The Pick List -- Week 4

Alex Barnes (34) helped Pittsburg edge Chanute 26-21 last season. (Photo by David Jackson)
By: Conor Nicholl & Matt Gilmore for
Sep 25, 2013

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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:

6A No. 1 SM West (3-0) at 6A No. 2 Lawrence Free State (3-0)

Not only is this a showdown of the two top teams in the Sunflower League, but the two top teams in the state.  The Shawnee Mission West Vikings will face the Lawrence Free State Firebirds for the third time in the past 12 months.

In Week 2 a season ago, Free State topped SM West 28-14 behind an offense that produced more than 400 yards of total offense including 240 on the ground. 

The two teams would meet again in the 6A semifinals in mid-November.  This time Shawnee Mission West scored 41 consecutive points in a 48-21 rout of the Firebirds.  Free State was hurt by special teams play as two punts deflected off of Firebird players (both led to Viking touchdowns) and West’s Andre Maloney returned the second-half kickoff for a score.

The Vikings would go on to win the Class 6A state championship over Hutchinson the following weekend.

The defending champs have won 14 consecutive games, but they haven’t necessarily come easy this season. The Vikings used a long touchdown pass from A.J. Verdini to Maloney and a Tyler Thayer field goal to beat Shawnee Mission South 10-3 in Week 1.  Last week, Maloney hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining to beat Lawrence 14-13.

Gone from a year ago is 2,000-yard rusher Bret Sterbach.  Thus far the Viking offense has relied on Maloney’s big-play potential which is seemingly endless.  He has more than 260 receiving yards and three touchdowns in three games.  Verdini has thrown for more than 600 yards and four scores.

Free State has overcome halftime deficits in each of the last two games to top Shawnee Mission Northwest (20-3) and Olathe East (28-26).

The Firebirds trailed Olathe East 20-7 at halftime before quarterback Joe Dineen hit Zach Bickling, Keith Loneker and Joel Spain on touchdown passes in the second half.  Dineen then stuffed a Hawk two-point conversion attempt to preserve Free State’s two-point lead and eventually the win.

Dineen passed for 215 yards and three touchdowns against East and added 80 yards rushing and a score. The Kansas commit is already being mentioned in discussion about the Simone Award for the top overall player in the Kansas City metro area. A win over West may solidify his candidacy.

Our Pick:  Free State 24, SM West 17  (Gilmore)

Chanute (3-0) at Pittsburg (3-0)

Two of the three remaining unbeaten teams in the Southeast Kansas League will square off at Hutchinson Field in Pittsburg when the Chanute Blue Comets come in to face the Purple Dragons.

Both team’s resume boasts one challenge passed and a pair of blowouts thus far this season. 

Chanute picked up a nice win at home in Week 1 over a talented Mulvane team.  The Blue Comets built a 21-7 lead behind junior quarterback Christian Wiltse and held on for a 28-21 win.

Wiltse, who replaces an all-state signal caller in Brock Gilmore from a year ago, passed for three touchdowns in his debut; two of which went to Trey Ellis.

Chanute followed that big win with consecutive blowouts over Labette County (51-14) and Parsons (63-6).

The Blue Comets, under first-year coach Jason Feeback, are averaging more than 47 points per game.

Pittsburg opened with wins over Labette County (42-2) and Independence (43-0).  The Purple Dragons’ test game one week ago in a 33-20 win over rival Fort Scott.

Pittsburg and Fort Scott were tied at 14 in the fourth quarter before the Dragons scored three touchdowns helped by Tiger miscues and the play of junior Alex Barnes.

Barnes scored from two-yards out to give PHS a 20-14 lead, and added two more touchdowns after Tiger turnovers. On the night, Barnes carried 28 times for 232 yards and all five Purple Dragon scores. He has rushed for more than 550 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.  He also has a defensive touchdown this season from his free safety position.

The Dragons have won three straight in this series, but all three have been by 10 points or less.  Fans may be in store for another close one on Friday night.

Our Pick: Pittsburg 27, Chanute 21 (Gilmore)

3A No. 3 Scott City (3-0) at Ulysses (2-1)

Scott City, the defending Class 3A champions, enters this GWAC contest on a 17-game winning streak. The Beavers have won five in a row in the series dating back to a 31-0 loss in 2007. Scott City has won 40 straight regular games and hasn’t lost a regular season contest since a 26-14 defeat to Norton in Week 8 of the 2008 season.

The Beavers have won at least 10 games every year since 2007. This season, each of Scott City’s games have gotten closer: from 27 to 16 to a 31-28 victory against Holcomb when German exchange student Tim Bolle kicked a field goal as time ran out. Scott City scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the victory. Bolle was playing in just his second American football game of his life.

Scott City has used a two-quarterback system with junior Brett Meyer and senior Trey O’Neil, the son of coach Glenn O’Neil. The two have combined to complete 37 of 64 passes for 672 yards and a 6/2 TD/INT ratio. Meyer took over for an injured O’Neil last week.

The Beavers have normally ran the ball very well, but average just 150 rushing yards a game and 3.5 yards per game. Senior Brayden Strine has caught 11 passes for 272 yards and two scores and senior Chris Pounds has 11 catches for 175 yards and 3 TDs. The always elite Beaver defense has 18 tackles for loss, five sacks and defended 10 passes.

Ulysses lost 56-41 to Class 5A Liberal before it bounced back with a 21-14 victory versus a solid Great Bend team and a 52-16 win against Colby last week. In the Liberal contest, Ulysses allowed 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and the Tigers allowed 474 yards. Ulysses has 13 seniors and a budding Division I prospect in 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore running back Ian Rudzik, who rushed for 1,187 yards as a freshman.

Scott City’s run, especially with O'Neil hurt last week, may come to an end here, but expect the Beavers to have just enough for a victory.

Our Pick: Scott City 24, Ulysses 21  (Nicholl)

Sacred Heart (3-0) at 3A No. 2 Beloit (3-0)

Beloit has again posted a dominant start and outscored opponents 152-22. Senior quarterback Payton Vetter and senior running back Bowe Behymer have combined for more than 500 rushing yards as the Trojans have defeated Concordia (48-0), Smith Center (36-14) and Russell (68-8).

Beloit has won five in a row against Sacred Heart, its North Central Activities Association counterparts. All of the victories have come by at least 33 points.

Sacred Heart has started strongly with a 28-0 shutout of Hutchinson Trinity and a 46-0 win against a weaker Belleville-Republic County squad.

Then, the Knights earned a quality 62-48 victory against Sedgwick last week. The game featured 42 first downs, 485 yards from Sedgwick and 522 yards from Sacred Heart.

Sacred Heart quarterback Nick Wuthnow completed 9 of 12 passes for 173 yards and rushed 16 times for 198 yards and two scores. Trevor Webb also returned a kickoff 76 yards for another score.

Sacred Heart proved they are among the top 3A teams, but Beloit is on a different level.

Our Pick: Beloit 50, Sacred Heart 31  (Nicholl)

South Haven (3-0) at West Elk (3-0)

Unbeatens South Haven and West Elk will square off in a game that has important South Central Border League and district implications. The Cardinals and Patriots remain the only two SCBL teams without a loss and both are among the favorites to grab playoff spots from District 1.

South Haven graduated a large senior class from last season’s 10-1 team that fell to Madison in the state quarterfinals. Coach David Hughes and staff faced the challenge of replacing Kpreps All-State selections in quarterback Austin Showman and linebacker Lane Cully. 

But the cupboard is not bare.  The Cardinals feature an all-league selection on the offensive line in Richie Goble and an all-state caliber running back in J.T. Yunker among others.

Yunker (6-1, 185) has already rushed for more than 450 yards and eight touchdowns in the Cardinals first three games. He has helped pace a South Haven offense that is averaging nearly 59 points per game and has the Cardinals primed for a run at a 10th consecutive playoff appearance.

Their opponents, the Wesk Elk Patriots, are a slightly different story.  West Elk hasn’t reached the state playoffs since 2008 and has not started a season 3-0 since 2007 as an 11-man team. That season, the Patriots won a district championship, and West Elk can take a major step towards that goal with a win on Friday.

The Patriots are led by speedy sophomore running back Armando Gomez.  Gomez (5-8, 135) has rushed for nearly 450 yards and seven touchdowns in the first three games.  Paxton Noll also has seven rushing scores.

Quarterback Tristan Wilson has provided balance in throwing for 275 yards and seven scores.

West Elk turned heads last week with a 42-22 win over a Udall program that has reached the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.  The Patriot defense forced four turnovers in that game. They may need to as opportunistic to beat South Haven.  Gomez will have to continue to produce and leading tackler Colt Gordan must find a way to slow down Yunker.

Our Pick: South Haven 44, West Elk 36 (Gilmore)

8M-II No. 5 Victoria (3-0) at Central Plains (3-0)

Victoria delivered another big offensive showing and ended Ness City’s 15-game winning streak last week.

Quarterback Sam Ottley accounted for 150 total yards, including 112 rushing and five scores on 18 carries. The Knights rolled up 352 yards of offense, including 314 on the ground, en route to a 42-14 victory. Victoria has collectively beaten opponents 154-52. 

The Knights and Oilers have each beaten St. John this season by identical scores of 54-8.

Central Plains has started well in outscoring their opponents 166-52. The Oilers have beaten Stafford (72-44), Otis-Bison (40-0), and St. John.

The Oilers ran the option well against St. John, and quarterback Braedan Crites passed for 118 yards and three scores. Evan Liebel had three sacks and Layne Bieberle returned two interceptions for scores.

Victoria won this matchup, 40-22, last season and Central Plains won 40-20 two years ago. The Knights’ balanced offense has been difficult to slow down for anyone.

Our Pick: Victoria 46, Central Plains 36 (Nicholl)

The Pick List:

5A No. 2 Bishop Miege (3-0) at Gardner-Edgerton (2-1) -- Miege

Blue Valley Northwest (1-2) at 5A No. 3 Blue Valley West (3-0) – BV West

Garden City (1-2) at 5A No. 5 Hays (3-0) -- Hays

SM East (3-0) at Olathe North (2-1) – Olathe North

Wichita Heights (2-1) at Kapaun Mt. Carmel (3-0) -- Heights

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

3A No. 4 Conway Springs (3-0) at Cheney (2-1) – Conway Springs

Fort Scott (1-2) at Coffeyville (3-0) -- Coffeyville

Hiawatha (2-1) at 4A No. 1 Holton (3-0) -- Holton

McPherson (2-1) at 4A No. 5 Buhler (3-0) -- Buhler

Wichita Trinity (3-0) at 3A No. 5 Garden Plain (3-0) – Garden Plain

St. Mary’s Colgan (3-0) at Frontenac (2-1) -- Colgan

Smith Center (2-1) at Phillipsburg (3-0) -- Phillipsburg

Hodgeman County (3-0) at Ness City (2-1) – Ness City

8M-I No. 3 Osborne (3-0) at Wakefield (2-1) -- Osborne

Waverly (3-0) at 8M-I No. 4 Marais des Cygnes Valley (2-1) --  MdCV

Caldwell (2-1) at 8M-II No. 1 Baileyville B&B (2-1) – B&B

8M-II No. 2 Thunder Ridge (3-0)  at Beloit St. John’s-Tipton (3-0) – Thunder Ridge

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