District Preview: Class 4A

Collegiate (white) and Buhler (maroon) both look to make deep playoff runs. (Photo by Jolene Reed)
By: Conor Nicholl, Mark Schremmer, and Matt Gilmore for Kpreps.com
Oct 17, 2013

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It is the last season for Class 4A as we know it and eight teams remain unbeaten through six weeks.

Ironically, the top two teams in the 4A rankings will be classified in 4A, Division II next season. 

Holton and Andale have been atop the polls all season.  The top-ranked Wildcats have won 20 consecutive games dating back to the 2011 season. 

Andale, on the other hand, has outscored opponents by an average margin of 50.5 to 10.6 – including a 30-28 win over Wichita Collegiate in Week 1.  The Indians will take on undefeated Buhler this week, while Holton will take on unbeaten Wamego.

Third-ranked Baldwin is one of two unbeaten teams on the eastern side of the bracket.  The other is the Columbus Titans.

On the west side of the bracket, Central Kansas League members Smoky Valley and Hesston make up the rest of the field of 6-0 teams.


District 1

  • Atchison (3-3) – The Redmen are trying to reach the state playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007 and 2008. Senior quarterback Tanner Huntington will likely lead the way. He has thrown for 922 yards and 13 touchdowns. Austin Housh leads Atchison with 325 yards on the ground, while Wade Gassmann has nearly 400 receiving yards and seven scores.
  • KC Piper (2-4) – Piper reached the 4A state semifinals last season, but is just 2-4 thus far into the season.  Don’t let that record fool you, the Pirates have lost to opponents that are a combined 20-4 on the season. Offensive consistency has been the concern as Piper has only scored more than 14 points in one game this season. Their defense, led by all-state linebacker Colton Bebee (75 tackles), will keep them in most games.
  • KC Sumner Academy (2-4) –  The Sabres two wins have come against Class 2-1A’s Leavenworth-Immaculata and 0-6 KC Harmon.  Brian Cobbins leads Sumner with 779 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
  • Bishop Ward (0-6) – Bishop Ward has lost 33 straight games and has not made the playoffs since 2008. Junior quarterback Bryan Barnhart leads the Cyclones with 310 yards passing, 290 rushing yards, and a combined eight touchdowns.

Key Games:  (Week 7) KC Piper at Atchison; (Week 9) Atchison at KC Sumner

Winner: KC Piper
Runner-up: Atchison

District 2

  • Jefferson West (5-1) – Jefferson West began the season 5-0 before turnovers plagued the Tigers in a 40-20 loss to top-ranked Holton a week ago. Jeff West has only made the playoffs twice in the past ten seasons.
  • Tonganoxie (5-1) – Tonganoxie has used an explosive offense that averages 39 points per game to get off to a 5-1 start. Senior running back Cole Holloway has rushed for 859 yards and nine touchdowns, while quarterback Tyler Ford has added 459 yards and five touchdowns. Ford has also thrown for 689 yards and nine scores.
  • Perry-Lecompton (3-3) – Against opponents who are below .500, the Kaws are 3-0 and averaging 27 points per game.  Meanwhile, against teams .500 or above, Perry-Lecompton is 0-3 and scored a total of 28 points. Brandon Eddy leads the Kaws with 585 yards rushing and six scores.
  • Basehor-Linwood (2-4) – The Bobcats have lost all three of their home games, so maybe it’s a good sign that they play two district games on the road. Quarterback Tim Sanders has thrown for six touchdowns and more than 600 yards. Basehor-Linwood will try and get back to the playoffs after ending a five-year postseason streak a year ago.

Key Games:  All games are important in a competitive district.

Winner: Tonganoxie
Runner-up: Jefferson West

District 3

  • Bonner Springs (5-1) – Bonner Springs started 4-0 before losing to Mill Valley.  The Braves have averaged 41 points per game behind quarterback Jordan Jackson. The senior has thrown for 682 yards and eight touchdowns, while rushing for an additional 677 yards and four scores. Trevon Mason has rushed for nearly 600 yards and 11 scores for the Braves.
  • St. James Academy (4-2) – Thunder dual-threat quarterback Alex King has combined for 1,160 total yards and 12 touchdowns. He has thrown for 818 yards connecting primarily with Ryan Hand and Keith Winger. Jake Bade leads St. James with 461 yards and four scores on the ground.
  • Spring Hill (1-5) – Spring Hill entered district play 2-4 last season but won three straight to claim the district championship. The Broncos’ five losses this season have come to opponents that are a combined 21-9.
  • De Soto (0-6) – De Soto is 0-6 but every opponent sits at least .500 or above.  The Wildcats opponents are a combined 27-9 this season. De Soto has qualified for the state playoffs five consecutive seasons.

Key Games:  All games are important in what should be a wide-open district.

Winner: Bonner Springs
Runner-up: St. James Academy

District 4

  • Baldwin (6-0) – The Bulldogs may have established themselves as the team to beat on the eastern side of 4A by blowing through the first six weeks averaging nearly 46 points per game.  Senior quarterback Chad Berg and running back Cornell Brown are explosive out of the backfield, and having an offensive line with the likes of junior Christian Gaylord (6-7, 270) certainly helps.
  • Eudora (4-2) – Eudora has reached the 4A title game the past two seasons, but have struggled to score points at times this season. The Cardinals won their first three games by a combined 13 points and scored a total of 35 points in those three games.  Quarterback Andrew Ballock is as good of an athlete as there is in 4A, but suffered a broken ankle last week against St. James Academy that will end his season. Grant Elston will transition from running back to quarterback.
  • Ottawa (3-3) – The Cyclones are seeking their first playoff appearance since 2003. Ottawa has already matched their highest single season win total since 2004’s 4-5 finish. The Cyclones best win was a 13-10, two-overtime battle against De Soto. Freshman quarterback Isaac McCullough tossed a short touchdown pass to Kord Ferguson to give the Cyclones the win in double overtime.
  • Santa Fe Trail (1-5) – Santa Fe trail snapped an 18-game losing streak with a 28-22 overtime win over Royal Valley in Week 1. Quarterback Weston Gloss has passed for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns, while Chaz Wright leads the Chargers with 471 yards and a score.

Key Games:  (Week 8) Ottawa at Eudora; (Week 9) Eudora at Baldwin

Winner: Baldwin
Runner-up: Eudora


District 5

  • Paola (5-1) – Fifth-ranked Paola suffered its only loss of the season 28-9 to Baldwin back in Week 2. The Panthers have shown the ability to pass the ball this season with Drew Henn at quarterback. He threw three touchdown passes in last week’s 49-13 win over De Soto.  Jeremy Criddle caught two of those and rushed for a score in that game.
  • Osawatomie (4-2) – The Trojans are off to a 4-2 start, but the schedule is about to get much tougher. Still opposing defense will have to account for sophomore running back Riley England who has rushed for 1,442 yards and 17 touchdowns in Osawatomie’s first six games. That’s an average of 240 yards per contest. He has averaged more than 31 carries per game.
  • Louisburg (3-3) – Louisburg dropped two games by one-point each.  The Wildcats fell to Eudora 16-15 in Week 2, and lost to St. James Academy 21-20 in Week 5.  Louisburg will be favored in their first two district games and should reach the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season.
  • Prairie View (2-4) – Prairie View hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005 and it’s going to be difficult again this year. The Buffaloes host Louisburg before closing out the season on the road at Paola and at Osawatomie.

Key Games: (Week 9) Paola at Louisburg will decide both playoff spots.

Winner: Paola
Runner-up: Louisburg

District 6

  • Chanute (4-2) – The Blue Comets have had a strong start under new coach Jason Feeback. Chanute’s only losses were to Class 5A’s undefeated Pittsburg and a one-loss Coffeyville team. The Comets try to keep a balanced offense with running backs Dallas Joyce and Alex Son and quarterback Christian Wiltse, who had a 72-yard TD pass to Kenton Richards in last week’s 42-13 win over Independence.
  • Iola (4-2) – The Mustangs have been successful in the Pioneer League, but will face tougher competition in district play. Iola must go on the road to former Southeast Kansas league foes Chanute and Fort Scott. The Mustangs have been balanced on offense with quarterback Tyler Mcintosh throwing for 614 yards and John Whitworth rushing for 574 yards and five touchdowns. Iola has made the playoffs only once in the past 10 years.
  • Fort Scott (3-3) – After going on a three-game losing streak, the Tigers have bounced back with consecutive wins against Independence and Labette County before the start of district competition. Fort Scott ran for nearly 400 yards in last week’s 52-6 win against Labette County. Chase Brown led the Tigers’ ground attack with 74 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. The Tigers are scoring 32.5 points per game, while allowing 17.7. Fort Scott’s three losses are to teams with a combined record of 17-1.
  • Anderson County (0-6) – The Bulldogs are on a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season. They nearly snapped it this past week, falling 35-34 to Osawatomie in double overtime. Quarterback Zach Hilliard leads the Bulldogs’ offense with 495 yards through the air and 735 on the ground.

Key Games: (Week 9) Fort Scott goes on the road to face Chanute.

Winner: Chanute
Runner-up: Fort Scott

 District 7

  • Frontenac (4-2) – The Raiders dropped consecutive games to St. Mary’s Colgan and Galena but enter district on a two-game winning streak with lopsided victories over Baxter Springs and Erie. In this past week’s 40-14 win against Baxter Springs, Frontenac’s Ethan Powell ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Quarterback Austin Seward completed 5 of 7 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown, while running for 75 yards and a TD on nine carries.
  • Girard (2-4) – The Trojans lost a lot of talent from last year’s district and CNC League championship team. However, Girard has played within 21 points of every opponent and has earned shootout wins over Riverton and Southeast-Cherokee. Running back Taylor Lewis has shown he can be a workhorse when needed, rushing for 331 yards and four TDs on 41 carries in a 62-42 win over the Rams.
  • Independence (1-5) – The Bulldogs are allowing 35.7 points per game, while scoring only 17.5 per outing. Courtlan Hayes leads the Independence offense with nine touchdowns. Independence is 7-17 over the past three seasons after making the playoffs each year from 2007-2010.
  • Parsons (0-6) – The Vikings are on a 16-game losing streak that dates back to the 2011 season. Parsons finished 7-3 that year and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Columbus. This season, the Vikings are scoring only 5.2 points per game, while allowing an average of 48.8 points.

Key Games: (Week 7) Girard travels to meet Independence. (Week 9) Frontenac goes on the road to face Girard and former Raiders coach Leon Miller. The Trojans edged Frontenac 7-6 last year.

Winner: Frontenac
Runner-up: Girard

District 8

  • Columbus (6-0) – The Titans will clinch sole ownership of the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League title with a win over Baxter Springs on Friday. Columbus is 5-0 in the CNC and also owns a 15-14 win against former SEK League foe Fort Scott. Nate Bole and Trey Robinson both have had success for the Titans at quarterback as each player has passed for more than 400 yards. Sophomore Jace McDown leads the ground attack with 448 yards on only 43 carries. A.J. Randle is the Titans’ leading receiver with 20 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns.
  • Coffeyville (5-1) – The Golden Tornado is coming off a disappointing 42-14 loss to Pittsburg. Still, Coffeyville is putting up 44.7 points per game with an explosive offensive attack. LaDarrius Johnson has rushed for 756 yards and 14 touchdowns on 90 carries. James Newton and Darron Deffebaugh have 428 and 389 receiving yards, respectively. Coffeyville hopes to make a playoff run after being eliminated in the second round last year.
  • Labette County (2-4) – The Grizzlies have struggled to reach the end zone. They were held to 122 total yards of offense in last week’s 52-6 loss to Fort Scott. Labette County is averaging only 9.3 points per game and has scored seven points or fewer four times.  The Grizzlies are trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
  • Baxter Springs (1-5) – The Lions snapped a 15-game losing streak with a 43-27 win over Erie in Week 4. Still, Baxter Springs has managed only two wins in its past 27 games. The Lions are coming off a 40-14 loss to Frontenac. In that game, Derek Barnes ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Baxter Springs hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.

Key Games: (Week 8) Coffeyville travels to face former SEK League foe Columbus in a game that will likely decide the district championship.

Winner: Coffeyville
Runner-up: Columbus


District 9

  • Holton (6-0) -- Holton has won 20 straight contests, currently the state’s longest streak by one game over Bishop Carroll. The Wildcats are 2-0 at home and 4-0 on the road and have outscored opponents 241-56. Holton has averaged 364 rushing yards a contest. Seven players have at least 120 yards. Senior Drake Ewing, the team’s star running back, has missed two games, but has 40 carries for 316 yards. Senior Brenden Hampton leads the team with 75 carries for 708 yards and 10 scores.
  • Wamego (6-0) – Wamego is maybe Kansas’ biggest surprise. The last three seasons, Wamego went 1-8, 1-8 and 5-4. This fall already marks the most victories since a 7-4 season in 2007. Wamego and Holton have each allowed 56 points, tied for second in Class 4A behind Maize South (51). Wamego has passed for 278 yards a game. Kyler Alderson has thrown for more than 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns.
  • Topeka Hayden (3-3) -- Hayden normally plays a very difficult schedule and currently ranks as the No. 6 strength of schedule in Class 4A. According to preppowerindex.com, which takes into account SOS, Hayden ranks as the fifth best team in 4A, while Holton stands ninth and Wamego is 12th. Holton has played the No. 56 SOS out of 64 teams, while Wamego has played No. 63.
  • Royal Valley (0-6) -- Opponents have outscored Royal Valley 206-66. After a six-point loss to Santa Fe Trail to start the season, Royal Valley has lost five in a row by at least 20 points.

Key Games: (Week 7) Wamego at Holton; (Week 8) Holton at Hayden; (Week 9) Hayden at Wamego

Winner: Holton
Runner-up: Topeka Hayden

District 10

  • Hesston (6-0) – First-year coach Clint Rider, the former coach at Southeast-Cherokee, has kept Hesston among the top Class 4A teams. Since 2003, Hesston has not had a losing season and last year’s 5-5 team is the worst record during that span. Hesston has outscored opponents 281-106 and has played the No. 61 strength of schedule out of 64 teams. Hesston has delivered 470 yards of total offense per game, including 350 rushing yards. Senior Ryan Schadler has delivered terrific numbers with 95 carries for 1,539 yards and 24 scores. He leads Kansas in rushing yards and rushing TDs.
  • Maize South (5-1) – Maize South has played the No. 35 SOS and leads 4A in scoring defense at 51 points allowed. The Mavericks’ only loss was a 3-0 defeat to Goddard Eisenhower in Week 2. Last week, the Mavericks picked up another quality win in a 24-10 victory against Wichita Collegiate. DeSean Washington returned a punt 61 yards as Maize South scored the first 24 points.
  • Towanda Circle (0-6) – The T-Birds have lost 14 games in a row after it made the playoffs in 2010 and ’11. Opponents have outscored Circle 240-41.
  • El Dorado (0-6) – El Dorado has played 4A’s No. 9 hardest schedule, but opponents have outscored them 231-97. Two of the games are within 14 points, including a 29-22 loss at Rose Hill last week.

Key Games: (Week 8) Maize South at Hesston will decide both spots.

Winner: Maize South
Runner-up: Hesston

District 11

  • Wichita Trinity (5-1) – Trinity’s only loss came to Conway Springs, 34-14, two weeks ago, but the Knights bounced back with a 30-6 victory last week against Douglass. Trinity junior running back Tyler Burns is one of Kansas’ top players and rushed for 78 yards last week. Matt Jones threw for 146 yards in the win against Douglass. Trinity has never made the playoffs in school annals.
  • Wichita Collegiate (3-3) – Quarterback Landon Root completed 15 of 34 passes for 199 yards with a touchdown against two interceptions in a loss to Maize South last week. Collegiate’s three losses have come by close margins, including 30-28 to Andale, 35-28 to Buhler and 24-10 to Maize South. For the season, the Collegiate has passed for 226 yards and rushed for 161 yards a game. Root has delivered a 11/6 TD/INT ratio.
  • Rose Hill (2-4) – Rose Hill has played the No. 5 SOS and opponents have outscored the Rockets 184-112. The Rockets played three close games the last three weeks with a 27-24 victory at Winfield, a 19-17 loss to Mulvane and a 29-22 defeat of El Dorado. Rose Hill is 1-3 at home and 1-1 on the road. Sophomore Brett Bonar completed 57 of 111 passes for 963 yards with a 6/4 TD/INT.
  • Augusta (1-5) – Augusta is 0-3 at home and 1-2 on the road. Augusta has played the No. 15 SOS and been outscored 226-94. The Orioles have passed for 156 yards a game and rushed for 154 yards a contest. A huge issue is turnovers and fumbling. Augusta has 22 fumbles (12 lost) and six interceptions.

Key Games: (Week 7) Wichita Trinity at Wichita Collegiate could decide both playoff spots, but Rose Hill will also challenge.

Winner: Wichita Collegiate
Runner-up: Wichita Trinity

District 12

  • Clearwater (4-2) – Clearwater opened with two victories and then has alternated wins and losses. The Indians haven’t had a game within 20 points. Clearwater has outscored opponents 162-141 against the No. 41 SOS.
  • Wellington (4-2) – Wellington opened with three victories against Goddard (34-28), Concordia (27-6) and Augusta (19-10). However, Wellington lost big to Collegiate (49-21), defeated winless Circle (43-0) and lost to Andale (65-0). Wellington has been outscored 158-144 against the No. 44 SOS.
  • Winfield (4-2) – The Vikings have had a strong offensive season with 156 passing yards and 177 rushing yards per contest. Three players have passed for at least 131 yards and the trio has combined for 66 of 122 passing for 938 yards and an 8/8 TD/INT. Winfield has opened with a 180-107 collective score against the No. 49 SOS.
  • Mulvane (3-3) – Mulvane has already lost more games than it did on an 11-2 season last year. The Wildcats rushed for 282 yards per game. Senior Michael Mason has 164 carries for 1,358 yards with 17 TDs. Mulvane has the No. 23 SOS and has outscored opponents 181-155.

Key Games: All games in a key in a competitive district.

Winner: Mulvane
Runner-up: Winfield

District 13

  • Andale (6-0) – After a rare down season in 2011, Andale has returned to usual form and is 15-2 in the last two seasons. The Indians easily lead the classification in scoring offense (303 points) and no other squad is within 20 points. Andale is fifth in scoring defense at 64 points allowed.
  • Buhler (6-0) – Standout running back Riley Allen suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter last week, but the Crusaders still rolled past Winfield, 41-13. However, senior fullback Denton Branscom stepped in and rushed for 171 yards and two scores to help Buhler clinch the AVCTL Division III title. Buhler rushed for 327 yards and had 370 total yards.
  • Cheney (4-2) – Cheney has four straight 4-5 seasons, but has long struggled against elite teams. Cheney is 1-1 at home and 3-1 on the road. Cheney has outscored opponents 150-88. The Cardinals defeated Garden Plain, 27-18, two weeks ago, a team Cheney has long struggled against. The Cardinals are tied for ninth in 4A scoring defense (88 points allowed).
  • Nickerson (0-6) – Opponents have outscored Nickerson 222-84. Two of the losses have come by seven points or fewer.

Key Games: (Week 7) Andale at Buhler will decide both playoff spots.

Winner: Andale
Runner-up: Buhler


District 14

  • Larned (5-1) – Larned has already clinched the program’s first winning season in 15 years and could make its first playoff appearance since 1985. Second-year coach A.B. Stokes is 8-7 with the Indians and senior quarterback Easton Palmer leads Larned.
  • Ulysses (5-1) – Ulysses, one of the teams in the mix to be ranked in the top-5 in Class 4A, has outscored opponents 235-126. Sophomore running back Ian Rudzik has delivered a huge season and helped the Tigers rush for 315 yards a contest. Rudzik has rushed 121 times for 1,283 yards and 17 TDs and posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
  • Hugoton (4-2) – Hugoton is 3-0 at home and 1-2 on the road. The Eagles have outscored opponents 200-95 and rushed for 300 yards per contest. Senior Ross Davis has rushed for 80 carries for 647 yards and five scores, while senior Yates Sutton has 85 carries for 471 yards and 11 TDs.
  • Pratt (2-4) – The Greenbacks have won either four, five or six games in the last seven years. This season, under first-year coach Jamie Cruce, opened with a 12-8 victory against Nickerson and a 13-10 win at Haven. Then, the Greenbacks lost four straight games, all by at least 13 points.

Key Games: (Week 7) Ulysses at Larned; (Week 8) Hugoton at Larned; (Week 9) Ulysses at Hugoton

Winner: Ulysses
Runner-up: Hugoton

 District 15

  • Smoky Valley (6-0) – Smoky Valley hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 and has already exceeded last year’s total from a 5-4 season. The Vikings have outscored opponents 226-81. Four of the wins are by at least 28 points, while the other two are 27-20 and 14-3. Matt Guerrero is the Vikings leading rusher, while quarterback Ethan Loder is expected to be back at full strength for district play.
  • Abilene (3-3) – Abilene had a rare down season last year with a 2-8 season and has already improved this fall. The Cowboys started 0-2, but are 3-1 in the last month.
  • McPherson (3-3) – McPherson has already lost more games than it did all last season on a 10-2 season. Junior quarterback Kyler Kinnamon has completed 65 of 133 passes for 884 yards with a 2/8 TD/INT ratio. He has also rushe  85 times for 785 yards and nine scores.
  • Chapman (2-4) – Trevor Williams has done a nice job with a struggling Fighting Irish team that went 0-9 in his first season, 4-5 last year and has already won two games this season.

Key Games: (Week 7) Smoky Valley at McPherson; (Week 8) McPherson at Abilene, (Week 9) Abilene at Smoky Valley

Winner: McPherson
Runner-up: Abilene

District 16

  • Clay Center (4-2) – Clay Center has played multiple low-scoring games and outscored opponents, 104-97. The Tigers opened with a 14-12 victory at Riley County and a 22-7 win against TMP-Marian. After a loss to Abilene, Clay Center collected two victories before a big shutout loss to Wamego last week.
  • Goodland (3-3) – Coach Kent Teeter has made Goodland a consistent winner and delivered a strong spread offense paced by his son and two year-starter, sophomore Trey. Goodland has averaged 30 points per contest, but allowed 31.5 per game. Teeter has completed 88 of 178 passes for 1,149 yards and a 15/9 TD/INT.
  • Concordia (1-5) – Concordia has taken a big fall from three straight eight-win seasons. Opponents have outscored the Panthers 172-77.
  • Colby (0-6) – Colby has played a difficult schedule at the No. 11 SOS, but opponents have outscored the Eagles 234-64.

Key Games: (Week 7) Goodland at Clay Center should decide both spots.

Winner: Goodland
Runner-up: Clay Center


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