By Mark Schremmer, Matt Gilmore, Conor Nicholl, for Kpreps.com
Posted: October 14, 2012 - 10:00 PM
District play is here for Class 4A.
Only three teams in this classification enter the home-stretch of the 2012 season unscathed as #1 Holton, #5 St. James Academy, and Fort Scott have all posted perfect 6-0 records thus far.
Here is our breakdown of each district as well as key games and our predictions on which teams will qualify for the post-season.
· Atchison (4-2) –The Redmen’s two losses have been by a total of eight points, falling 20-19 to KC Washington and 27-20 to KC Schlagle. Junior Tanner Huntington has been an efficient quarterback, completing 53 of 94 passes for 849 yards and 11 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Junior Austin Housh has been Huntington’s favorite target, catching 19 passes for 329 yards and six touchdowns.
· KC Piper (4-2) – – The Pirates’ two losses have come to a pair of 5-1 teams in Eudora and Mill Valley. Senior Matt McDonald leads the KC Piper rushing attack with 398 yards and eight touchdowns on 78 carries, while senior Paul Jones has ran for 342 yards and three TDs on 69 carries.
· KC Sumner Academy (1-5) – While the Sabres have won only one game, the win came at the right time. After dropping their first five games, the Sabres picked up some momentum heading into district play with a 49-14 win against KC Harmon. Sumner likes to put the ball in the air with senior quarterback Brandon Williams, who has passed for nearly 1,000 yards. Williams has a pair of solid targets in senior Jowell Daniels (31 rec., 353 yds, 5 TDs) and senior Deon Tripp (19 rec., 455 yds, 3 TDs).
· Bishop Ward (0-6) – The Cyclones are desperately searching for a win. Bishop Ward finished each of the past two seasons with 0-9 records and now has started this season with an 0-6 mark. Sophomore Bryan Barnhart directs the Cyclone offense as quarterback and leads the defense in tackles with almost 10 per game from his safety position.
Key Games: (Week 7) Atchison at KC Piper
Winner: KC Piper
· Basehor-Linwood (3-3) – The Bobcats finished 10-1 last year but lost several players to graduation, including All-State twins Colin and Ryan Murphy. This season, the Bobcats have run the football more with senior Drew Potter, who has 767 yards and 12 TDs on 106 carries. When the Bobcats throw the ball, they like to go to senior tight end and KU commit Ben Johnson, who has 28 catches for 461 yards and four touchdowns.
· Jefferson West (3-3) – The Tigers enter district competition on a bad note after falling to top-ranked Holton 48-6 last week. Jefferson West will look to rebound against Basehor-Linwood this week. The Tigers seek a spot in the playoffs after falling short of that goal a year ago.
· Perry-Lecompton (2-4) – The Kaws boast a balanced attack with about 150 yards passing and about 150 yards rushing each game. Sophomore quarterback Seth Surface has completed 57 of 113 passes for 737 yards and seven TDs. Junior RJ Whitaker leads the running game with 386 yards and five touchdowns on 68 carries.
· Tonganoxie (2-4) – The Chieftains’ only two wins are against 1-5 Lansing and 0-6 Bishop Ward. Junior running back Cole Holloway leads the rushing attack with 633 yards and six touchdowns on 139 carries.
Key Games: Basehor-Linwood at Jefferson West
Runner-up: Jefferson West
· St. James Academy (6-0) – All of the Thunder’s wins haven’t been dominating, but St. James holds a perfect record through six games. Three of the Thunder’s wins have been by a touchdown or less, including last week’s 17-14 victory against previously unbeaten Eudora. Junior tailback Jake Bade has ran for 547 yards and five touchdowns on 78 carries. Senior defensive lineman Jake Wittman (6-5, 256) has been a thorn in the side of opposing offenses with five sacks and 22 solo tackles.
· Bonner Springs (3-3) – The Braves opened the season 3-0, but have lost their past three games to KC Piper, Mill Valley and Basehor-Linwood. Quarterback Jordan Jackson has totaled more than 1,300 yards of offense for the Braves.
· DeSoto (2-4) – The Wildcats have suffered their bumps and bruises in the Frontier League, falling to recent 4A powers like Eudora and Louisburg. Senior quarterback Corbin Clark directs a De Soto offense that is scoring 13 points per game. Clark has passed for 680 yards and six touchdowns, but he also has thrown six interceptions. The Wildcats will try to make the playoffs after finishing 6-4 a year ago.
· Spring Hill (2-4) – Hopes were high for the Broncos entering the season with 22 lettermen returning from last year’s 4-5 team. However, the Broncos will need a good run in district competition to match that total. On the positive end, the Broncos’ boast a quality win over 4-2 Baldwin. Offensively, Spring Hill will look to running back Michael Epp, who has rushed for 412 yards and six touchdowns on 83 carries.
Key Games: (Wk7) Bonner Springs at DeSoto
Winner: St. James Academy
· Eudora (5-1) – Last year’s Class 4A state runner-up, the Cardinals have had a strong start to the season despite graduating a lot of talent. As is typical in head coach Gregg Webb’s offense, Eudora is effective running the ball with Gabe Cleveland and Garret Elston. However, the Cardinals also have shown an ability to pass with quarterback Andrew Ballock.
· Baldwin (4-2) – The Bulldogs eye a return trip to the playoffs after going 6-4 and advancing to the first round last year. Running back Cornell Brown has been key for Baldwin as a runner and receiver this season. He rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-14 win against Louisburg.
· Ottawa (2-4) – The Cyclones had lost four games in a row before last week’s 30-25 win against Spring Hill. Ottawa hopes the win will serve as momentum, heading into district play. Andre Lewis is a big-play threat in the passing game.
· Santa Fe Trail (0-6) – The Chargers were winless in 2011 and have opened this season 0-6. While playoff hopes are slim, head coach Jayson Duncan hopes to get Santa Fe Trail back on the winning track.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Baldwin at Eudora
· Prairie View (4-2) – The Buffaloes’ 4-2 record is a little deceiving in a weak Pioneer League. However, Prairie View has boasted a good offense, scoring more than 36 points in three games. Prairie View has a veteran team as it returned nine starters on offense and seven on defense from last year’s 4-5 squad.
· Louisburg (3-3) – The Wildcats, who are two years removed from winning the 4A state title, have been up and down in 2012. Louisburg has dropped consecutive games to St. James Academy and Baldwin. Daniel O’Connor and Luke Hupp have been key to the running game.
· Paola (2-4) – A perennial playoff team, the Panthers have struggled in 2012 after returning only one starter on offense and three on defense from last year’s 11-2 squad. Veteran coach Mike Dumpert will do his best to get the Panthers ready for a potential playoff run.
· Osawatomie (0-6) – It has been a rough season for the Trojans. Osawatomie hasn’t been able to pull out a win despite a schedule that includes several smaller schools. The Trojan defense has allowed at least 38 points in all six games.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Prairie View at Louisburg
· Fort Scott (6-0) – The Tigers are one of three remaining unbeaten teams in Class 4A. Quarterback Johnathan Stark is a great field leader. The senior has thrown for 447 yards and five touchdowns, and rushed for 311 yards and seven scores. Marques Floyd has been hampered by an injury, but remains the Tiger’s leading rusher with 497 yards and nine touchdowns. Five Fort Scott backs have at least 150 yards rushing this season.
· Iola (5-1) – The Mustangs have benefited from switching to the Pioneer League from the SEK League. Iola is 5-1 through six weeks; their most wins in a season since 2008. The Mustangs lone game against an SEK League opponent was a 40-20 loss to Coffeyville in Week 3. The question for first-year coach Doug Kerr’s team is how well has their schedule prepared them for district play.
· Anderson County (3-3) – The Bulldogs have made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, but have not advanced past the first round. Senior Jack Rickabaugh has been steady at quarterback, and three backs have put up solid numbers in junior Zach Hilliard, and seniors Weston Gilbreth and Cale Hedges.
· Chanute (3-3) – The Blue Comets should be plenty battle tested for district play. Chanute’s three losses have come against Mulvane, Pittsburg, and Coffeyville – teams that are a combined 14-4. Senior quarterback Brock Gilmore (6-4, 220) leads a wide open offense that has the capability to be balanced with running back Blake Kisner.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Chanute at Fort Scott
Winner: Fort Scott
· Girard (5-1) – Girard has won five straight games since an 8-0 loss to Caney Valley in a muddy Week 1 game. The Trojans are led by senior back Anthony Scholes who continues to tear apart CNC League defenses. Jalen Merrell leads a physical group of linemen up front. The Trojans are trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006 when they reached the 4A state semifinals.
· Frontenac (3-3) – The Raiders have won three straight since opening the season with consecutive losses to Riverton, Southeast-Cherokee, and Galena. First-year coach Mark Smith picked up his first career victory with a 26-25 overtime win over his alma mater St. Mary’s Colgan – coached by his dad, Chuck. The Raiders have a solid chance to win five in a row to set up a Week 9 district showdown with Girard.
· Independence (0-6) – The Bulldogs have struggled in only scoring 28 points all season while being shutout three times. One of the Independence touchdowns was a kickoff return for a score by senior Courtlan Hayes, who remains a bright spot for Carl Boldra’s team.
· Parsons (0-6) – Coming off of their first playoff appearance in five years, the Parsons Vikings have struggled to duplicate 2011’s success. The Vikings graduated a lot of talent off of that team, and this year’s version has not gotten the job done on defense. Parsons is surrendering an average of 58 points per game.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Girard at Frontenac
· Coffeyville (4-2) – Field Kindley’s two losses have come to unbeaten Fort Scott and 5-1 Pittsburg. The Pittsburg game was a wild 67-53 shootout where coach Murray Zogg’s team rallied from 30-points down twice in the second half. Wesley Collins leads the ‘Nado with 558 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, and 4A, 100M sprint champion James Newton has been electric as a receiver (31 ypc) and kickoff returner (31 yards per return).
· Columbus (2-4) – The Titans’ move to the CNC League from the SEK League has been met with a lot of adversity and a 2-4 start. Columbus has already suffered several injuries, but had won two straight before last week’s turnover-filled loss to St. Mary’s Colgan. Sophomore Nate Bole has thrown for 500 yards, and added nearly 600 yards on the ground.
· Labette County (2-4) – Labette County is just 2-4 in coach Jesse Ybarra’s return to the sidelines, and those two wins have come against winless teams in Parsons and Independence. Tyler Cares is the Grizzlies key threat out of the backfield and Dontae Johnson has the ability to make an impact in all aspects of the game.
· Baxter Springs (0-6) – The Lions have lost nine straight games and are just 1-14 in Donnie Bigby’s second year. Bigby is trying to rebuild the Baxter Springs program using a lot of young players. Baxter Springs have not reached the playoffs since 2006, and have just two winning seasons in the past eight years.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Columbus at Labette County
· Holton (6-0) -- After falling to eventual Class 4A state champion Rose Hill in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, the Wildcats are set for another postseason berth and their 10th league title in 11 years. Their best win was a 61-14 win over Hiawatha, which is 4-2 overall and in the Big Seven. Averaging 54 points a game, the most given up in one game by the defense was 19 to Perry-Lecompton, 12 of which were in the fourth quarter. Averaging 425.5 rushing yards per game, Holton has two running backs with over 500 yards (Drake Ewing, 648 yards, 9 TDs and Cameron Karn, 520 yards, 8 TDs) as well as three more with 200-plus rushing yards. Trent Tanking, who is third in the ground game with 295 yards and 7 TDs, also leads the team in tackles with 68.
· Wamego (5-1) – The Red Raiders lost by one point in Week 1 to Rock Creek (4-2, 4-2). Since then the team has five straight victories including wins over Clay Center (4-2, 2-2) and Concordia (4-2, 3-1). And that’s with six of nine teams on their schedule being playoff participants from 2011. The Red Raiders’ high-flying offense is led by QB Marshall Wethington, who has 1,344 yards and 6 TD passes as well as 233 rushing yards and 9 TDs. Trenton York has 409 yards receiving with 6 TDs, while Dakota Turner has 370 and 4 TDs. Wamego hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007.
· Royal Valley (2-4) -- The Panthers have victories against winless Santa Fe Trail and Sabetha (2-4, 2-4). However they have given up at least 20 points ever game and have double-digit losses to Perry-Lecompton (2-4, 2-4) and Jefferson West (3-3, 3-3). Royal Valley hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005.
· Topeka Hayden (2-4) -- Playing at least one class up every week in the Centennial League, the Wildcats have one-point losses to Emporia (5-1) and Junction City (4-2). They have double-digit wins against Washburn Rural (4-2, 3-0) and winless Highland Park. A perennial playoff team, Hayden lost to eventual 2011 4A champion Rose Hill in the state semifinals last season. The Wildcats, who average 298.2 yards of offense (second out of Topeka schools), are led by QB Jacob Tetuan, who has 894 yards of total offense. Wideout Brogan Barry has 197 receiving yards and 2 TDs.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Holton at Wamego; (Wk 8) Hayden at Holton; (Wk 9) Wamego at Hayden
Runner-up: Topeka Hayden
· Maize South (5-1) – The Mavericks boast one of the best statistical defenses in the state. Maize South won its first five games by allowing a total of 24 points and pitching three shutouts. Despite last week’s loss to Wichita Collegiate, it was another strong defensive effort as the Mavericks kept the high-octane Spartans offense to 17 points. Quarterback Chase Bell directs an offense that has scored 25 points or more four times.
· Hesston (3-3) – The Swathers haven’t beaten a team that currently owns a winning record. However, head coach Marc Marinelli looks to get Hesston back in the playoffs after finishing 8-3 last year.
· Towanda Circle (1-5) – The Thunderbirds beat Augusta in their opener, then have dropped five consecutive games. Circle looks to receivers Zach Nelson and Stewart Dennison in the passing game.
· El Dorado (0-6) – Head coach Dustin Dooley is only 1-23 since taking over the Wildcats’ program in 2010. Playing a difficult schedule, El Dorado has allowed no fewer than 26 points in a game this season.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Hesston at Maize South
Winner: Maize South
· Wichita Collegiate (5-1) – The Spartans look to make the playoffs in their first season at the Class 4A level. Collegiate has a strong offense, led by quarterback Landon Root (866 yds passing, 11 TDs), running back Isaiah Franklin (641 yds rushing, 7 TDs) and wide receiver Markus Phox (28 rec., 460 yds, 8 TDs).
· Wichita Trinity (3-3) – The Knights’ three wins have come against teams with a combined 6-12 record. Sophomore running back Tyler Burns is capable of creating big plays for the Trinity offense.
· Rose Hill (2-4) – The defending 4A state champion Rockets opened the season with three consecutive losses. However, this young Rockets team is better than their record. The first three losses were to Buhler, Andale and McPherson, and the Rockets were competitive in all three. Coach Greg Slade’s son, TJ, leads the Rocket offense at quarterback.
· Augusta (1-5) – The Orioles’ only win came against a 1-5 Wellington team. The Augusta defense has allowed 28 points or more five times this season.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Wichita Trinity at Rose Hill
Winner: Wichita Collegiate
Runner-up: Rose Hill
· Mulvane (5-1) – The Wildcats won their first five games before falling 35-30 in a shootout against a ranked McPherson team. Quarterback Ty Redington has put up impressive numbers as a passer and runner this season. Redington had another impressive passing performance against McPherson, but an injury limited him in the running game and kept him from serving as the field goal kicker. Mulvane will need a healthy Redington to make a 4A title run.
· Clearwater (3-3) – Two of the Fighting Indians’ three losses are by a combined five points. One of those losses was 38-35 to a ranked Wichita Collegiate team in Week 5. Clearwater quarterback Chad Reibenspies and receiver John Becker have been a good duo for the Indians.
· Winfield (3-3) – The Vikings have dropped three consecutive games, but the losses have come to Rose Hill, McPherson and Buhler. Junior Logan Mays has been a key runner and receiver in the Winfield offense. Mays has rushed for 349 yards and a touchdown on only 27 carries, while catching 17 passes for 363 yards and six touchdowns.
· Wellington (1-5) – The Crusaders have struggled on defense, allowing more than 30 points in four games this season. Wellington’s only win came against 1-5 Towanda Circle.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Winfield at Clearwater
· Andale (5-1) – The Indians’ only loss this season was 41-27 in Week 1 to Wichita Collegiate. Since then, Andale has rattled off five straight victories with a big-play offense. The Indians scored 60 points in a 30-point win against rival Wellington last week. Andale’s Ben Seiler and Jared Smarsh scored two touchdowns each in a 60-30 win over Wellington.
· Nickerson (5-1) – The Panthers’ only miscue was a 28-6 loss to Hillsboro in Week 3. Coach Max Heinlein has done a solid job with the Panthers, assuring a winning record a year after finishing 4-5.
· Buhler (4-2) – The Crusaders boast one of the best running games in the state, led by tailback Riley Allen. Buhler should be more than ready for the district after playing one of the more difficult regular season schedules in the state.
· Cheney (4-2) – The Cardinals have already matched last year’s win total after finishing 4-5 in 2011. First-year head coach Cory Brack hopes to take a senior-laden team to the playoffs. He hopes to provide the program some stability as he is Cheney’s third coach in three years.
Key Games: All of the games are important in an extremely competitive district.
· Larned (3-3) – Larned has been one of Kansas’ nice turnaround stories under first-year coach A.B. Stokes. The Indians had just won three games in the previous three years and haven’t made the playoffs in more than a decade. The one drawback is strength of schedule. The Indians have been outscored 176-120, lost its last three games, and have faced the weakest strength of schedule out of the 64 4A squads. Larned, though, did lose just 20-19 to 5-1 Cimarron. The team has a balanced attack, averaging 161 passing yards and 193 rushing yards, though does have 13 turnovers, including 11 interceptions.
· Pratt (3-3) – After a 3-1 start, Pratt has lost its last two contests and played the No. 52 strength of schedule in Class 4A. The Greenbacks also have a balanced attack with 151 rushing yards and 155 passing yards. Skylar Dean leads the team with 84 completions in 170 attempts for 816 yards with a 7/7 TD/INT ratio. As well, Dean has 79 carries for 428 yards and six scores.
· Ulysses (3-3) – The Tigers, a longtime state powerhouse, have easily played the hardest strength of schedule in the district at No. 16. The Tigers’ three losses have come against Great Bend, among Class 5A’s top teams; Scott City, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, and Holcomb, one of Class 3A’s better squads. The three teams have a combined two losses. The three wins came by an average margin of 25 points.
· Hugoton (2-4) – Hugoton has also faced an easier strength of schedule (No. 49) and have defeated just one Kansas team. Last Friday, Hugoton defeated Kismet-Southwestern Heights, 37-19. Hugoton, under Smith Center graduate Clint Merritt, have averaged 258.5 rushing yards per contest. Six players have at least 147 rushing yards, led by quarterback Yates Sutton with 450 rushing yards and six rushing TDs. Sutton has completed 22 of 48 passes for 316 yards with a 3/6 TD/INT ratio.
Key Games: All four teams could compete for a playoff berth, but Ulysses is the top team after six weeks. The Tigers, consistently a playoff team, have been challenged – and played tough – against quality opponents.
· McPherson (5-1) – The Bullpups are ranked No. 2 in Class 4A with the lone loss a Week 2 home defeat to Hays High, currently ranked No. 4 in Class 5A. McPherson is known for its high scoring offense and has outscored opponents 228-159 and average 469 yards per game. Three players have thrown at least 19 passes and have combined for 259.7 passing yards per contest with a 15/6 TD/INT ratio. Kyler Kinnamon, battling a sore shoulder, passed for 177 yards and two TDs and rushed for 97 yards and a score. Austin O’Bannon leads the team with 127 carries for 566 yards and nine scores. Marcus Houghton has thrown for 502 yards and six touchdowns, and has 382 receiving yards and five scores.
· Smoky Valley (4-2) – Five of Smoky Valley’s contests have been within 14 points. After a 3-0 start, the program is 1-2 in its last three weeks. Smoky Valley averages 174 rushing yards and 198 passing yards a contest. The Vikings have outscored opponents 101-91 and have the No. 9 best scoring defense in the classification.
· Chapman (3-3) – Chapman was winless last season, but has won three games this season, including a 14-2 win in Week 2 against Southeast of Saline that ended a 25-game losing streak. Chapman hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2007.
· Abilene (1-5) – The Cowboys have been one of the classification’s best squads recently with 12 playoff games in the last nine years – though no trips past the second round. Abilene has played a harder schedule (No. 32) than Chapman (No. 53) and Smoky Valley (No. 56). The Cowboys have lost two games by a combined eight points and also lost 51-20 to Scott City, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A.
Key Games: McPherson is the heavy favorite in this district, but the other three squads are in the mix for the second berth. Look for the Cowboys – having a rare down season – to sneak in with the second berth.
· Clay Center (4-2) – Clay Center has faced the second-easiest strength of schedule in the classification and has already matched last year’s win total from a 4-6 season. Clay Center started the season with four straight victories, but has lost the last two contests against Chapman and Wamego. Caleb Carson leads Clay Center with 361 yards and a 3/5 TD/INT ratio and 124 carries for 758 yards with seven TDs.
· Concordia (4-2) – After a slow start with losses to Beloit and Wamego in the first three weeks, Concordia has won three straight contests. Concordia has outscored opponents 210-135. The Panthers, under former Smith Center standout and longtime St. Francis coach Tim Lambert, have run the wishbone effectively with 324 rushing yards a game. Five players have at least 202 rushing yards and three TDs, led by 79 carries for 683 yards and seven scores from sophomore Drake Hake. Gabe Bergmann has recorded 46 tackles, five sacks and a blocked field goal.
· Colby (2-4) – The Eagles have won two games, but opponents have outscored them 143-74. Colby’s lone two wins came in Week 1 against Oakley (20-15) and in Week 4 versus Hugoton (21-0). Senior Beau Brown has 97 carries for 523 yards and four TDs, while Zane Winger has 76 carries for 507 yards and three TDs.
· Goodland (2-4) – Goodland has just one victory against a Kansas team with a 24-13 win against Hugoton in Week 1. Junior Dax Ruhs has 99 carries for 659 yards and five TDs. The Cowboys have reached the playoffs the last two seasons.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Concordia at Clay Center should decide both spots
Runner-up: Clay Center