Playoff Preview: 8-Man, Division I & II (Quarterfinals)

Isaac Salmans will try to lead Hodgeman County to a road win at St. Francis. (by Jennifer Shiew)
By: Matt Gilmore & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 7, 2018

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Class 8-Man, Division I

VIEW: 8M-I Bracket


Solomon (9-1) at Argonia-Attica (7-3) – Solomon                           

Argonia-Attica is the only district fourth-place finisher still alive in the state. The Titans have pulled off consecutive road playoff wins over Sedan and Udall to advance to the state quarterfinal round for the third time in the six years the co-op between the two schools has been in place. Last week, the Titans avenged a 22-14 district loss to Udall by eliminating the Eagles, 42-36. A&A trailed 22-18 at halftime, but outscored the Eagles 24-14 in the second half for the win. Blake Harnden passed for 116 yards and a touchdown and added 91 yards rushing in the game. Masen McDaniel and Mason Miller each rushed for a pair of touchdowns for the Titans, while Miller also added a touchdown catch. On the season, Harnden leads the Titan offense with 672 rushing yards and 16 scores, while passing for 791 yards and nine touchdowns. McDaniel (5-11, 230) is a versatile player that A&A moves around to several positions. He has rushed for 532 yards and nine score and passed for nearly 500 yards with six touchdowns. McDaniel also leads the team with 98 tackles, 8 sacks, and five fumble recoveries. Ezra Goodman, the team’s leading receiver with 512 yards and four touchdowns, has added 61 tackles and ten sacks on defense.

Ranked for much of the season, Solomon is where we thought they would be as one of the last team’s standing on the east bracket. The Gorillas survived a tough road game at Madison last week, 30-26. Solomon outscored Madison 24-6 in the second half and took advantage of four Bulldog turnovers in the game to escape with the win. Solomon fell behind by two scores in the first half, but rally to take a 22-20 lead in the third quarter. Madison responded with a touchdown, but Solomon quarterback Braden Neilson scored the game-winning touchdown on a short run with four minutes left. For the season Neilson has passed for 819 yards and 15 scores, while rushing for 806 yards and 19 more touchdowns. Senior Logan Krause leads the Gorillas with 1,066 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Cobey Fiske is the team’s leading receiver with 463 yards and nine scores.

Canton-Galva (8-1) at South Central (9-1) – South Central

Canton-Galva has been of the state’s biggest surprises with a four-win improvement with no seniors. South Central has hovered around or been a part of the top-5 all season after back-to-back 9-2 seasons. For Canton-Galva, junior quarterback Landon Everett has 1,074 passing and 1,405 rushing yards. Standout freshman Tyson Struber has 619 receiving yards. For South Central, junior quarterback Chayde Snyder, a three-year starter, has delivered an impressive season with 40 of 68 passing for 881 yards with a 17/2 TD/INT ratio. He has rushed 166 times for 884 yards and 12 scores.

South Central’s great strength has come on defense and special teams in the last three seasons, especially the last two. The Timberwolves, against the No. 3 strength of schedule in Eight-Man, Division I, have permitted just 92 points, third-best in the classification and fourth-best in eight-man football. South Central has scored 408 points, while Canton-Galva, against a significantly easier schedule, has a total margin of 518-186. The Eagles have won nine straight, including a win versus one-loss Solomon. South Central’s only loss came versus Hodgeman County.

South Central junior Gage Girk has excelled in all three phases with 11 catches for 291 yards and six scores, along with 79 tackles, second-best to Snyder’s 96. Girk has intercepted 11 passes and defended 15. He has also recorded 27 touchbacks and has averaged 44.1 yards per punt on 13 punts. If Girk had one more punt, he would qualify for the MaxPreps national leaderboard – and easily lead the nation in eight-man punting average. He is tie for second nationally among eight-man players in interceptions.


Central Plains (10-0) at Hoxie (9-1) – Central Plains

This is the first matchup between the eight-man state powers since Central Plains formed before the 2011 season with the consolidation of Claflin and Quivira Heights. Both teams, well-known for elite defense, have won an eight-man state title in the last five years. Central Plains has eight straight shutouts and leads all of Kansas with just 22 points permitted. Hoxie has allowed 212, 12th-best. Central Plains has scored 480 points, 16 more than the Indians. The Oilers average 8.1 yards per play to Hoxie’s 6.9.

Hoxie and Central Plains were ranked 1-2 in the classification throughout the preseason and the first half of the fall. The defending state champion Indians lost 64-30 at rival St. Francis in district play in Week 5. However, Hoxie moved back into the top-5 with a 22-20 comeback win at previously undefeated Clifton-Clyde last week. Hoxie won the game without senior quarterback Jared Kennedy, who has passed for 902 yards and rushed for 536 with 25 scores accounted for. He is expected to return this week. Junior Wylie Weems has enjoyed a breakout season with 195 carries for 1,205 yards and 16 TDs. Hoxie went 0 of 3 passing in the Clifton-Clyde win and received 126 rushing yards from Weems. He leads the team with 105 tackles, while Hoxie’s veteran senior front of Jarrod Dible (27.5 TFLs), Taye Washington (13 TFLs) and Colton Heskett (6.5 TFLs) have paced the unit.

For Central Plains, senior quarterback Myles Menges has passed for 1,016 yards with a 21/3 TD/INT ratio, and senior Alex Hickel has 62 carries for 624 yards and 13 scores. Senior Grant Heldstab leads the defense with 110 tackles, 16 for loss.

Hodgeman County (9-1) at St. Francis (10-0) – St. Francis

This is the second time the two teams have ever met. St. Francis defeated Hodgeman County, 70-24, in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Arguably the two best eight-man running backs match up in the contest. St. Francis senior Jordan Raby has rushed for 1,307 yards and Hodgeman County junior Eli Salmans has 1,759 rushing yards on 244 carries with 24 scores. Both teams have an exceptional quarterback, too. Sophomore Issac Salmans, Eli’s brother, has thrown for 1,078 yards with an 11/2 TD/INT ratio, and Sainty junior Brady Dinkel is a three-year starter, second season at quarterback.

Hodgeman County has a total margin of 473-186 against the No. 5 SOS in Division I, while St. Francis is at 476-90 against the No. 23 SOS. The Indians rank second in scoring defense. Eli Salmans leads the Longhorns with 92 tackles. St. Francis has enjoyed a surprising season with first-year coach Nick Fawcett, who has brought multiple players back to the team’s sidelines and has implemented the single wing. Hodgeman County was the Division II runner-up last year.

Class 8-Man, Division II

VIEW: 8M-II Bracket


St. Paul (9-1) at Hanover (10-0) – Hanover

After reaching the Eight-Man, Division I state title game last fall, St. Paul has now advanced to the quarterfinal round in Division II. Last week, the Indians outscored Centre-Lost Springs, 80-50, to earn a trip to top-ranked Hanover this week. Against Centre, St. Paul led 52-20 at halftime before essentially trading scores with Cougars in the second half. St. Paul was once again led by Adam Albertini who had another monster game. The junior back rushed for 336 yards and scored nine touchdowns in the victory. On the season, Albertini has rushed for 2,149 yards and 53 touchdowns. But Albertini and the Indians will face their toughest test when they make the long trip north to take on the Hanover Wildcats.

Hanover hasn’t lost a game since the 2015 state championship against Spearville. The Wildcats have won 34 straight games – 35 counting a forfeit victory over Blue Valley Randolph earlier this season. Last week, Hanover advanced with a 78-30 win over Twin Valley League rival Frankfort. The Wildcats led 34-14 at halftime before exploding for 38 points in the third quarter to lead 72-30. Senior back Carter Bruna (6-0, 210) led the charge with 183 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Bruna is a load to bring down and also a returning all-state selection as a linebacker. Quarterback Daiken Stallbaumer added 124 rushing yards and three scores, and also passed for 178 yards and two more touchdowns in the win over Frankfort.

Hanover is big up front with the likes of Jonah Weber (6-4, 250) and Gavin Pralle (6-3, 250). The Wildcats also have great skill players on offense with Bruna, Stallbaumer, and Cade Cohorst, while Thomas Atkins may be the best athlete on the field. As good as the Wildcats can be on offense, their defense has been equally impressive. Hanover has allowed only 84 total points all season with the majority of those coming in two games – a 50-42 win over No. 2 Axtell and last week’s victory over Frankfort.

Waverly (9-1) at Axtell (9-1) – Axtell

A pair of one-loss teams will battle for a spot in the state semifinals when Waverly travel to Axtell. Waverly has won eight straight games since its lone loss of the season, a 20-0 shutout to Madison (9-1). The Bulldogs average 48 points per game behind standouts Drew Pyle and Jake Newton. Last week, the Bulldogs advanced by beating Southern Coffey County for a second time this season. Waverly led 28-14 at halftime, but Newton began the third quarter with a long touchdown run and a long touchdown reception to push the lead to 44-14. The Waverly defense make Titan standout Dawson Leimkuhler work for his yards as the senior finished with 118 rushing yards on 26 carries. Waverly also held Titan quarterback Jett Harvey to just six of 20 passing.

They’ll need a similar effort defensively this week as they take on perhaps the top pass-catching duo in the state in Axtell’s Quinn Buessing and Hunter Koch. Buessing has completed nearly 71 percent of his pass attempts this season for 2,090 yards and 46 touchdowns. He’s been intercepted only two times. Meanwhile, Koch has 62 receptions for 1,133 yards and a state-record 31 touchdowns. George Volle (32 rec., 423 yards, 6 TD), J.J. Hart (31 rec., 385 yards, 10 TD), and Derek Buessing (20 rec., 225 yards, TD) round out the receiving group.

In last week’s 80-30 win over Mankato-Rock Hills, Axtell went to the ground game behind Buessing’s 236 yards rushing and three scores. Hart also contributed 91 yards and two scores on the ground as the Eagles ran for more than 350 yards. That type of balance on offense makes the Eagles a difficult prep for Waverly veteran coach Mike Hevel. Hevel, who announced he would retire at season’s end, has led the Bulldogs to a 192-70 record with two state titles in his 23 seasons.


South Barber (9-0-1) at Osborne (9-1) – Osborne

Two teams with elite offenses, great quarterbacks and excellent playmakers match up for the first time. Both teams stand in the top-four in Division II in scoring offense. South Barber, with junior quarterback Trevor Rooks, has back-to-back 9-2 seasons and set a big team goal to move past the quarterfinals this season. The Chieftains have outscored teams 576-182, though against a relatively weak schedule (No. 46). The Chieftains only have a road tie versus top-five Otis-Bison in a game called at halftime because of the weather.

Osborne, versus the No. 5 SOS, has a total margin of 582-202. The Bulldogs have rushed for 343 yards and average 10.5 yards per play, while South Barber stands at 7.4. Senior Darrien Holloway has passed for 709 yards and rushed for 1,222 yards with 35 total scores. Junior Darrien Holloway has 1,212 rushing yards and 26 scores. Senior Kade Miller leads the team with 91 tackles.

For South Barber, Rooks has completed 93 of 147 passes for 1,320 yards with a 27/5 TD/INT ratio. He has rushed 121 times for 846 yards and 17 TDs. Senior Neal Gugelmeyer has 91 carries for 646 yards and 16 scores. Osborne won the state title two years ago and lost at St. Paul in the Division I quarterfinals last year.

Otis-Bison (8-1-1) at Dighton (8-2) – Otis-Bison

This is the third straight year Otis-Bison and Dighton have played with the previous two in districts. In 2016, Dighton won a thriller, 36-30, en route to the best season in school annals and a state runner-up finish. Last year, Otis-Bison beat Dighton, 54-8, and eventually finished as sub-state runner-up.

Dighton has been one of the state’s prevailing storylines with just nine players. Senior Blair Hoffman has completed 95 of 136 passes for 1,369 yards with a 33/2 TD/INT ratio. Senior Dalton Hoffman had 98 carries for 778 yards and nine scores, while Blair has 137 carries for 725 yards and 10 scores. Senior David Cramer has 47 catches for 791 yards and 17 scores. Blair Hoffman has a team-best 117 tackles, while Cramer has 106 stops.

Otis-Bison, with significantly more depth, has received another huge year from senior Anton Foust. He has led the offense to 10.1 yards per play, while Dighton has 7.5 yards per play. Foust has 71 carries for 1,113 yards and 20 scores, including seven rushing TDs versus Hutchinson Central Christian in a wild game last week. Foust has thrown for 596 yards with a 21/0 TD/INT ratio. Senior Luke Higgason is one of eight-man’s top linemen with 12 TFLs and six sacks. Otis-Bison lists 20 players on the roster, five whom weigh at least 190 pounds.

Dighton has some size up front, too, with senior Donte Hudson and sophomore Ariel Arevalo, both whom weigh at least 250. Otis-Bison’s only loss came in Week 1 to Victoria when Foust missed the second half with cramps. Dighton opened 1-2 with competitive defeats to ranked Division I teams Hodgeman County and St. Francis. The teams are very similar in total margins and SOS, with Otis-Bison holding the slight edge. The Cougars are at 506-152 with the No. 13 SOS, and Dighton stands at 452-156 at No. 20.


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Last updated: November 25, 2018 - 11:21 pm