By Mark Schremmer, Conor Nicholl, Matt Gilmore for Kpreps.com
Posted: October 14, 2012 - 10:26 PM
Coming in to the 2012 season, there appeared to be a handful of teams capable of winning the Class 2-1A state championship.
After four weeks, we’ve learned very little whittling that small group down to a favorite.
The western half of the classification appears to be the strongest. Last year’s state runner-up La Crosse sits atop of our 2-1A poll after an impressive win over another contender in Plainville a week ago.
We’ll find out much more about the west this week as No. 2 Stanton County hosts No. 3 Meade to open district play.
On the eastern side of the state, defending champion Centralia has yet to show any ill effects from graduating a talented group of seniors a year ago. Key contributors from last year’s state championship return in juniors Sam Steinlage and J.T. Rosine. The Panthers have given up only 16 points thus far this season – all of which came in a season-opening 35-16 win over St. Marys.
Lyndon appears to be the other contender in the east. Rod Stallbaumer’s Tigers are loaded with experience, a big offensive line, and a defense that has yet to allow a point. The only six points Lyndon has surrendered this season came on a second-half kickoff return by Mission Valley.
Four weeks into the season, the contenders for the 2-1A state title appear to be coming into focus.
There are teams which everyone knew would be there in Meade and St. Mary’s Colgan, and several others that were expected to challenge in Stanton County, LaCrosse, Olpe, and Lyndon.
• Centralia (4-0) – The defending state champion Panthers have gotten off to a nice start, pitching shutouts in their past three wins. The only knock on the fifth-ranked Panthers is that none of the teams they’ve beaten currently have a record above .500. Sam Steinlage and J.T. Rosine lead a strong junior class for the Panthers.
• Jackson Heights (3-1) – The Cobras opened the season with a 16-0 loss to 3A’s Horton. Since then, Jackson Heights has posted three consecutive wins against Oskaloosa, Valley Falls and Maur Hill. The Cobras will try to win at least four games in a season for the first time since 2006. That was also the last season the Cobras made the playoffs.
• Doniphan West (1-3) – The Mustangs lost their first three games before earning a 12-6 win over Horton this past week. Sophomore quarterback Tristan Speer and senior running back Jordan Sellers lead the Mustang offense. The offensive line is anchored by 6-foot-4, 285-pound Derek Gibson.
• Troy (0-4) – The Trojans have scored a total of 25 points in four games, while allowing 24 points or more in two of their games. Two of Troy’s losses have come by a combined seven points, and to unbeatens Atchison County and Riverside. The young Trojans have just four seniors on their roster.
• Valley Heights (0-4) – The Mustangs lost a heartbreaker 28-26 to Valley Falls in Week 1, then have lost their next three games by a combined score of 75-38. It’s been a disappointing start for a team that returned 17 starters from a year ago.
Key Games: After Centralia, the remaining four teams are fairly even and should provide for good competition for the second playoff spot.
Runner-up: Doniphan West
• Jeff Co. North (3-1) – The Chargers look to get back to the playoffs after falling 49-0 to St. Mary’s Colgan in the first round a year ago. The Chargers have already matched their win total from last season, but struggled against good competition with a 34-7 loss to Olpe.
• McLouth (3-1) – The Bulldogs’ only loss came 13-12 this past week against a quality Olpe team. Despite the loss, McLouth displayed strong defense and hasn’t allowed more than two touchdowns in a game all season. On offense, senior Marc Walbridge is a three-year starter at quarterback.
• Immaculata (2-2) – Consistency on offense has not been a problem for the Raiders. They have scored exactly 14 points in all four games. So if Immaculata’s defense can keep opponents to fewer than two touchdowns, it has a good chance to win. Quarterback Drew Sachen has been key to the Raiders offense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in a 14-7 win against Jayhawk-Linn. Immaculata is looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
• Oskaloosa (1-3) – The Bears got their first win this past Saturday by beating Christ Prep Academy 32-12. Oskaloosa is just 1-12 since back-to-back 7-3 seasons in 2009 and 2010. Sophomores Luis Rodriguez and Justin Sharp lead the Bears with 301 and 298 yards rushing, respectively.
• Valley Falls (1-3) – The Dragons beat Valley Heights 28-26 in Week 1, then dropped its next three games. Valley Falls will need to limit the turnovers after committing four in last week’s 26-22 loss to Atchison County. The Dragons missed the playoffs in 2011, ending a string of three straight playoff appearances.
Key Games: (Wk 5) Immaculata at Jeff Co. North; (Wk 7) Valley Falls at Immaculata; (Wk 9) Jeff Co. North at Valley Falls
Runner-up: Jeff Co. North
• Northern Heights (2-2) – The Wildcats have had more than their fair share of close games this year. Northern Heights lost 20-14 to West Franklin and Mission Valley 22-20 and rallied from down 30 points to beat Council Grove 44-42. Luke Larson has thrown for 601 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Wildcat offense.
• Onaga (2-2) – The Onaga Buffaloes will try to get back on track after a 42-0 home loss to fifth-ranked Centralia. But the Buffaloes have reason to be excited as their 28-6 win over Valley Heights in Week 3 gave them their first Twin Valley League game in six years. Mychal Kolterman (6-3, 280), Matt Marten (6-0, 205), and Nick Poley (6-1, 230) anchor a veteran offensive line.
• Chase County (0-4) – The Bulldogs are 0-4 but have lost to four teams with a combined 10-6 record. Chase County also has kept games close, falling 12-7 to Osage City and 32-21 to West Franklin. Senior RB/LB Thomas Kirk leads Chase County on both sides of the ball. Kirk is averaging 16.5 tackles per game. Chase County is trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
• Herington (0-4) – Hunter Makovec has thrown for 829 yards and ten touchdowns this season, but has also been intercepted nine times. Makovec is also the Railers’ leading rusher with 212 yards. Ramsey Stramel was a Kpreps 2-1A All-State selection last season, and already has 34 catches for 557 yards and nine scores in 2012.
• Wabaunsee (0-4) – The Chargers are 0-4, but they play in a difficult Mid-East League that includes Class 3A’s top-ranked Silver Lake, Rock Creek, Rossville and St. Marys. Junior Ethan Miller has 465 yards rushing and leads a roster of only 17 Chargers.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Wabaunsee at Northern Heights will likely decide the second playoff spot.
Runner-up: Northern Heights
• Lyndon (4-0) – Lyndon is the district favorite after returning 16 starters from last season’s 8-2 team. The Tigers are undefeated thus far and have only allowed six points all season – those coming on a kickoff return for a score. Junior Joe Walsh has stepped in nicely at quarterback having thrown for 658 yards and six touchdowns. Skylar Farwell is the Tigers’ leading rusher with 333 yards and 11 touchdowns.
• Olpe (3-1) – Olpe ended a run of six straight playoff appearances last season after finishing 5-4. Chris Schmidt’s Eagles look to get back in the postseason where they have had success. Mitchell Argabright has led the Eagles to three consecutive wins after a 35-7 loss to Sedgwick to open the season. Two of Olpe’s three wins have come by one point.
• Northeast-Arma (2-2) – Coach Phil Hobbs is doing a remarkable job of changing the culture at Northeast. In the past eight seasons, the Vikings have gone winless five times and have only nine total wins since 2004. This season, Northeast is 2-2 behind the play of quarterback J.T. Richardson who has rushed for 645 yards and nine scores.
• Oswego (2-2) – New Indians’ coach Travis Burke got Oswego off to a 2-0 start albeit against teams that are now a combined 0-8. The Indians have dropped their last two games by a combined score of 97-24. If Oswego is to push for a playoff spot it will be quarterback Ethan Spore that leads them there.
• Jayhawk-Linn (1-3) – The Jayhawks’ lone win came 8-6 against Central Heights. Jayhawk-Linn has not posted more than three wins in a season since 2004 when they finished 8-1 but ironically missed out on the playoffs. The offense continues to struggle as the Jayhawks are averaging under nine points per game.
Key Games: (Wk 5) Lyndon at Olpe;
• La Crosse (4-0) – The Leopards, ranked No. 1 in Class 2-1A, already have three quality wins with victories against Ellis, Hoisington and Plainville. The Leopards have won 22 straight regular season games and have arguably the classification’s top running back tandem in senior tailback Levi Morss and senior fullback Kip Keeley. Morss had 356 rushing yards last week against Plainville and already has 776 rushing yards and seven scores on 68 carries. Keeley has tacked on 293 yards and three TDs on 44 carries. Keeley also paces the team with 10 catches for 203 yards and two TDs and ranks second with 31 tackles. Sophomores Sheldon Schmidt and Jack Garcia –players expected to take over in key roles – have performed well. Schmidt, a lineman, has a team-high 35 tackles, while Garcia has completed 24 of 39 passes for 449 yards and a 5/1 TD ratio.
• Inman (3-1) – Under first-year coach Mike Vernon, Inman has already exceeded last season’s 2-7 record. The Teutons have played four relatively close games with a 38-20 victory against rival Moundridge in Week 1, followed by a 34-26 victory versus Bennington in Week 2. After a 21-6 loss to Hutchinson Trinity in Week 3, Inman defeated Marion, 39-28 last week. Senior Josh Miller has delivered 706 yards on 92 carries with seven scores. Inman hasn't made the playoffs since 2003.
• Ellinwood (0-4) – The Eagles have struggled for many years and this season is no different thus far. Opponents have outscored Ellinwood 159-52 this year. Senior Patrick Ringering has rushed for 315 yards and all four of Ellinwood’s rushing touchdowns on 50 carries. That includes a 181-yard performance versus Thomas More Prep-Marian in Week 1.
• Medicine Lodge (0-4) – Medicine Lodge dropped down in classification after a 4-6 season last year, but has struggled early under second-year coach Faron Kraft. Opponents have outscored Medicine Lodge 103-7. The Indians rank last in Class 2-1A in scoring offense. Medicine Lodge has lost the three straight games by shutout. Turnovers are a big issue. The Indians have thrown six interceptions and has 14 fumbles (nine lost) this season.
• Sterling (0-4) – The Black Bears, a squad that has lost eight straight playoff games dating back to 2003, has started slowly. However, the Black Bears have been outscored just 116-60 and has faced the No. 4-hardest schedule in Class 2-1A, according to preppowerindex.com. Two of the losses, to Smoky Valley and Lyons, have come by one point.
Key Games: (Wk 6) Inman at La Crosse, (Wk 7) La Crosse at Sterling; (Wk 8) Sterling at Inman
Winner: La Crosse
• Ell-Saline (3-1) – Ell-Saline has already bettered last season’s 2-7 record with big wins against Marion, Remington and Moundridge and a 19-12 loss to Sedgwick. Senior Garrett Walker has completed 41 of 71 passes for 701 yards with seven TDs against seven interceptions. Toby Omli has rushed 40 times for 403 yards and six scores, all team-highs. Kaleb Whitehair (6-3, 190) is one of the state’s top receivers having caught 18 passes for 327 yards and five scores.
• Bennington (2-2) – After a winless season last year, Bennington has already earned two wins with a 46-0 Week 1 victory at Remington and a 42-41 Week 4 victory versus Moundridge. Zach Fief has completed 25 of 47 passes for 298 yards with a 2/0 TD/INT ratio and has also rushed 48 times for 230 yards and a team-high seven scores. B.J. Glanton (6-2, 265) is a load out of the backfield having already rushed for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns.
• Plainville (2-2) – The Cardinals have matched last year’s loss total from a 10-2 team that lost to La Crosse in the Class 2-1A state semifinals. However, Plainville is still expected to make a deep playoff run. The Cardinals have faced the No. 1-hardest schedule in the classification with losses to Class 3A’s Phillipsburg and La Crosse, each 4-0. The Cardinals own wins against 2-2 Ellis and 3-1 Norton. Seniors Trevor Axelson and Harrison Gilliland have each rushed for more than 350 yards.
• Washington County (2-2) – The Tigers have sandwiched a 31-21 road victory against Onaga and a 34-20 home win versus Valley Heights with a pair of shutout losses to Minneapolis (7-0) and Centralia (42-0). Washington County has one winning season since 2006.
• Smith Center (1-3) – The Redmen, beset by several season-ending knee injuries to starters, have struggled. Smith Center has not missed the postseason since a 4-5 record in 2002. The Redmen have already suffered big losses to Norton, Beloit and Phillipsburg and needed overtime to beat Oberlin. The Redmen have tallied just 39 points in four games against the No. 3-hardest schedule in the classification.
• Republic County (0-4) – The Buffs have now lost 18 straight contests – a streak that was preceded by a 29 game losing streak. This year, opponents have outscored Republic County 221-39.
Key Games: (Wk 5) Plainville at Ell-Saline; (Wk 6) Ell-Saline at Smith Center; (Wk 7) Smith Center at Plainville
• Ellis (2-2) – The Railers are looking to continue their streaks of nine straight playoff appearances and six consecutive district titles. Ellis has a close 16-6 loss to La Crosse, but then lost 56-0 to Plainville in Week 2. After that, the Railers bounced back with a 40-18 victory versus Ellinwood and then beat previously undefeated Larned 36-0. Quarterback Blake Hudson has rushed for 421 yards and five scores on 59 carries, all team-highs. He has also picked off a Railer-best three passes. Gage Younger leads the team with 31 tackles and three sacks and ranks second with 244 rushing yards and three TDs.
• Oakley (2-2) – Oakley took a somewhat surprising loss to Colby in Week 1, 20-15. The Plainsmen had won the previous two meetings by a combined score of 58-6. Then, Oakley earned a 63-6 win versus Sublette in Week 2 and a 62-0 victory against Syracuse in Week 4, teams the Plainsmen are a combined 8-0 against since 2004. Oakley lost to Phillipsburg, a strong Class 3A team, 54-6 in Week 3. It marked the third loss in as many seasons to the Panthers.
• St. Francis (2-2) – The Indians won two games last season, but have improved under first-year coach Kyle Buffington. The Indians won two out-of-state games before a big loss to Stanton County, ranked No. 2 in Class 2-1A, and a 26-18 loss to Wray, Colo.
• Leoti-Wichita Co. (1-3) – The Indians have struggled for many years and have taken three big losses in the first month of 2012. The lone win was a 34-28 victory versus Syracuse in Week 3. Depth will be an issue as the Indians have just 15 players listed on their roster. Quaterback Janz Budde has rushed for 600 yards and seven touchdowns.
• Oberlin-Decatur Co. (1-3) – The Red Devils have just one win, but have had a better start than the past two years. The Red Devils, under first-year varsity coach Joe Dreher, defeated Cambridge, Neb., in Week 1, 26-0. The previous two years, Oberlin lost to Cambridge by a combined score of 88-18. The Red Devils took losses to strong Mid-Continent League teams, Phillipsburg, Smith Center and Norton. Oberlin took Smith Center to overtime. The previous two meetings with Smith Center, Oberlin had lost 73-0 and 61-0. Zach May leads the team with 61 carries for 312 yards and two scores.
Key Games: (Wk 7): Oakley at Oberlin; (Wk 8): Oberlin at Ellis; (Wk 9): Ellis at Oakley
• Stanton County (4-0) – Stanton County, ranked No. 2 in Class 2-1A, is a legitimate state title contender with running back Marques Logan and Quinn Kendrick. The Trojans have defeated their first four opponents by a combined score of 179-6. Stanton County is tied with Lyndon for the classification’s best scoring defense. Stanton County, La Crosse, Lyndon and Centralia are Class 2-1A’s lone undefeated teams.
• Elkhart (3-1) – Elkhart has delivered 145 points, seventh-best in Class 2-1A. Quarterback Alex Gomez, who has played under center since he was a freshman, has cut back on his turnovers. Last year, Elkhart had 25 turnovers, including 18 from Gomez. This year, Gomez has delivered some of Kansas’ best numbers. He has completed 42 of 76 passes for 861 yards with a 13/0 TD/INT ratio. He has also rushed 28 times for 120 yards. Jordan Forbit has caught 17 passes for 421 yards and five scores.
• Meade (3-1) – The Buffs lost 28-27 to Holcomb in Week 1 before three consecutive big victories. The defeat marked the first time the Buffs had lost in the regular season since a 51-7 defeat to La Crosse on Oct. 30, 2008. Meade’s single wing has continued to put up big numbers, including an average of 332 rushing yards a game. Three players have rushed between 316 and 346 yards. Chris Hardaway has completed 27 of 37 passes for 438 yards with a 6/1 TD/INT ratio. Since 2006, Meade is 4-0 against Stanton County, including three wins in the last two years.
• Sublette (1-3) – Sublette went from 2-7 to 5-4 from 2010 to 2011, but has dropped back some this year. After a season-opening win against Southwestern Heights, Sublette has lost three straight by at least 40 points.
• Syracuse (0-4) – Syracuse has struggled for many years and has trouble again this season. Opponents have outscored the Bulldogs 201-34. Syracuse has managed just one win since the 2009 season, and has not made the playoffs since 2004.
Key Game: (Wk 5) Stanton County at Meade
Winner: Stanton County