-28. Spearville is back into the title game for the second time in three years after winning it all in 2015. A win over Hoxie this week would put the Lancers into the title game for just the second time in school history. Bailey Sites leads the team in rushing this season with over 1,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, while Koby Stein has 598 yards on the ground with nine touchdowns. Sophomore Carson Rich leads the Lancers in tackles with 76, while Stein has 55.
St. Paul trailed 24-8 in the third quarter to Osborne. They rallied to score the final 27 points of the contest to knock off the defending 8M-I champion, 35-24 in St. Paul on Friday. Braven Born threw three touchdowns in the contest to lead the Indians. The Indians also got a 22-yard field goal for their last score from their foreign exchange student from Spain, Alejandro Mate. Mate kicked a 39-yarder earlier this season and is a threat for the Indians. Burlingame, who they get this week at home, also has a threat in the kicking game in their foreign exchange student kicker, Joao Caldas, who is from Portugal. St. Paul also has one of the best 8-man lineman in the state in Anthony Albertini (6’2” 215 Sr.). The Indians, led by Keith Wiatrak, are into the semifinals for the first time since 2002. St. Paul has state titles in 1986 (2-1A), 2000 (8M-I) and 2002 (8M-II). Doug Tuck had this program rolling in the 90’s and early 00’s and Wiatrak, who was a quarterback in early 90’s for Tuck, seems to have this program headed back to that direction.
Pike Valley Defense
Hutch Central Christian entered averaging 70.4 points per game, with 60 points being their low on the season. Pike Valley team speed seemed to be the difference as they held Central Christian to zero points in the quarterfinal win, 52-0. Offensively the Panthers were led by utility man Cole Strickler with three touchdowns and quarterback Davante Hammer who was a part of three touchdowns. Lane Peters, the all-state running back that is a state champion in the 1A 100 meters with 10.7 speed, has been nursing a hamstring injury over the last few weeks. Pike Valley gets its biggest test of the season this week against Hanover, the defending 8M-I champion that knocked them off in this game one year ago.