What impressed us after week 12 of 2017 football season?

Andrew Mays (67) & Broc Ginavan (1) helped Frontenac into the title game. (photo: Derek Livingston)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 19, 2017

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Several impressive things that happened around the state after state semifinal Friday. Only 16 teams remain in the state of Kansas. This feature is presented by Nex-Tech Wireless, a proud supporter of Sports in Kansas. Be sure to nominate the Western Kansas and Central Kansas Athlete of the Month by emailing Chet Kuplen at sportsinkansas@gmail.com

6A

BV North

On paper coming into the year we knew BV North had a shot to be pretty good. It turns out they are even though several wrote them off after a four-loss regular season. Keep in mind those four losses were to teams all in semifinals in 5A or 6A (Aquinas, Miege, Mill Valley, Blue Valley). They got their one-point loss back from Blue Valley with a 44-37 two overtime victory over the Tigers on Friday to punch their ticket to their first ever state title game appearance. It was the second year in a row that Blue Valley had to go to OT in a semifinal, but this one went two and they didn’t win like they did last year against SM East. Graham Mertz has been outstanding all year and is proving to be one of if not the best quarterbacks in the class of 2019 this season.  

Derby

Derby is back in the title game for the third consecutive year with their 53-41 shootout victory over Wichita Northwest on Friday. They exploded for 21 points in the fourth quarter after trailing by three. Hunter Igo had a huge night at the quarterback position in which he had 150 yards rushing and three scores while Brody Kooser also went for over 100. Brandon Clark is one of the best coaches this state has and has the Panthers playing to get their fourth state title in five years, and their third in a row. Prior to Clark, the Panthers had one state title with that coming in 1994 under Tom Young. Derby’s current era is turning into what we once knew the Randy Dreiling era at Hutchinson.   

5A

Aquinas

After falling to Mill Valley in each of the last two semifinals the Saints got over that hump and got into the title game for the second time in four years with a 55-21 blasting of the two-time defending state champion Jaguars on Friday at home. Quarterback Will Swanson and back Cameron Jackson continue to lead the rushing attack of STA as they each had over 100 yards on the ground and combined for six touchdowns. Aquinas is loaded and there’s a reason with one loss that we have still had them ranked as the second-best team in Kansas in all-classes behind the only team to beat them, Miege. Randy Dreiling will have now been in the title game 12 times since 2003, 10 times at Hutchinson and two times at Aquinas. He is 7-4 all-time in the title game and will look to bring home Aquinas their first ever state title in school history for football. Aquinas earned their 100th state title in school history this fall and what a better year to add to that with a first ever in football with a win over Carroll this Saturday. Can it happen? It looks like it and they’ll be heavily favored, but Bishop Carroll is still Bishop Carroll.

Bishop Carroll

Braden Howell may be more known with his arm, but he got it done on the ground with over 170 yards rushing and over 80 yards passing to lead the Golden Eagles to a 29-17 victory over Goddard. Was it an upset? To some yes, but Bishop Carroll isn’t under-dog often and we expected a dog-fight in which it seemed to be. Carroll will get Aquinas in a rematch of the 2014 title game in which was the last title that the Eagles had under then head coach Alan Schuckman, who retired after an incredible career with BC last fall. Dusty Trail has done an outstanding job with this program in his first year as the head coach. And as pointed out by Jeff Bollig, who handles social media accounts at STA, there is a common connection with Dusty Trail & Randy Dreiling of Aquinas. The two were members of the 1988 Fort Hays State Football team with Dreiling as a grad assistant and Trail as a senior defensive back. Also on that staff as a grad assistant was Baker University alum Mike McCarthy, now the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Big time showdown in Pittsburg next Saturday.

4A-I

Andale

The Indians are back in the title game for the first time since 2014 when they won the 4A-II state title game. Andale has been one of the most consistent programs in Kansas over the last 15 years and they continued that success with first year head coach Dylan Schmidt, who replayed Gary O'Hair and was an all-state player at Andale himself back in the early 2000’s. Andale likes to run, run, run but on Friday they used the passing game and had over 200 yards passing and three touchdowns by Ethan Baalman to defeat the McPherson Bullpups, 20-13. The 4A-I bracket was a gauntlet this year with the likes of Buhler, Maize South and McPherson all beating up on each other to earn a shot at Andale. Andale was the top ranked team to us on the West and it proves that they are getting into the title game. They won’t be favored in this match-up against Miege, but  nobody in Kansas would be. But make no mistake about it, Andale is the real deal and has faced some very solid defenses in 2017. We think Andale has the defense to hang around with Miege and they have team speed, just look at their track and field programs over the years. The question becomes, can Andale score against the Miege defense because that could be a tough task as everyone they've played has faced? We will see. Andale has state titles in 2006 (4A), 2007 (4A) and 2014 (4A-II). They are 3-0 in state title games. They've made the state semifinal round nine times. 

Carter Putz, Bishop Miege

Well this game was close at the beginning and the Stags trailed most of the first half until they exploded for 28 points to take a 35-17 halftime lead before winning over De Soto 56-24. Too much team speed and too many athletes all over the place was the difference and has been for every team they’ve faced, including a loaded Aquinas squad that’s now in the 5A title game. However, it helps when you have the all-time leader in Kansas high school football in passing yardage for a career and touchdowns for a career. Putz now has 9,027 passing yards in his career with 120 touchdown passes as a three-year starter. Daniel Jackson has been the emerging receiver for Putz this year as he has well over 1,000 yards on the year and is only a sophomore.  How good is Putz? Putz back-up from last year who was a year younger was Graham Mertz. Mertz, who is not really a back-up but only in a crazy scenario like that where you don’t fix something that isn’t broke, is now a 3,000-yard passer and has committed to Wisconsin as he has BV North into their first ever title game as a junior. Putz signed with Notre Dame earlier this month for baseball. It is mind blowing how Putz is not up for the Simone Award in Kansas City this fall? Are the others deserving, absolutely and not discrediting that, but Putz is perhaps the most accomplished quarterback on the Kansas side of KC metro in history with his records. He was also the Gatorade Player of the Year in Kansas last year. Maybe if he had played more in the second half he would be considered, but that’s not possible and wouldn’t be good for opponents. Don’t know what it was, but all he probably cares about is getting his team to winning the title game for the fourth consecutive year. Miege has also won the state title the last three years and with a win on Friday they would become the only team that can win every 4A-I state championship in football (4) as the class will go back to 4A next year.

4A-II

Frontenac

If you saw the Frontenac Raiders play against Colgan earlier this year, you would’ve thought they were a 4-5 team that lost everyone from last year. That has changed quickly with players meshing together and establishing an identity over the last several weeks. Mark Smith has done perhaps one of, if not the best coaching jobs in Kansas this season. He replaced 10 offensive starters off a team that was once ranked #1 in the state last season to now playing in the first title game in 17 years at FHS. Even though several starters were replaced, several players got a lot of reps last year in blowouts and extended playoff practice time. Defensively the Raiders have been about as good as you can ask for, led by defensive coordinator John Palumbo. Friday’s game saw two pick sixes with Riley McDaniel on a 94-yard interception returned for TD that gave the Raiders a 28-21 lead in the third quarter. Brendan Ishimura also had a 97-yard pick six to give the Raiders a 37-21 lead, ultimately the final score in knocking off Topeka-Hayden. Offensively, quarterback Peyton Brown and running back Jake Wilbert have been game changers for the Raiders and have had as good of a year that you can ask for. Wilbert had over 100 yards in the contest and is one of the better defensive players in 4A-II this season. Fullback Gage Clothier also looked outstanding out of the backfield with blocks and carrying the football for the Raiders. The defense is led by senior all-stater Broc Ginavan, who is looking more and more like a defensive player of the year in 4A-II for the Raiders this season. Ginavan, who holds an FBS offer from Wyoming, also had a late interception for the Raiders in the game and is a big threat as a receiver. Frontenac also features one of the toughest players in the classification in 5-foot-9, 170-pound undersized defensive tackle, Andrew Mays. Mays is a relentless hard-hitting competitor with a wrestling mentality that dominates players much larger than him. The Raiders have been as physical of a unit as we've seen over the last several weeks, and some credit to that may need to be given to the wrestling program that Keith Akin runs for the Raiders. Mays, Cal Strand and Ginavan make up one of the more better d-lines in 4A-II this season. Frontenac also should be thanking their special team’s unit led by senior Trey Harris. Harris is one of the top kickers and punters in Kansas this season. He had a 30-yard field goal in the contest and set up the Raiders with favorable field position all night in pinning Hayden deep with punts and touchbacks on kickoffs. Harris never comes off the field as a starting offensive lineman and defensive lineman. The Raiders have been outstanding since district play began. They weren’t favored against Columbus, Holton, and Hayden, all teams that were once ranked in the top five of this classification this year and dominated all three in all three phases of the game. The Raiders have a legit shot at bringing home their first state title since 1994 on Saturday in Salina against Holcomb. It should be a great game for the 4A-II crown.

Holcomb

Kent Teeter has the Longhorns back into the title game for the second time in three years after winning it all in 2015. The Longhorns lost a lot of star power from their previous successful teams but have seemed to only move forward instead of backwards. Trey Gilbert has around 2,000 yards passing this year and has been one of the top quarterbacks in this division. The real story was the Longhorn defense who limited Scott City to just 14 points, a team they lost to 23-14 back in week two. Kaden Tichenor and Reece Morss have combined to rush for nearly 1,300 yards this season out of the Holcomb backfield while Gilbert has rushed for 439. Chance Rodriguez has 721 yards receiving this season to lead the receivers. Paden Cornelsen leads the defense with 106 tackles this season. Kent Teeter is 42-7 since becoming the head coach at Holcomb back in the fall of 2014. He has at least taken them to the semifinals in all four years of being there. Holcomb has had a ton of success in boy’s athletics here recently, it is quite impressive. The Longhorns have won two of the last three 4A-II basketball titles, one football title in 2015 and the 4A-II baseball title last spring.

3A

Marysville

Marysville did what nobody thought anyone could do and that’s knock off the dominating Phillipsburg Panther football team. They did so on Friday by winning 30-24 on the road. This game was about as good as you can get as it was tied 14 all at the half. Marysville is back into the title game for the first time since 2009 season, when they were the east bracket representative, MHS is now a west bracket school. Jack Blumer has played like the top 3A quarterback all season long and completes over 7- percent of his passes and going for well over 2,900 yards. Gabe Pieschl, last year’s 3A basketball player of the year who was also featured earlier this season on Faces in Kansas, has over 1,000 yards receiving and is perhaps the top receiver in 3A this season. The most credit needs to go to head coach Dustin Heuer. As pointed out by Brent Maycock of the Capital-Journal, three years ago Marysville had lost 32 straight games. Now the Bulldogs are playing for a state title on Saturday against Sabetha.  Heuer, a native of Hanover, is the brother of Hanover head coach, Matt Heuer, who has Hanover in their fourth consecutive state title game.

Sabetha

Sabetha is into a state title game for the first time in 20 years but in the 3A title game for the first time since 1986 with their 17-14 victory over Silver Lake on Friday. The Blue Jays last won state in 4A in 1993 and 1997. It marks only the second time since 2002 that either Silver Lake or Rossville won’t be the 3A East representative in the title game. Joe Gruber has over 1,000 yards rushing this season for Sabetha while the defense is led by Gabe Garber and Cauy Rokey who each have over 100 tackles this season. Wyatt Beyer also has five interceptions on the year. Sabetha took district runner-up in the regular season to Nemaha Central, their only loss of the year but have really clicked over the playoffs. A win over Marysville would give the Blue Jays their third all-time football title but first in 3A.

2-1A

Smith Center

Smith Center won 51-0 in the semifinal game, quite impressive because Plainville is very quality program that played them much closer (16-7) earlier in the season. Offensively the Redmen are very balanced on who gets the ball in their rushing attack, which features 335 yards of rushing per game to just 47 yards passing per game. Jesse Staples leads the charge with 1,271 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns, while four other Redmen players have at least 400 yards rushing. Colton Hutchinson can be a dual-threat if needed at quarterback and is one of the better 2-1A defenders with 94 tackles. Defensively they are led by all-state hopeful Dalton Kuhn, perhaps the best 2-1A defender in the state this season and is a big force of the edge as a 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior defensive end. He has 81 tackles, 15 of which have gone for loss. Staples also has seven interceptions to lead a unit that has 19 interceptions. This marks the first Redmen appearance in a title game since 2009 when Roger Barta had the Redmen on a 79-game winning streak, still a state record, before falling to Centralia. The Redmen won consecutive five consecutive titles under the legendary Barta from 2004-to-2008. If you don’t remember the success of the Redmen program it was documented by Joe Drape, a New York Times best-selling author, in a 2009 book called “Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen”. This is the first title appearance of the Darren Sasse era who took over for Barta after the 2012 season. It’s also the first ever title appearance by someone other than Barta as the head man. Barta was 323-68 at Smith Center with an 8-3 record in state title games. Saturday marks Smith Center’s 12th title game appearance for football in school history. Smith Center has sent several on to the next level including 1995 alum & College Football Hall of Famer, Mark Simoneau, who played 10 years in the NFL after an All-American career at Kansas State. Most recently, 2008 alum Braden Wilson was a draft pick with the Chiefs after being the starting fullback for the Kansas State Wildcats. Holton head coach Brooks Barta, son of Roger Barta, was an All Big-8 linebacker at Kansas State. Chiefs play-by-play voice and former voice of KSU, Mitch Holthus, is also an alum of the school. Former NFL star Nolan Cromwell was also born in Smith Center as was former NFL special teams star Steve Tasker, although both prepped at Ransom HS and Leoti-Wichita County HS. As you can tell, it’s a big-time football town in Kansas.

St. Mary’s Colgan

Colgan punched its ticket to the 2-1A title game in Hays for the first time since 2010 with a 15-12 defensive battle over the Olpe Eagles on Friday at Hutchinson Field in Pittsburg. Max Wilson and Bryce Hutchins each scored touchdowns for the Panthers as Jeremiah Buche also had a two-point conversion. The Panthers have relied on team speed of their defense to control teams all year. They will need that next week to try and limit a Smith Center team that scored 51 in Friday’s 51-0 semifinal victory over Plainville. Shawn Seematter has proved to be the perfect fit for this Panther program and has put them in position to win its first state football title since 2003. The Panthers have lost the title game the last four trips they’ve been (2004, 2005, 2007, 2010) with three of those coming during the Smith Center 79-game winning streak from 2004-2009. Colgan previously had that streak of 66 until it was halted in the 2004 state title game. The Panthers have seven state football titles in 1974, 1975, 1984, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 with two coming under Frank Crespino and five under Chuck Smith, who retired last December. The Panthers are 7-7 all-time in the title game and will make their 15th title game appearance this Saturday in Hays. The 2-1A title game originally scheduled for 1:00 p.m. was moved back to 7 p.m. on Saturday in Hays because the FHSU football team hosts a NCAA Division II Playoff Football Game that afternoon.

8M-I

Hoxie

Hoxie has size and they are physical, a recipe for their success this year in getting to their first state football title game since 1981 in their 44-20 victory over Spearville on Friday. Known for girls’ basketball here recently and their wrestling success, the football team is making headlines this season. The Indians are led by Lathan Schwarz who has over 1,500 yards rushing this season with 31 touchdowns. As good as the rushing attack is, the defense is where it’s at for Hoxie. They have 21 interceptions as a unit this year led by seven a piece from each Troy and Taylor Burris. Chris Cox has been a quarterback nightmare for the Indians as he has racked up 13 sacks as Jarrod Dibble and Colton Heskett have combined for 14.5 sacks. Taye Washington is also one of the biggest players in the state regardless of class as a 6-foot-4, 335-pound, junior defensive tackle with 39 tackles this season.

St. Paul

Nobody had the Indians in the title game this year. That’s no disrespect to the player or the program, it just didn’t seem like something that was in the cards with what they lost and what everyone else returned. But it doesn’t matter what we or any other media think, because we don’t determine the outcome. St. Paul proved all experts wrong as they beat Burlingame 43-34 to punch their ticket to the 8M-I title game for the first time in 15 years. Burlingame was ranked the #1 team in the state. It wasn’t a fluke either as St. Paul did it last week against Osborne, last year’s 8M-I champion. If it ended in the third quarter the Indians, who didn’t even win their district, would be in trouble. But it’s a fourth quarter game and St. Paul trailed 34-20 in the third quarter before scoring the final 23 points of the game. Sounds familiar, right? The Indians trailed 24-8 last week against Osborne before scoring the final 27 points of the game to knock off Osborne 35-24. Braven Born has led the Indians all season at quarterback as the lines are patrolled by Anthony Albertini one of the top overall players in the 8-man ranks. Adam Albertini is also a big force as running back and Caleb Pecha is a threat in catching the football and had an interception last week. Foreign exchange student kicker, Alejandro Mate, who is from Spain, has had field goals in each of the last two weeks, including a 37-yarder on Friday. Keith Wiatrak, a former Indian quarterback in the 1990s, has done an outstanding job since taking over for Doug Tuck, who led the Indians to two state titles (2000, 2002).

8M-II

Hanover

Hanover won 36-24 over Pike Valley in the 8M-II showdown on Friday night in Pike Valley. Hanover has won 24 consecutive games and is in the title game for the fourth year in a row under Matt Heuer. His brother Dustin, also a Hanover native, has Marysville in the 3A title game this year. Hanover is 4-3 all-time in title games and will make their 8th appearance on Saturday where they will face Hodgeman County.

Hodgeman County

Hodgeman was one of three schools in the state that were district runner-up that get into the title game. They avenged their district loss, which was 56-28 less than a month ago against Otis-Bison, by winning 42-16 over the same team Friday night. It marks their first appearance in a title game since 2013. Quarterback Jacob Salmans had over 260 combined yards with five touchdowns on the night for the Longhorns.  Hodegman County is a school that consolidated Jetmore and Hanston to form back in 2011. Hanston had six state titles and Jetmore had two.