Playoff Preview: Class 6A & 5A (Regionals)

Scott Valentas will try and lead Kapaun to a win at Great Bend. (by John Biehler)
By: Conor Nicholl & Matt Gilmore for
Nov 2, 2018

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Class 6A


6A East

#8 Shawnee Mission Northwest (4-4) at #1 Gardner-Edgerton (9-0) – Gardner-Edgerton

This is a rematch of a Week 7 game won by Gardner-Edgerton, 49-27. In that meeting, the Blazers led 21-13 at halftime before exploding for four mores scores in the second half – two by Luke Jennings – to extend the lead to 49-13. The Blazers rushed for 515 yards against the Cougar defense in the first meeting and did not complete a pass. For the season, Jennings leads Gardner-Edgerton with 1,100 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, while Jacob Hunsperger and Teven McKelvey are close behind with 993 and 902 yards, respectively. Hunsperger has 11 touchdowns, while McKelvey has rushed for 17 scores and passed for four more touchdowns.  Shawnee Mission Northwest advanced to this round with a come-from-behind, 35-28 victory over Shawnee Mission North. The Cougars trailed 21-0 before scoring 28 consecutive points to take a seven-point lead. SM North then tied the game, but Northwest’s Dale Talley made a one-handed touchdown catch on a 23-yard pass from Ty Black to give the Cougars a 35-28 lead with 1:08 remaining.

#5 Blue Valley North (6-3) at #4 Shawnee Mission South (7-2) – Blue Valley North

This matchup features two of the top quarterbacks in the Kansas City metro area. Shawnee Mission South has produced its strongest season in several years behind senior quarterback Jack Roberts. Roberts (6-4, 190) has rushed for 1,241 yards and passed for more than 730 yards and nine touchdowns. The Raiders picked up their first playoff victory since 1990 with a 40-21 win over Olathe Northwest. Roberts rushed for three touchdowns in the second half to lift the Raiders to the win last week. Meanwhile, Blue Valley North quarterback Graham Mertz continues to lead the state in passing despite missing two games. Mertz has thrown for 2,516 yards and 33 touchdowns for the defending Class 6A champions. Mertz passed for 360 yards and six touchdowns in last week’s victory over struggling Wyandotte. Mustang back Amauri Pesek-Hickson has produced 1,226 yards of total offense with 563 rush yards and 663 receiving yards on 42 catches. Pesek-Hickson, who picked up a Michigan offer last week, has 16 total touchdowns. Cameron Burt leads the Mustangs with 70 catches for 1,282 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.

#10 Olathe East (4-5) at #2 Shawnee Mission East (7-2)SM East

Olathe East pulled the upset of the first round last week with a 31-21 win over traditional power Blue Valley. The Hawks built a 17-0 lead and then held off a Tiger rally. Hunter Thomas passed for 236 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hawk offense. Olathe East’s Ray Lewis caught four passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, and on the other side of the ball, intercepted Blue Valley quarterback Walker Kinney three times. Meanwhile, Shawnee Mission East cruised to a 45-0 victory over KC Harmon on Thursday night. The Lancers have averaged 36 points per game led by quarterback Andy Maddox and running back Tony Friends. The Shawnee Mission East defense has been steady all season in giving up only 15 points per game.

#6 Olathe South (5-4) at #3 Olathe North (7-2) – Olathe North

Rivals Olathe North and Olathe South will meet for the second time this season. Olathe North won the earlier meeting 35-14 back in Week 5. The Eagles have won three straight games since a close loss to Shawnee Mission East. Last week, the Eagles scored 42 points in the first half in eliminating Shawnee Mission West. Sophomore Arland Bruce, IV completed all 13 of his passes for 168 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers. Bruce also added 80 yards and a score on the ground. Daymonn Sanchez led the Eagles with 143 yards rushing and two scores to push his season total to 1,696 yards and 25 touchdowns. Bruce has rushed for 973 yards on the season and passed for 986 while combining for 25 scores. Olathe South advanced with a wild 54-41 win over Blue Valley West. The Falcons scored four times in the third quarter to provide separation from a slim 24-20 at halftime lead. Sophomore Reed Smith has passed for more than 1,000 yards since filling in for injured starter Evan Foster. Smith can look to A.J. Shields who has 46 receptions for 935 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. Sophomore back Andrew Nehrbass went over the 1,000-yard mark with last week’s 210-yard, three-touchdown performance. Nehrbass now has 1,015 yards and nine scores.

Class 6A – WEST

#8 Dodge City (6-3) at #1 Derby (9-0) – Derby

Beau Foster has thrown for 940 yards, and Ja’iel Johnson has rushed for 902 yards. Dodge City is playing a tenth game for the first time since 2012 and has its most victories since an 11-1 season in 2010, coach Dave Foster’s first with the program. Dodge City had had a three-win improvement with three close victories by 10, one and 10 points. The Red Demons have won four straight, including a huge 34-33 comeback versus Hays High, a 27-7 Hatchet win versus Garden City, and a quality 25-15 home win against Junction City last week. Derby, led by quarterback Hunter Igo and running back Tre Washington, lead 6A in scoring offense and defense with a total margin of 438-67. Last week, No. 1 Derby rolled over Lawrence, 41-7, behind four touchdown passes from Hunter Igo and two scores from Jacob Karsak. Jay Fisher had a pick-six. Derby has played exceptional run defense – and could challenge the state record for fewest rush yards allowed in a season – and limited Lawrence to six rushing yards. Derby defeated Dodge City, 49-13, in Week 9 last year. Dodge City last beat Derby in 1992, according to Kansas Football History.

#5 Washburn Rural (7-2) at #4 Topeka High (8-1) – Topeka High

Topeka High avoided a major upset in defeating 13-seed Hutchinson 45-43 last week on Gregorio Leonardo’s game-winning field goal with :35 seconds left. The Trojans fell behind Hutchinson 28-9 at halftime as the Salthawks used a ball-control offense, an onside kick, and a turnover to keep Topeka High’s offense off the field. Topeka scored twice out of halftime on touchdown runs by Jacqez Barksdale and Ky Thomas to pull within 28-23. Hutch would answer to lead 35-23 before Barksdale scored consecutive touchdowns to give Topeka a 36-35 lead. After a fumble, Thomas scored on a short run to extend the Trojan lead to 42-35. Hutchinson then regained a 43-42 lead on Patrick Grabener’s touchdown run and his successful two-point conversion. That set up Leonardo’s game-winning field goal. Thomas ran for 164 yards and Barksdale added 163 yards for Topeka High. Meanwhile, Washburn Rural defeated Garden City 21-7 behind a big night from senior quarterback Jordan White. White rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown, and passed for 230 yards, including two touchdowns to Preston Williams. Williams. This is a rematch of a meeting earlier this season in which Topeka ran to a 63-38 victory over the Junior Blues. Washburn Rural actually led that game 25-21 at halftime before Topeka outscored the Junior Blues 42-13 after halftime. Topeka rushed for nearly 700 yards that night let by Thomas who had 280 yards and four touchdowns. Da’Vonashai Harden and Jacqez Barksdale added 220 and 195 rushing yards, respectively.

#7 Haysville Campus (6-3) at #2 Lawrence Free State (9-0) – Free State

Derby and Free State have held the top-two Class 6A spots throughout the year. Free State rolled over Wichita North, 61-18, last week behind excellent early special teams play that included a blocked punt and two long punt returns. Joey Eddis also had 60-yard fumble recovery for a TD. Keenan Garber has been one of the state’s most explosive players. Free State missed Lovette Epelle and high-level Division I prospect Turner Corcoran on the line as the Firebirds subbed liberally in the win. Free State is 9-0 for the second straight year. Jax Dineen has exceeded 1,000 rushing yards this season. Campus has its most victories since 2005 and has exceeded its win total for the fifth straight year. Tyler Kahmann has 472 receiving yards with Quinton Hicks at 401, and Evan Kruse has cleared for 1,200 passing yards. Campus has a total margin of 268-180, while Free State is at 409-88 and ranks second in both scoring offense and defense.

#6 Wichita West (6-3) at #3 Manhattan (8-1) – Manhattan

Longtime City League coach Weston Schartz has led the Pioneers to a win improvement for the third straight season. West has its most victories since a 6-4 year in 2013. The last time West captured more than six games in a season was a 9-2 season in ’01 in Schartz’s first run as West’s coach. Last week, West defeated Wichita East, 47-0, and marked the first playoff victory since ’01. Quarterback Zion Parks is known for his running ability. The last matchup between the teams was a 28-0 Manhattan victory in the 2001 playoffs. West has an average score of 35-19 after a 27-21 average score last year. Manhattan, which permitted just 11.5 points a game last year, is again stingy with just 10 points permitted, third-best in 6A. This is the eighth matchup between the squads with the first coming in ’81. West has won five straight games. Manhattan lost 9-7 to rival Junction City in the annual Silver Trophy game in Week 6 and defeated Topeka High, 21-20 in overtime in Week 2 when it stopped Trojan running back Ky Thomas just short of the goal line for the two-point conversion. Manhattan won a share of the Centennial League two weeks ago, coach Joe Schartz’s 80th victory in 100 career games. Running back Kevontae McDonald has led the offense, though Manhattan has been bothered by a team-wide illness the last several weeks. The Schartzs are distant cousins, but don’t know each other especially well.


Class 5A



#8 Topeka Seaman (5-4) at #1 St. Thomas Aquinas (8-0) – Aquinas

After an open week to end the regular season, top-seed Aquinas used primarily backup players in throttling Topeka Highland Park, 69-14. The Saints scored 55 points in the first half and rushed for 345 yards in the game. Charlie McCormick led the Saints with 51 rushing yards and three scores. Five other running backs scored for the Saints. Standout sophomore Tank Young did not play in the game. Seaman advanced to the second round by rolling past KC Sumner, 52-20. The Vikings led 38-6 at halftime in earning their fifth win of the season. Kobe Jones passed for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns and added two more scores on the ground for Seaman.

#12 St. James Academy (2-7) at #4 Mill Valley (6-3) – Mill Valley

These two Eastern Kansas League rivals will meet for the second time this season. In the first meeting, Mill Valley rallied for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat St. James Academy, 14-13. Jordan Preston’s touchdown pass to Jayce Zukowski with 90 seconds remaining provided the winning points. St. James led 13-0 entering the fourth quarter. Preston had 300 yards in the air, and Mill Valley’s defense limited the Thunder to 25 carries for 65 yards. Tyler Green led the Jaguars with nearly 150 rushing yards. Last week, Mill Valley scored 35 points in the first half in defeating Topeka West, 49-10. Preston passed for 175 yards and three scores, while Tyler Green added 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Preston has passed for 1,677 yards and 11 score son the season, while Green leads the team with 556 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Logan Talley’s three catches for 107 yards last week pushed him pass former Jaguar great Christian Jegen for the school’s all-time receiving leader. Talley now has 2,611 career receiving yards. For St. James Academy, quarterback Jack Moellers returned to action and passed for 254 yards and three scores as the Thunder beat Lansing, 34-27. Moellers missed the past two weeks with an injury, but returned to spread the ball around to six different receivers. J.J. .Tylicki lead the team with four catches for 97 yards, while Hayes Manning, Will Shaprton, and Hudson Manning all had touchdown receptions.

#7 Shawnee Heights (5-4) at #2 De Soto (7-2) – De Soto

These two United Kansas Conference (UKC) members will meet for the second time this season. De Soto won the first meeting 14-0 on a sloppy field a couple of weeks ago. Wildcat sophomore quarterback Jackson Miller broke a scoreless tie with a short touchdown run in the third quarter, then tossed a touchdown pass to Keegan Sturdy in the fourth quarter to account for all the scoring. That night, the De Soto defense held Shawnee Heights to 103 yards of total offense. Shawnee Heights advanced to this round with a 10-9 victory over Blue Valley Southwest as Manny Salamanca kicked a 39-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to give the T-Birds the lead. Sophomore quarterback Hunter Wohler rushed for 125 yards in the victory. Davion Gardenhire leads the T-Birds with nearly 700 yards on the ground this season.

#11 Olathe West (3-6) at #3 KC Schlagle (6-3) – Olathe West

Schlagle won its opening-round game for a third consecutive season. The Stallions beat Leavenworth, 46-28 to advance to a home matchup with Olathe West. Schlagle rushed for 325 yards in the win and held the Pioneers to just 84 rush yards on 27 attempts. Olathe West picked up the school’s first-ever postseason victory by topping KC Washington 27-20. Gavan McDaniel rushed for 214 yards a pair of scores as the Owls took a two-score lead late in the third quarter. Zac Krause passed for nearly 150 yards and threw touchdown passes to Ryan Wallace and Connor Delong in the win. Krause has now passed for 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, while McDaniel lead the Owls with 807 rushing yards and six scores. If Olathe West can get McDaniel established, the Owls could be looking at a state quarterfinal appearance in their first season as a varsity program.

Class 5A – West

#8 Emporia (5-4) at #1 Wichita Northwest (9-0) – Wichita Northwest

This is the first time the two teams have matched up since 2002, a 14-7 Northwest win in the playoffs. The only other meeting came in 1996, when Northwest again beat Emporia, 27-10, in the postseason. Northwest again paces 5A in scoring offense by a large margin with 54.6 points per contest with its host of offensive playmakers like quarterback Reagan Jones, running back Breece Hall and all-purpose threat Roy Johnson. Hall, an Iowa State commit, has 1,699 all-purpose yards and 25 total scores. Jones has passed for 1,775 yards with a 24/3 TD/INT ratio. Northwest has allowed 21.2 points per game, a slight improvement over 21.9 last fall. Seniors Josh Carter (93 tackles) and Marcus Hicks (20 TFLs) lead the defense. Emporia has played multiple teams close in Centennial League action and has one of the better 5A defenses with just 18.1 points allowed a contest. However, the Spartans have scored just 29.2 points a game. Emporia is 1-3 in games decided by four points or fewer. Senior quarterback Jace Stewart has accounted for 14 scores, and junior Riley Wagner has 19 TFLs.

#5 Salina Central (7-2) at #4 Bishop Carroll (7-2) – Bishop Carroll

Salina Central, like 6A Gardner-Edgerton and 1A Inman, has made a massive turnaround after a 0-9 season. The Mustangs entered the year on an 18-game losing streak. Led by first-year coach Mark Sandbo and running back Taylon Peters, Salina Central has outscored teams, 303-205 against the No.  13 SOS in Class 5A. Peters has rushed for 1,719 yards, and junior Jackson Kavanagh has rushed for 1,335 yards. Carroll stands at 308-193 versus the third-hardest SOS. The Golden Eagles have dealt with significant injuries, including to tight end Clay Cundiff, a Wisconsin commit, and multiple quarterbacks have seen time. This is the first matchup between the teams since a 26-19 Carroll playoff victory in 2008. Carroll is 4-0 all-time in the series with all four matchups coming in the postseason, the first since 1985.

#7 Maize South (6-3) at #2 Maize (8-1) – Maize

The Maize rivals match up for the third time in history. In 2014, Maize South defeated Maize, 28-27. The following year, the Mavericks beat the Eagles, 35-7. While Maize has been known for its defense all season, the offense has continued to improve behind standout senior quarterback Caleb Grill. Maize paces the classification with just 9.4 points allowed per game. The Eagles stand third in scoring at 39.8 points. Grill ranks fourth in Kansas in passing with 2,051 yards, and Prevon Christon has 529 receiving yards, with 401 from Jordan Helm. Noah Stanton leads the quick Maize defense and is one of the state’s leaders in sacks. Maize South has captured six straight wins after a 0-3 start, including a 23-22 double overtime victory versus Goddard. The Mavericks beat Andover, 21-17, in the first round last week. Andover outgained Maize South, 302-280, but the Mavericks were plus-2 in turnover margin. Corey Minks had five catches for 103 yards and two scores. Against Goddard, Corey Minks had another big performance with four catches for 117 yards and two TDs.  Maize South has scored 23.7 points a contest and allowed 20.3. Colin Shields has thrown for 1,408 yards, Mason Edwards has rushed for 1,171, and Nolan Veenis and Minks have been the top-two receivers.

#6 Kapaun Mt. Carmel (7-2) at #3 Great Bend (7-2) – Great Bend

This marks the first matchup between the schools since 2007 and only the fourth in program annals, according to Kansas Football History. Great Bend has captured all three matchups with a 10-3 win in the 2002 playoffs and regular season victories in 2006 and ’07 (35-21, 27-14). Like most games for Kapaun, the Crusaders rank behind the opponent in offense, but have a stronger defense. Kapaun trailed Hays High at the beginning of the fourth quarter and then held on to win, 42-28, behind a big game from running back Scott Valentas, a Columbia University commit. Valentas has 716 rushing yards and 12 scores on the season. Kapaun has allowed 147 points, fourth-fewest in 5A, but has scored 242 points. Great Bend has a total margin of 301-163. Both teams have lost to Wichita Northwest and Bishop Carroll, though Carroll needed a big comeback to beat Great Bend and defeated rival Kapaun in the Holy War with relative ease. Great Bend quarterback Koy Brack has 1,753 passing yards and Alex Schremmer, after he came over from nearby Hoisington, has 906 receiving yards.


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