The Pick List - Week 1

Wichita Northwest & Bishop Carroll will try & top two classic games from 2018. (Kelly Ross)
By: Matt Gilmore, Conor Nicholl, & Alex Hammeke for
Sep 4, 2019

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Welcome to the 2019 football season and our first edition of The Pick List. Each Thursday throughout the regular season, The Pick List will feature six of the best match-ups across the state, and make our predictions on a handful of other games.

Feature Games of the Week:

Shawnee Mission East at 6A No. 3 Gardner-Edgerton

A key early-season game in the Sunflower League takes place in Gardner where the Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazers will host Shawnee Mission East.

Last season, Gardner-Edgerton began the Ryan Cornelsen era by snapping a 10-game losing streak with a 28-23 upset of then 6A No. 5 Shawnee Mission East. It was also the Trailblazers inaugural game as part of the Sunflower League.

Gardner-Edgerton went on to surprise the state in completing an 8-0 regular season and earning the top seed on the eastern half of Class 6A. The Blazers eventually reached the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual state runners-up, Blue Valley North.

There is plenty of talent left in the stable for the Blazers to make another deep run this season.

Quarterback Teven McKelvey is back to direct the offense after rushing for 1,254 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. McKelvey was one of three Blazers to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing last season, although he is the only one returning. Finding a stable of backs to replace Jacob Hunsperger, Luke Jennings, and Baylor Maxwell will be key. Maxwell was injured early in the 2018 season, but he and Jennings signed to play at Pittsburg State.  

The strength of the Blazers may be up front where three starters return. That group is headlined by Talor Warner (6-4, 250), a 6A all-state selection despite limited time on the football field. Warner committed to Kansas State this summer.

The Gardner-Edgerton defense returns nine starters from a unit that surrendered 23 points per game last fall. Davonte Prichard returns after leading the team in stops last season as a sophomore.

The Blazers will also benefit from the addition of speedster Tayezhan Crough who transferred from Hutchinson.

On the other sideline, Shawnee Mission East overcame instability last summer to reach the state quarterfinals.

Fred Bouchard resigned without ever taking the sidelines in order to take an administrative job out of state. Former Bishop Miege offensive coordinator Justin Hoover took over to lead the Lancers to an 8-3 record with the three losses coming to playoff teams by a combined 14 points.

This year’s Lancers return only two starters on offense and just a handful on defense.

Senior running back Tony Friends highlights the returnees after his 1,400-yard, 15-touchdown junior campaign. He’ll also have Joe Krause (6-3, 270) back on the offensive line.

Hoover is now as one of the top quarterback coaches in the Midwest, and he must find a replacement for Andy Maddox who moved on to play at Michigan.

The defense lost some talented players as well. P.J. Spencer delivered an all-state season on the defensive line, and Tyler Stottle was one of the most productive linebackers in the classification.

Junior Lee Marshall (6-2, 220) is a talented defensive lineman to keep an eye out for.

In addition to last year’s season-opening victory, Gardner-Edgerton has given Shawnee Mission East fits in each of the past few seasons. The heavily-favored Lancers narrowly defeated the Blazers 36-35 back in the 2016 playoffs, and put another scare into SM East in a 42-28 Lancer playoff win in 2017.

Now thanks to the momentum of the 2018 season, it appears that Gardner-Edgerton is now the favorite.

Our Pick: Gardner-Edgerton 27, SM East 20 (Gilmore)

5A No. 3 Bishop Carroll at 5A No. 2 Wichita Northwest

Wichita Northwest defeated Bishop Carroll twice last season en route to a 12-1 year and Class 5A state runner-up to Aquinas. Northwest tied the ’96 team for the furthest advancement in school history. In the season opener, NW kicked a last-second, game-winning field goal from Carson Arndt and won 23-22. It marked the first field goal Arndt had ever attempted.

In the playoffs, Northwest earned an 84-67 victory. The Grizzlies have won four of the last five in the series, though Carroll captured a 40-35 last second victory in ’17. The average margin in those five games is 8.4 points.

Northwest led the state with 726 points in ‘18. The offense delivered 195 passing and 387 rushing yards a game. The Grizzlies graduated its two FBS signees: running back Breece Hall (Iowa State) and defensive end Marcus Hicks (Oklahoma). However, quarterback Reagan Jones is back in his second season as a starter after he transferred from Andover Central.

Jones, a Missouri Western commit and arguably the state’s top returning quarterback, threw for 2,414 yards with a 31/5 TD/INT ratio. He also rushed 166 times for 1,393 yards and 20 scores. Senior Zion Jones returns after a big season with 30 catches for 603 yards and 10 TDs.

In addition to Hicks, Northwest graduated by far its leading tackler in Josh Carter (136 tackles), one of the state’s strongest pound-for-pound players. Senior Jamar Martin is back after he finished second with 87 tackles. Junior Jacob Younkman enjoyed a huge season with 53 tackles, 21.5 for loss.

Jones is one of the state’s better specialists, including 35 punts for a 37-yard average and 10 inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Jones was nine of nine on extra points, and Arndt finished 86 of 92 on extra points and made three field goals. Senior tackle Tristin Reasoner (6-3, 275) was first team all-league.

Carroll went through significant injuries at quarterback and still averaged 38.8 points per game. The Golden Eagles permitted just 26.5 points a contest, better than Northwest’s 29.3. Carroll returns seven offensive and four defensive starters, though graduated all-staters Jackson Nichols at running back and Clay Cundiff at tight end. Cundiff signed with Wisconsin. Senior John Honas was expected to carry the ball this year, but has suffered a broken leg and is out for the season.

In ’18, Honas played in just two games at quarterback before injury, and Aiden Niedens eventually earned honorable mention all-league honors. Senior lineman Ethan McMillan and senior defensive back Justin Powell were first team all-league. Senior end Max Bullinger is expected to step up in a bigger role after he was honorable mention all-league.

Carroll has plenty of talent across the board, and will receive strong quarterback play no matter who is under center. However, R. Jones and Z. Jones are too prolific. The game is similar to the last several years – close, but Northwest is the favorite.

Our Pick: Northwest 38, Carroll 30 (Nicholl)

2A No. 2 Hoisington at Pratt

The two Central Kansas League powers square off for the sixth straight year. Hoisington won the first three matchups 21-7, 34-14, and 32-14. Last year, Pratt earned a 35-28 victory. Two seasons ago, Pratt won the 4A-II state title with

For the second straight year, Hoisington and Pratt face in a season-opening game that has featured state championship caliber teams in previous seasons.

Pratt has won the last two matchups, beating the Cardinals 34-0 last year and 35-28 in 2017. Hoisington won three consecutive in the series from 2014 to 2016, beating the Greenbacks 21-7 in 2014, 34-14 in 2015, and 32-14 in 2016.

When Pratt won the 4A-DII State Championship in 2016, the Greenbacks’ only loss that year was to Hoisington.

Hoisington made it all the way to the sub-state championship game last year with a record of 9-3. The Cardinals lost to eventual state champion Phillipsburg, 31-14. In fact, two of Hoisington’s three losses last season came to the 2A-champion Panthers.

Pratt finished 12-1 on the year and fell to Sabetha in the 3A state championship game, 43-42 in overtime.

This season, Hoisington returns a vast majority on both sides of the ball, while Pratt will be looking to replace most of their offense and some defensive positions.

Hoisington senior Wyatt Pedigo, a North Dakota commit, will be one of the top running backs in the state this fall. Last year, Pedigo rushed 222 times for 2,101 yards and 29 TDs. Pedigo is also a secret weapon in the passing game, catching 10 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns. The Pratt defense did not see Pedigo last year, as he missed the opener due to injury.

Hoisington also returns quarterback Mason Haxton. Haxton was injured much of the season last year, but is healthy and ready for his junior campaign. The Cardinals return wideout Avery Brewer and tight end Dallen Hutchcraft, both in their senior year.

The Cardinal offensive line returns four starters, as Riley Philbern, Kameron Schneweis, Jacob Specht, and Chandler Blackwell are back for their senior seasons.

Pratt will be looking to replace all but two of their offensive starters from last year.  Travis Theis lit up the scoreboard for Pratt through the air and on the ground, but he has since graduated and moved on to play at South Dakota.

Theis, produced 3,593 total yards and 54 touchdowns for the Greenbacks last year, which will all need to be replaced. Hunter Huber will take over running the ball for the Greenbacks this fall.

Pratt also has a new head coach this year, as former Lyndon coach Brent Hoelting will take over for Jamie Cruce, who left Pratt after six seasons to be the head coach at Haysville Campus.

Much of the returning experience for Pratt will return on the defensive side of the ball, where the Greenbacks return six starters. Senior Jarrett Bates will anchor the defensive line, while Hunter Huber and Bryce Winsor return as linebackers. Grant May returns as a defensive back, and Dawson Snider returns at end.

Last year, Pratt had more returning experience than Hoisington, and this year the script looks to be flipped. Pratt will seek to find offensive answers against a tough Hoisington D, and Pedigo will look to make his mark after missing last year’s contest.

Our Pick: Hoisington 35, Pratt 14 (Hammeke)

1A No. 5 Centralia at 2A No. 4 Rossville

A pair of traditional powers square off to begin the season for a second consecutive year. Rossville, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A to begin the season, will host Class 1A’s fifth-ranked Centralia Panthers.

In last year’s season-opener, Rossville scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull out a 26-14 road win at Centralia. The Bulldawgs went on to post an 8-3 record – a six-win improvement from the prior season – and reach the state quarterfinals before falling to Humboldt, 24-22.

Rossville’s three losses last season came to 2A runner-up Riley County (40-25), 2A semifinalist Humboldt (24-22), and 2A quarterfinalist Silver Lake (17-14).

This season, Derick Hammes believes he has the returning experience to turn those close losses into victories.

The Bulldawgs return three starters on the offensive line led by Kpreps 3A All-State selection Kody Davoren.

The primary question mark is at quarterback, where Rossville graduated Garrett Carver who rushed for 1,276 yards and 18 touchdowns, while passing for 1,269 yards and 9 more scores.

Traditionally, Coach Hammes has asked a lot of his quarterback in terms of offensive production and the weight of that load could fall on either junior Bo Reeves or sophomore Torrey Horak.

Reeves led the Buldawgs in receiving last fall with 24 catches for 381 yards and four scores. He also added 200 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Horak was sparingly featured on offense, but finished his freshman season with 51 tackles and four interceptions.

Junior Tyree Sowers also returns after rushing for 566 yards and four touchdowns.

Centralia reached the Class 1A state quarterfinals before dropping a 20-18 decision at home to Olpe. The Panthers won eight straight games after an 0-2 start to the season that included losses to Rossville and Riley County.

The Panthers return six starts on each side of the ball, but must replace 1A All-State selections Daegan Steinlage at tight end and Derek VanDorn on the offensive line. Austin Holthaus returns as the Panthers’ top lineman.

Centralia does have an experienced playmaker in senior Kamble Haverkamp. Haverkamp, the Panther spinner back, rushed for 1,470 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, while passing for 700 more yards and 10 scores. He’ll likely be joined in the backfield by Noah Quigley and Devon Feldkamp.

Expect both of these tradition-rich programs to be a factor in their respective classifications, but in this early season contest, Rossville appears to have more experience.

Our Pick: Rossville 26, Centralia 20 (Gilmore)

8M-II No. 5 St. Paul at Sedan

Last season marked one of several games where the loser of the Week 1 matchup went on to have a better season than the winner. Sedan beat St. Paul, 44-36, on the road in one of the key opening eight-man games of 2018. The Blue Devils finished 7-2, while St. Paul captured nine straight games for a 9-2 mark.

This is the fourth time the teams have played in the last four years. In ’16, Sedan beat St. Paul, 50-40. In ’17, St. Paul won 37-18 and earned state runner-up to Hoxie.

St. Paul brings back senior Adam Albertini, a two-time all-state pick and one of Kansas’ best players. He rushed for 2,241 yards and 51 scores and accounted for 60 total touchdowns. SP averaged 49.8 points a game.

St. Paul has a large senior class, including Albertini, Gib Carter, Chase and Chandler Bradshaw, and Easton Dent. Top juniors are Ivan Murillo, Ethan Stoneking and Wilson Smith for coach Keith Wiatrak.

The Indians have at least four players at 200 pounds. This will likely be St. Paul’s biggest test of the regular season. St. Paul stands fifth in the preseason Eight-Man, Division II poll. The Indians allowed 25.3 points per game.

Sedan, in Eight-Man, Division I, scored 46 points a game and allowed 29.3 in ‘18. The Blue Devils will again be challenging District 1 where the top-four teams were either 3-2 or 4-1 in district plat. Sedan won the district. The Blue Devils finished 2-2 at home and 5-0 on the road.

Senior Tayte Halderman has started since he was a freshman. He led the team with 114 carries for 1,008 yards and 15 scores. He and Dameion Hatten mainly split the passing duties and completed 43 percent for 747 yards with an 11/6 TD/INT ratio. Four of the top-five tacklers return, led by a team-high 75 stops from junior Eli Campbell. In his career, Halderman has 176 tackles and 12 interceptions.

Sedan graduated Cody Joslin, who had 242 rushing yards in five games after he rushed for 1,013 yards two years ago. In the ’18 matchup, Joslin didn’t play.

St. Paul led 24-6 at halftime and 30-18 after three quarters before Sedan outscored the Indians, 26-6, in the fourth. The Indians won the yardage battle, 366-311, but the Blue Devils were plus-3 in turnover margin and had a kick return for a score. Albertini rushed for 189 yards.

This year, St. Paul is the slightly more experienced team. While Halderman is a great player, Albertini is one of the best across all classes. As long as St. Paul stays away from turnovers, the Indians are the favorite.

Our Pick: St. Paul 42, Sedan 26 (Nicholl)

8M-II No. 3 Osborne at Hill City

In one of the crazier games of 2018, Osborne opened the season with an 88-76 victory against Hill City.

Osborne again posted big offensive numbers with 56.3 points a game, third-best in all of eight-man football. The Bulldogs finished 11-2 and lost 58-50 in a thriller to Hanover in the Eight-Man, Division II state championship game, the highest-scoring eight-man title contest in history. Hill City posted its second straight 5-4 season and had a sizable offensive climb to 46.7 points a game.

Osborne coach Brandon Wise left for El Dorado, but former coach Steve Tiernan returns. Tiernan captured a state crown with the Bulldogs in ’13 and won previous titles at Baileyville B&B (’08, ’10). Osborne is ranked third in the preseason, while Hill City is just outside the top-five in Division I.

Both squads graduated its standout quarterback. Osborne’s Darnell Holloway was the Sports in Kansas Division II Offensive Player of the Year. Darnell rushed 24 times for 356 yards and seven scores in the Hill City victory.

Hill City’s Conner Born passed for 843, rushed for 1,316 and accounted for 36 offensive scores. In the Osborne contest, Born enjoyed an equally big game with 19 carries for 396 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, along with a pair of passing scores. Osborne first team all-stater Kade Miller – who was a key two-way player – has also graduated.

However, both teams return dynamic players. Darnell’s brother, Darrien, has more than 3,000 rushing yards. Mason Schurr enjoyed an explosive freshman season with 855 rushing yards. Seniors Steele Wolters and Vaughn Stull are veteran senior returning starters.

Hill City has all-purpose threat Dalen Journigan, who finished with 1,053 all-purpose yards. Juniors Brody McDowell (110 tackles) and Jayce Hamel (13 TFLs) are back after big seasons. Hill City allowed 32.9 points per game, while Osborne was at 20.6. Tiernan helped Solomon improve its defensive scoring average more than 23 points a game from ’17 to 17.4 points a contest.

Both teams have small rosters. Hill City carries 19 players with two seniors. Osborne also has 19 players with six seniors.

This is a big litmus test for both teams that expect to be west contenders. Tiernan is one of Kansas’ all-time great eight-man coaches and has consistently enjoyed strong teams in his first season with a program. Both teams have plenty of talent, though Osborne has slight edges on defense, and Darrien Holloway/Schurr is more explosive in the backfield. Expect another high-scoring game, though Osborne is the favorite.

Our Pick: Osborne 54, Hill City 46 (Nicholl)

The Pick List:

Blue Valley West at 5A No. 4 Mill Valley – Mill Valley

5A No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas at 6A No. 5 Blue Valley - Aquinas

6A No. 1 Derby at Garden City – Derby

Olathe West at Lawrence Free State – Free State

Olathe East at 6A No. 4 Olathe North – Olathe North

Emporia at Washburn Rural Emporia

Wichita Heights at Maize South – Maize South

Basehor-Linwood at Tonganoxie – Tonganoxie

4A No. 3 McPherson at Salina South – McPherson

Wichita Collegiate at Wellington – Wellington

Cheney at Garden Plain – Garden Plain

3A No. 1 Sabetha at Nemaha Central – Sabetha

Chapman at 3A No. 3 Marysville – Marysville

Elkhart at Cimarron – Cimarron

Humboldt at Neodesha – Humboldt

1A No. 2 Plainville at Norton – Norton

Troy at Valley Heights – Valley Heights

Hutchinson Central Christian at Argonia-Attica Central Christian

Little River at 8M-I No. 1 Canton-Galva Canton-Galva

Dighton at 8M-I No. 3 Hodgeman County – Hodgeman County

Ness City at 8M-I No. 4 Central Plains – Central Plains

Beloit St. John’s-Tipton at 8M-II No. 2 Axtell – Axtell


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