Friday Playoff Preview
Photos courtesy of Michelle Ross, PrepsKC, Yee Mar
By contributing: Matt Gilmore, Mark Schremmer, Conor Nicholl, and John Baetz
Posted: November 4, 2011 - 1:31 AM
6A East: #4 Olathe East (7-2) at Olathe Northwest (5-4)
The playoff format can be ironic at times. The Olathe Northwest Ravens won their final two games by a large margin to win their district. And their reward? The Ravens will play their first-round game against an Olathe East Hawks team that beat them 44-20 in Week 4.
Still, Olathe Northwest feels good about its chances to get the school’s first ever playoff win.
“When we played them the first time, we got off to a slow start,” Olathe Northwest coach Todd Dain said. “We’re a much better football team than we were in Week 4. We’ll have to go out and execute our game plan.”
The Ravens’ defense has shown improvement. After allowing 40 points or more in four of their first six games, they have limited opponents to 28 points or fewer in their past three outings.
Offensively, Olathe Northwest is led by running back Connor Middleton, who has rushed for 1,209 yards and 19 TDs on the season. In last week’s 56-28 win against Olathe North, Middleton ran for 332 yards and six TDs, while also connecting with receiver Willie Cauley on a halfback pass for a 57-yard touchdown.
Cauley, a 6-11 receiver who has verbally committed to play basketball at Kentucky, has 57 catches for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Olathe East has been led by the rushing attack of John Kelsh and Kendall Kelly. Kelsh has rushed for 859 yards and eight TDs, while Kelly has rushed for 799 yards and 15 TDs.
Olathe East 35, Olathe Northwest 28
6A East: Lawrence (6-3) at #3 Olathe South (8-1)
Lawrence will take on third-ranked Olathe South for the second time this season, but with higher stakes.
The two Sunflower League schools met in Week 2 earlier this season when Olathe South shutout the Chesty Lions in the second half to win 33-22. The winner of this meeting will advance to the state quarterfinals next week.
It can be argued that Olathe South has already played a playoff game this season. The Falcons were in danger of missing the postseason after falling 49-34 to Blue Valley Northwest in their first district game. Olathe South would respond with wins over Blue Valley West and #4 Olathe East last week to qualify.
Running back Jordan Ward rushed for 252 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Olathe East. Teddy Cobert also has been explosive out of the Falcon backfield, and quarterback Frankie Seurer Jr. hs kept defenses honest by throwing for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns.
The biggest factor in this game may be whether or not Lawrence’s talented quarterback Brad Strauss will play. Strauss set out last week’s surprising 20-0 shutout of rival Lawrence Free State with an ankle injury. The junior has had a special season, throwing for 1,550 yards and 11 touchdowns while posing a significant threat with his legs as well.
Against Free State, Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd moved running back Tryone Jenkins behind center as the Lions’ two back-up quarterbacks were also out. Jenkins responded with 122 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries while operating out of the “wildcat”. He also completed three of four passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.
If Strauss sits out again on Friday, the Lions will have to keep Olathe South guessing by putting the ball up to talented receivers Erick Mayo and Anthony Buffalomeat. The two have combined for more than 1,000 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on the season.
Lawrence will need another strong effort from its defense, which held Free State to just 60 yards of total offense last week.
Olathe South 34, Lawrence 21
6A West: Washburn Rural (6-3) at #1 Wichita Heights (9-0)
The Washburn Junior Blues have been yearning for a trip to the playoffs for quite a while.
To be precise, the Junior Blues are in the postseason for the first time since 1992. However, the odds seem to be against Washburn Rural making it a long playoff trip.
Not that the Junior Blues don’t bring a competitive team into the first-round game. It’s just that they find the undefeated and defending state champion Wichita Heights Falcons waiting as their first-round opponent.
The Falcons boast a high-power offense, scoring at least 41 points in every game this season, and they haven’t lost since the 2009 state championship game.
Heights has a dominating rushing attack with running backs Marquel Moore and Kenneth Iheme and quarterback Matt Reed. Moore (1,068, 16 TDs), Iheme (940 yards, 11 TDs) and Reed (986 yards, 17 TDs) have combined for almost 3,000 yards and 44 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Falcons put a lot of pressure on the quarterback with Aderio Ammons (11 sacks) and Preston Banks (9 sacks).
Washburn Rural has been led by senior quarterback Skylar Curtis. The dual-threat has rushed for 961 yards, while passing for 1,034.
Wichita Heights 52, Washburn Rural 28
6A West: Derby (6-3) at #5 Wichita Northwest (7-2)
Derby may have played its best two-and-a-half quarters of the season in last week's 49-35 loss to top-ranked Wichita Heights.
The Panthers had a 35-21 lead with 7:37 left in the third quarter and appeared poised for the upset, but Heights showed why they are everyone's favorite to win 6A by scoring the final 28 points of the game and winning the District 6 championship.
Wichita Northwest has rebounded from consecutive losses to Carroll and Heights in weeks four and five to reel off four straight victories; scoring 35 or more points in each of the wins. Those final four teams combined for a total of only nine wins on the season, but Northwest looked most impressive in the final game against playoff-qualifier Wichita South, 63-16.
Wichita Northwest's stingy defense is led by dynamic linebackers Jacob Davis and Bennett Moore, while dual-threat quarterback Todd Freeman leads an emerging Derby offense.
If scores against Heights are the gauge then these two are on track for an excellent playoff contest. Heights beat Northwest 41-21 in week five, nearly the same score as Derby's near miss 49-35 last week.
Wichita Northwest 28, Derby 24
The rest of our 6A first-round picks:
Leavenworth (2-7) at Shawnee Mission West (6-3)
Shawnee Mission East (5-4) atShawnee Mission Northwest (4-5)
Wichita South (4-5) at Garden City (6-2)
Dodge City (5-4) at #2 Manhattan (9-0)
5A East: Mill Valley (7-2) at Shawnee Heights (4-5)
The Shawnee Heights T-Birds enter the playoffs with a losing record, but they have been in this situation before. Shawnee Heights advanced to the playoffs with losing records each of the past two seasons and won its first-round game each time.
A year ago, the T-Birds came into the playoffs with a 3-6 record and beat none other than the Mill Valley Jaguars 56-30 to advance to the second round.
Playing in a competitive Centennial League, Shawnee Heights’ regular season record can be deceptive.
The T-Birds played Class 6A’s second-ranked Manhattan Indians within a touchdown (26-19) on the road in Week 4.
Shawnee Heights’ success starts with its passing game. Senior quarterback Cole Foster passed for at least 180 yards in all three of the T-Birds’ district wins. Foster has passed for 1,404 yards and 11 TDs on the season. However, he has thrown nine interceptions. Shawnee Heights will have to work to limit the turnovers in the playoffs.
The Jaguars may not play the schedule that Shawnee Heights does, but they have put up some impressive numbers. Mill Valley has scored at least 35 points in six of its nine games.
Junior quarterback Skyler Windmiller leads the way as he’s completed 120-of-221 passes for 1,974 yards and 24 TDs with only four interceptions. Windmiller spreads the ball around with three receivers with 400 yards receiving in L.J. Hatch (446 yards), Wade Hanna (434) and Ethan Rice (456).
Shawnee Heights 35, Mill Valley 21
5A East: Gardner-Edgerton (6-3) at Bonner Springs (6-3)
The Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazers enter the playoffs on a sour note. They had appeared to be hitting their stride, winning five games in a row after a 1-2 start to the season. However, Gardner-Edgerton finished the season with a disappointing 40-6 loss to Blue Valley-Stilwell.
In the Trailblazers’ previous five wins, they had put up almost 40 yards per game. Gardner-Edgerton scored 50 points against Pittsburg as sophomore running back slashed the Purple Dragon defense for 150 yards and four TDs.
To advance in the playoffs, Gardner-Edgerton’s offense must start clicking again.
There’s a good chance it will against a Bonner Springs Braves team that has struggled defensively against better opponents. The Braves gave up 69 points to Class 4A’s Basehor-Linwood in Week 4.
For the Braves to have a chance, they must keep up offensively.
Bonner Springs’ offense starts with senior running back J.J. Jackson. The speedster has rushed for 1,429 yards and 22 TDs on 191 carries this season. Sophomore Jordan Jackson, the younger brother of J.J., leads the Braves under center. Since taking over as the starting quarterback in Week 4, Jordan Jackson has passed for about 1,000 yards and 14 TDs with no interceptions.
The big question in this game is how Gardner-Edgerton will respond from a tough loss to end the regular season.
Gardner-Edgerton 42, Bonner Springs 21
5A West: Salina South (4-5) at #3 Bishop Carroll (8-1)
Bishop Carroll had a brutal opening to the season with a 45-14 loss to Wichita Heights, but the Golden Eagles have won eight straight since the season opener, including last week's 32-24 victory over Hutchinson, the second consecutive victory over the Salthawks after last year's semi-final win.
Salina South just can't seem to distance themselves from their opponents this season. The Cougars have played in six games decided by five points or less including losses to McPherson (41-39), Junction City (33-28), and Hays (28-24) and wins over Newton (35-32), Salina Central (44-41), and Great Bend (26-21).
For Carroll, junior quarterback Zeke Palmer has been a catalyst for the offense throwing for nearly 1,600 yards, but his legs did the damage last week against Hutch as he rushed for 124 yards and two TDs.
For South, dual-threat QB Christian Linenberger has been putting up plenty of yardage and is complemented well by tailback Cody Busby.
If the Cougars are going to find a way to compete they'll have to find some defense though. Salina South has given up at least 21 points in every game this season including 40 points or more in five contests.
Bishop Carroll 31, Salina South 21
5A West: #4 Hutchinson (7-2) at #5 Hays (8-1)
Hays High is back in the postseason for the first time since 1995. Coach Ryan Cornelsen has turned around the Indians, a longtime .500 program, is 22-5 in three years at HHS.
The Indians’ lone loss came against Garden City, a Class 6A playoff participant.
Much of Hays High’s success comes behind an offensive line that returns five starters. The quintet has all earned at least one all-conference honor on one side of the ball.
Junior running back David Cardinal has rushed for 1,388 yards and 18 scores for a team that has outscored opponents 343-177.
Hutchinson, 72-5 in the last six seasons, ranks No. 1 in Class 5A in scoring offense and has outscored opponents 419-209.
Salthawk running back Ja’Mon Cotton has rushed for at least 99 yards in every game and has rushed for 1,427 yards and 27 scores.
Hutchinson lost in Week 1 to Missouri power Rockhurst, and lost last Friday to Bishop Carroll.
Hutchinson 41, Hays High 28
The rest of our 5A first-round picks:
Topeka Highland Park (3-6) at #2 Bishop Miege (8-1)
Lansing (5-4) at #1 Blue Valley – Stilwell (8-1)
Andover Central (6-3) at Emporia (6-3)
McPherson (7-2) at Kapaun Mt. Carmel (7-2)
2-1A East: Doniphan West (8-1) at St. Marys (4-5)
Doniphan West will make its first playoff appearance since 2005 when the Mustangs travel to St. Marys on Friday night.
The Mustangs have been one of the feel-good stories of the season in Class 2-1A having posted a six-win improvement from a year ago despite having only 19 players out for football.
Despite their limited numbers, Doniphan West is 8-1 with their only loss coming 38-16 to Centralia – a game in which the Mustangs committed five turnovers.
The strength of the Nick Fuemmeler’s team is up front, where all five offensive lineman have played together for at least two full seasons now. Anchoring both sides of the line is senior Austin Veach (6-3, 230) and junior Derek Gibson (6-4, 275). On offense they open holes for backs Dusty Saunders and Jordan Sellers.
Another impressive trait of this Mustang team is that their led by a freshman quarterback. Tristan Speer has had a good year running and throwing the ball. His best game may have come in a 30-13 win over 3A playoff-qualifier Effingham-Atchison County when he threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. When he looks to throw it’s typically towards Aaron Halling and Marc Ellis. Ellis had nine receptions for 247 yards and all four touchdowns in that win over Atchison County.
The St. Marys Bears have certainly been tested in a tough Mid-East League where amazingly all six league members made the state playoffs. The Bears finished just 1-4 in the league, but gained valuable experience for another 2A playoff run.
Sojuan Turentine has put up big numbers rushing the football in the Bears’ district wins, benefitting from a big offensive line with the likes of Wyatt Carlson, Brady Gockel and Henry Lindstrom.
St. Marys enters the game with the entire community still coping with the news of junior Kody Harwood sustaining serious injuries in a recent car accident. A cookout will be held before the game with all proceeds going to Harwood's family.
The last time these two met in the playoffs was back in 2005 when the Bears eliminated the Bears 30-0 in the second round.
St. Marys 26, Doniphan West 18
2-1A East: Lyndon (8-1) at Riverside (8-1)
The most intriguing first-round match-up on the eastern side of the 2A bracket features a pair of one-loss teams in Lyndon and Riverside.
Lyndon rolled to a 7-0 start before falling to second-ranked St. Mary’s Colgan 38-13.
The Tigers are led by senior running back/linebacker Nick Walsh who has rushed for 1,236 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season. Josh Owens provides a solid compliment to Walsh with nearly 500 yards on the ground of his own.
Quarterback Jordan Tillman is capable of spreading the field and hitting receivers Tyler Decker and Cameron Woodruff. Tillman has thrown for more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
The Riverside Cyclones are in the playoffs in their first season after forming from the consolidation of Wathena and Elwood.
Riverside has won seven consecutive games since their lone loss of the season – a 28-8 setback to Doniphan West in Week 2.
The Cyclones are led by senior running back Timmy Miller. Miller has put up eerily similar numbers to Walsh, having rushed for 1,238 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Quarterback Derek Nold has thrown for 731 yards and 12 touchdowns, while rushing for 610 more yards and five scores.
While the offensive numbers are similar among these two teams, Lyndon has played a more challenging schedule which should help the Tigers pull out a road playoff win.
Lyndon 38, Riverside 12
2-1A West: Oakley (7-2) at #1 Meade (9-0)
Meade, ranked No. 1 in Class 2-1A all season and the defending state champion, has continued to roll. The Buffs opened the season with a victory against Canadian, a small school Texas power.
Meade has won 21 straight games and has not lost to a Kansas team since a 10-0 loss to Smith Center in the 2009 Class 2-1A sub-state championship game.
Meade has outscored opponents 466-78 and ranks first in the classification in scoring offense and second in scoring defense.
Speedy running back Trevin Weins has rushed for a team-high 1,083 yards and 19 scores.
Oakley is back in the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
The Plainsmen have dealt with injuries all year, including ankle injuries to Eric Albers, Nate Cox and Levi Hefner in the backfield. Cox, the team’s leading rusher, will not play Friday.
These teams have not matched up since Meade defeated Oakley in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
Meade 45, Oakley 10
2-1A East: Ellis (5-4) at #5 Stanton County (8-1)
Stanton County advanced to the Class 2-1A sub-state championship game last year before they lost to eventual state champion Meade.
This year, Stanton County has been more dominant than last season’s squad that finished 10-2 and outscored opponents 419-204. The Trojans have outscored opponents 437-103 this season behind an offense that features quarterback Quinn Kendrick, coach Bret Kendrick’s son.
Stanton County’s only loss is against Meade.
Ellis opened 0-4 against its Mid-Continent League rivals Norton, Plainville, Smith Center and Phillipsburg. Three of those squads reached the playoffs. But the Railers went 5-0 in district behind a new-look spread offense and reached the postseason for the ninth straight year.
Senior linebacker Jared Herl, who suffered a foot injury in Week 1, came back in Week 6 and has averaged nine tackles per game and forced five fumbles.
Senior quarterback Riley Hunsicker has collected 2,563 yards of total offense.
Last year, Stanton County defeated Ellis 52-7 in the first round of the playoffs, the second-worst playoff loss to Ellis history. Ellis’ spread offense will give Stanton County some fits, but the Trojans pull away in the second half.
Stanton County 35, Ellis 31
The rest of our 2-1A first-round picks:
Jefferson Co. North (3-6) at #2 St. Mary’s Colgan (9-0)
Wabaunsee (4-5) at Centralia (6-3)
#4 Plainville (8-1) at Sacred Heart (6-3)
Moundridge (5-4) at #3 LaCrosse (9-0)