The Pick List - Week 2

Rossville takes the field last week against Centralia. (by Shari Gentry)
By: Conor Nicholl, Matt Gilmore, & Alex Hammeke for
Sep 11, 2019

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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:

Manhattan (1-0) at Topeka High (1-0)

This game will likely decide the Centennial League crown.

Last season, Manhattan won 21-20 in overtime on a controversial finish when Topeka running back Ky Thomas was ruled down short of the goal line when he dove for the winning two-point conversion.

Manhattan has earned a share of the conference nine times in the past 10 seasons. Topeka has shared/won five occasions in the last seven years.

One of the early season’s prevailing storylines involves Topeka High. Is this the year that Topeka High finally breaks through and reaches a semifinal or final? The Trojans have continually delivered high-octane offenses with coach Walt Alexander, who has fashioned a remarkable turnaround. Topeka, though, has made the quarterfinals in ’12 and ’18, with one semifinal appearance (’73) and no championship game appearances in school history.

Topeka High finished 9-2 last year and was one of three 6A teams to score at least 500 points. The Trojans return Thomas, a four-year starter, Minnesota commit and on pace to become the all-time leading rusher in city of Topeka history.

Thomas made ESPN SportsCenter for an electrifying 64-yard touchdown run in a 44-7 road victory against Shawnee Heights in Week 1. He rushed 10 times for 161 yards and two scores.

Quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden (KU commit) finished with 255 yards of total offense. Topeka is loaded at several other positions, including with senior outside linebacker Uciph McDaniel (South Dakota offer), senior tackle E’Monte Neal, and standout sophomore linebacker J.P. Deeter.

While Topeka has averaged at least 46 points per game in the last two seasons, Manhattan has generally won with defense. From ’06-18, Manhattan’s top-two offensive outputs came with 39.5 points a contest last year, and 41.9 points a contest in ’16. However, Manhattan permitted just 158 points in a 10-2 season in ’18, while Topeka allowed 263.

Manhattan opened with a 42-7 victory against Olathe Northwest. Dayne Aschenbrenner is one of the top players in the Class of 2021 and had 199 rushing yards for three scores. His only pass completion was a 25-yard touchdown to Tyler Higgins. B.J. Young had 135 rushing yards and two scores.

The Indians have some new faces at key positions.

First-team all-state running back Kevontae McDonald graduated after 1,628 yards and 30 scores. Isiah Childs, an Akron commit and running back, transferred to nearby Wamego. Lineman Sam Shields, a Kansas State commit, left last week’s game with a shoulder injury and is expected to miss significant time. Mario Caycedo is expected to step up on the offensive line.

Manhattan also graduated conference defensive player of the year David Hernandez, but has a strong defensive line returning with Damian Ilalio, Darius O’Connell and DaShawn Edwards.

In the series, Manhattan has earned three consecutive wins and is 9-2 in the last 11 games. Topeka’s elite talent at multiple positions and improved defense could be the pivot points for the Trojans.

Our Pick: Topeka High 34, Manhattan 24 (Nicholl)

Topeka Seaman (1-0) at 3A No. 4 Topeka Hayden (1-0)

Another Centennial League rivalry will take place at Hummer Park on Friday as the Seaman Vikings will take on the Hayden Wildcats.

Expectations are high at Topeka Hayden. The Wildcats reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals last fall before being bounced by Marysville.

Bill Arnold’s group returns a lot of talent off of that team, including nine returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. Andrew Schmidtlein, also a standout baseball player, helps anchor the defensive front, while Will DeVader had an exceptional season at linebacker a year ago.

The offense isn’t quite as experienced as the defense, but does return four starters across the offensive line. They will pave the way for Desmond Purnell and DeVader in the backfield and help break in junior quarterback Johnny Holloway who replaces the graduated Brady Bohannon.

Holloway debuted with 82 yards and two touchdowns through the air in last week’s 55-8 route of Topeka West. The Wildcats rushed for more than 380 yards in the victory.

That theme of an experienced offensive line and a new quarterback is also consistent with what you’ll find on the Seaman sideline.

Coach Glen O’Neil is replacing a multi-year starter in Kobe Jones at quarterback, but senior Brayden Vawter has played and thrown nearly 75 passes over the past two seasons. In fact, it was Vawter who threw the only touchdown pass in this game last year – a scoring strike to Jones as part of a 13-0 Vikings victory.

Seaman opened with a 56-6 victory over Topeka Highland Park last week with Vawter throwing for 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Trenton Carlson-Perry added a pair of rushing scores, while sophomore Casen Stallbaumer rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass.

Another sophomore, Aiden Polter, led the Vikings with 94 yards on the ground.

Last season’s win marked the third straight in the series for Seaman. Both of these teams’ strength is up front, so expect another close contest on Friday.

Our Pick: Hayden 20, Seaman 13 (Gilmore)

4A No. 4 Paola (1-0) at Fort Scott (1-0)

Fourth-ranked Paola will travel to Frary Field in Fort Scott to take on the Tigers in a key game on the eastern half of Class 4A.

Fort Scott will be looking to avenge last season’s 42-0 blanking at the hands of the Panthers – a rare lopsided decision in this series that had seen three of the prior four meetings decided by six points or less.

Fort Scott opened the Bo Graham era with a 40-14 victory over Coffeyville-Field Kindley last week.

The Tigers and Golden Tornado were tied at 14 in the second half before Fort Scott took the lead on a short touchdown pass from Brody Bowles to Andrew Reed. Reed, a transfer from nearby Uniontown, rushed for a score in addition to his go-ahead touchdown reception.

Fort Scott broke the game open with a pair of interception returns for touchdowns by C.J. Horton and Nick Emerson.

Jamar Franks led the ground game with over 100 yards and a score. He also returned started off the scoring by taking the opening kickoff back for a touchdown.

Paola was impressive in a 48-21 win over an experienced Bonner Springs team.

Five different Panthers scored touchdowns on the night with four of those coming as part of a 35-7 first half.

Garrett Williams and Connor Hasz led the Panther ground game with each rushing for a pair of touchdowns. Williams rushed for 115 yards and also passed for 63 yards connecting with Evan Peuser on a touchdown. Hasz added 107 yards rushing.  

Paola controlled the ball and rushed for 350 yards behind its experienced line. The Panthers will have to try and do the same on Friday in order to spoil Coach Graham’s home debut.

Our Pick: Paola 35, Fort Scott 20 (Gilmore)

Holcomb (1-0) at 3A No. 5 Scott City (1-0)

Scott City has generally dominated this long-tenured Greater West Activities Conference rivalry, though Holcomb has won more games in recent seasons. Since ’04, Scott City owns a 14-4 edge in annually a key matchup, though Holcomb is 3-2 in the last five contests. Holcomb finished as sub-state runner-up in ’14 and ’16 and captured titles in ’15 and ’17, the only two state crowns in school history.

Scott City is tied for tenth all-time in Kansas history with 50 playoff wins, according to Prep Power Index. In recent history, the Beavers won a title in ’12, were runners-up in ’14, semifinalists in ’17 and quarterfinalists last year. Scott City finished 10-1 last year and had a collective margin of 442-93.  After big graduation losses, Holcomb dropped back to 4-5 and scored 179 points against 216 allowed.

Holcomb opened with a 48-6 victory against Goodland after a 34-12 season-opening win versus the Cowboys last year led to three straight losses. Scott City won 24-0 in the matchup last season.

Holcomb had 71 passing yards and 217 rushing for 288 total yards on 52 offensive plays. Last year, the Longhorns recorded 60 offensive snaps for 381 yards versus Goodland.

Senior Kobe Hands completed six of 16 passes for 71 yards with two scores against zero interceptions. Sophomore Kolby Johnson delivered 12 carries for 71 yards and two scores. Four players had a rushing touchdown. Senior Jace Tweedy and junior Kai Johnson each recorded three tackles for loss.

Last season, Hands had played some at quarterback with 385 passing and a 3/4 TD/INT ratio. Johnson recorded just four carries as a freshman. Holcomb graduated its top-four tacklers from ’18. Tweedy had recorded 39 tackles and three for loss last fall.

Last week, Scott City defeated Hugoton, 14-0, in a home contest. The Beavers held a significant edge in total yards, though accumulated 15 penalties and five turnovers. Scott City led 7-0 at halftime. The Beavers delivered 456 yards of offense, and 292 rushing on the night.

Parker Gooden had started at quarterback the last two falls, but has switched to running back after first team all-state back Wyatt Hayes graduated. Gooden finished with eight carries for 68 yards. Hunter Yager delivered 15 carries for 130 yards, and Cale Goodman finished with 12 carries for 82 yards.

Harrison King has taken over at quarterback and passed for 164 yards.

Holcomb could be on pace for a bounce back season, but Scott City’s backfield depth, traditionally strong defense and playing at home are the main keys.

Our Pick: Scott City 30, Holcomb 14 (Nicholl)

Southeast of Saline (1-0) at Beloit (1-0)

Southeast of Saline and Beloit have a key early-season matchup in what has been a back-and-forth series. In last year’s contest, Southeast won 14-13 at home. The year prior, Beloit won 35-14 at home. In the ’16 and ’15 seasons, SES won 48-26 and 21-6, respectively.

Both teams have had numerous years of success, the only losing season between the two schools in the past four years came in 2017, when Southeast of Saline finished 4-5.

Both sets of Trojans are 1-0 on the young season.

Beloit made the trip up north to the Cornhusker state and defeated the Fairbury Jeffs, 36-27. Beloit jumped out to a 16-0 lead after one quarter, however Fairbury came roaring back in the second quarter to make it a two-point game.

In the fourth quarter, Beloit’s lead was only 30-27 before pulling away. Last year, Beloit beat Fairbury at home, 47-12.

Southeast of Saline blanked fellow county foe Salina Sacred Heart, 54-0. SES led Sacred Heart 14-0 at halftime, and pulled away in the second half for an impressive opening victory. Friday marked the second straight time the Trojans have shutout the Knights, as SES got an impressive 39-0 victory last year.

Both teams feature starting quarterbacks that should be on the radar of Kansas high school football fans this fall. Southeast of Saline’s Jaxson Gebhardt and Beloit’s Hudson Gray are two of the top quarterbacks in their respective classifications.

Gray’s junior season was cut short last fall after he suffered a broken fibula against Minneapolis in Week 3. In that shortened season, Gray completed 26 of 42 pass attempts for six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Southeast of Saline’s Jaxson Gebhardt led the Trojans to a playoff victory over Nemaha Central. Then the Trojan’s season ended with a loss to eventual state runner-up Riley County in the second round. Gebhardt finished the 2018 season completing 113 of 209 passes for 10 touchdowns and 12 INTs.  

Both teams return a lot of weapons at these quarterback’s disposal. Beloit returns Carson Cox and Grant Arasmith in the backfield, tight end Lucas Mong, and a trio of wide receivers in Vincent Palen, Kyler Vahle, and Brennan Walker. Southeast returns running back Bryant Banks and, like Beloit, has three quality wide receivers returning in Tyler Breeding, Eli Harris, and Seth Eklund.

Defensively, this game will be a battle, as both squads return seven starters on that side of the ball. Beloit has experience on the offensive line, with Creighton Johnson, Trase McQueen, and Braden Burks.

This game will be a decisive one for the North Central Activities Association league champion. It should be a close battle, but I give the edge to Southeast of Saline.

Our Pick: SE Saline 24, Beloit 18 (Hammeke)

2A No. 4 Rossville (1-0) at 2A No. 5 Silver Lake (1-0)

It’s perhaps the state’s most well-known rivalry. The War on 24. Silver Lake and Rossville.

This year’s installment of the War takes place on Friday night in Silver Lake.

The rivalry has been teetered back-and-forth in recent years, but it wasn’t always that way. Silver Lake won the “war” 14 consecutive times until Rossville won 27-21 in the 2013 regular season. Silver Lake got revenge in the state semifinals later that year and went on to a blowout victory over Beloit in the 3A championship game a week later.

Rossville then won the next three meetings (twice in 2014 and once in 2015) on their way to three consecutive Class 3A titles from 2014 to 2016.

Entering Friday’s game, Silver Lake has now taken the past three meetings.  

Last season, the Eagles built a 10-point lead and then survived a fourth-quarter Rossville rally to win 17-14. This year’s match-up appears to be just as competitive on paper.

Rossville enters as the No. 4 team in Class 2A after a 28-8 win over traditional Class 1A contender Centralia.

The questions surrounding the Bulldawgs entering this season is who would take over the quarterback position that is so highly depended upon in Derick Hammes’ offense.

That uncertainty was answered last week as sophomore Torrey Horak produced 222 yards of total offense in the win over Centralia. Horak, the younger brother of former Rossville all-stater Tucker Horak, rushed for 67 yards and a score and passed for 155 yards and a pair of scores.

Horak connected with Bo Reaves for a pair of touchdown passes as part of Reaves’ 150-yard receiving night.

Rossville’s offense will be up against a talented and experienced Silver Lake defense. The Eagles returned several key starts from last year’s unit that surrendered only 13 points per game.

In last week’s opener against St. Marys, the Eagle defense held the Bears to 28 rush yards on 24 attempts.

With defense being a strength, legendary coach C.J. Hamilton was breaking in a fairly new offensive unit.

Quarterback Cody Hay was impressive in his debut in passing for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week’s 38-12 win.

This should be another classic game in this series, and perhaps the first of two meetings as it has been in so many other years.

Our Pick: Silver Lake 27, Rossville 23 (Gilmore)

The Pick List:

Blue Valley (0-1) at 6A No. 3 Blue Valley North (0-1) – Blue Valley North

4A No. 1 Bishop Miege (1-0) at Blue Valley West (1-0) – Bishop Miege

KC Washington (1-0) at KC Harmon (1-0) – Washington

6A No. 5 Lawrence Free State (1-0) at Olathe East (0-1) – Free State

Maize South (1-0) at Andover (0-1) – Maize South

Wichita Heights (0-1) at 5A No. 3 Bishop Carroll (0-1) – Carroll

Chanute (1-0) at 4A No. 5 Pittsburg (1-0) – Pittsburg

Lansing (1-0) at Basehor-Linwood (0-1) – Lansing

Tonganoxie (1-0) at Louisburg (0-1) – Tonganoxie

Wellington (0-1) at 3A No. 2 Andale (1-0) – Andale

Frontenac (1-0) at St. Mary’s Colgan (0-1) – Frontenac

Caney Valley (1-0) at Eureka (1-0) – Caney Valley

1A No. 4 Olpe (1-0) at Burlington (1-0) – Olpe

Garden Plain (1-0) at Douglass (1-0) – Garden Plain

Southeast-Cherokee (1-0) at Pleasanton (1-0) – Pleasanton

Riley County (1-0) at Centralia (0-1) – Riley County

Hoxie (1-0) at 8M-II No. 3 Osborne (0-1) – Osborne

Medicine Lodge (1-0) at 8M-I No. 2 Hodgeman County (1-0) – Hodgeman

8M-I No. 4 South Central (1-0) at Spearville (1-0) – South Central


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