Friday Playoff Preview - Class 4A, Division I

Coffeyville's LaDarrius Johnson has posted consecutive 1,600-yard seasons. (by David Jackson)
By: Matt Gilmore, Conor Nicholl, & Joe Wachter for
Nov 5, 2014

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4A-I East: Paola (6-3) at Ottawa (6-3)

Paola and Ottawa square off for a second time this season, but with a little more meaning in the first round of the class 4A-I playoffs.

The Panthers and Cyclones first contest was a tight one in that Paola squeaked by with a 20-14 win. Expect a similar contest between the two teams and the difference being the execution of fourth quarter possessions.

Paola enters its first-round matchup with a 6-3 record. However, the Panthers three losses have been by a combined eight points. Two of the losses were one-point defeats, a 14-13 overtime loss in Week 1 to Spring Hill, and a 23-22 loss to Fort Scott in the last week of district play.

Paola is used to playing in down-to-the-wire games with six of nine final games being within six points. Mike Dumpert’s team is conditioned to play a full four-quarter game and conditioning could play big factor in the outcome.

Ottawa also at 6-3 will have the home field advantage come Thursday night after winning its district with a 27-22 win over De Soto.

The Cyclones enjoy putting points up on the board. In fact, they have put up 41 points or more four times and at least 26 points in all but two games this season.

Ottawa must score early and get out in space to advance.

I like Paola on the road.

Paola 27, Ottawa 20 (J. Wachter)

4A-I East: Baldwin (6-3) at Fort Scott (8-1)

Fort Scott hosts Baldwin in a Friday night playoff matchup.

Both teams are two of the hotter teams entering the class 4A-I playoffs with the Tigers winning their last six games and the Bulldogs winning six of their last seven games.

Fort Scott one letdown of the season came in week three when it fell 41-0 to class 5A No. 3 Pittsburg.

Since then, the Tigers have not lost and have put up at least 22 points in every contest and 40-plus points in three of those games.

Don’t be surprised if the Tigers have to grind out a close win against Baldwin.

Baldwin brings in an impressive 4-1-road record in its first round matchup with Fort Scott.

The Bulldogs style of play allows them to be in every game by controlling the time of possession.

How successful their grinding running game is will be the deciding factor in which team advances. If the Bulldogs control the clock expect them to advance.

It’s hard to pick against the hotter team at home but I am.

Baldwin 26, Fort Scott 22 (J. Wachter)

4A-I West:  No. 5 Buhler (7-2) at Ulysses (7-2)

Buhler and Ulysses have similar statistical resumes, but how they got there is completely different.

Buhler, the defending Class 4A state champion, has outscored opponents 392-178 with the No. 11 strength of schedule, according to

Ulysses has outscored opponents 337-147 against the No. 20 SOS.

Both teams are 7-2, though Buhler lost in its highly competitive district because of a Week 8 loss to McPherson.

Ulysses fell in league play to Holcomb and Scott City and won its district. The Tigers’ standout junior running back Ian Rudzik has 169 carries for 1,718 yards and 23 scores and has led a rushing attack that has put up 332 rushing yards and 32 scores.

Defensively, Ulysses has 242 interception return yards on 15 interceptions with one interception return for a score.

That secondary will get a strong test from Buhler quarterback Jace Williams, who has delivered a great season.

In district play, Buhler rolled over previously undefeated Hays High 55-21, then lost to McPherson 44-42 before it clinched the runner-up spot with a 28-14 victory against Abilene last week.

Dillon Engelland rushed for 112 yards and three scores and had a key interception in the Abilene win.

While Rudzik is a fantastic player, Buhler’s ability to score in several ways will lead to a victory.

Buhler 40, Ulysses 24 (Nicholl)

4A-I West: Coffeyville (7-2) at No. 2 Topeka Hayden (8-1)

Last season, the Coffeyville Golden Tornado got hot in making a run to the 4A state championship game.

The ‘Nado fell to Buhler 31-14 finishing as the state runner-up and carried plenty of momentum into the 2014 season. But the ‘Nado have struggled with consistency and have posted only three wins over teams who are a combined 6-21.

Still Coffeyville is as explosive as ever on offense. The ‘Nado average 31 points per game and are led by a pair of quick running backs.

LaDarrius Johnson has followed up his 2013 junior campaign with an even better senior season. Johnson has rushed for 1,637 yards and 12 touchdowns and is averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Last year, Johnson totaled 1,607 yards but scored 26 times.

Joining Johnson is Destin Downing who has rushed for 562 yards and seven scores after totaling 1,013 yards and 21 scores a year ago.

Quarterback play has been inconsistent for Field Kindley. Three different players have completed less than 47 percent of their passes and have combined for 13 interceptions.

To advance, Coffeyville will have to hang onto the ball against Hayden.

The Wildcats are a veteran group that has been battle tested in the Centennial League.

Hayden’s only loss came 23-20 on a last second field goal to Manhattan back in Week 3.

The Wildcats have posted wins over 5A playoff qualifiers in Topeka Seaman and Shawnee Heights, and have also topped Andover Central which is in this 4A-1 bracket.

Senior quarterback Jacob Head has passed for 1,281 yards on the season and added 224 more yards with his legs.

Daniel Gaito has rushed for a team-high 480 yards and is averaging more than five yards per carry.

Noah Huston is the Wildcat’s leading receiver with 28 catches for 400 yards and four scores.

Hayden 42, Coffeyville 20  (Gilmore)

The rest of our 4A-I first-round picks:
Spring Hill (4-5) at No. 3 KC Piper (8-1)
Basehor-Linwood (7-2) at No. 1 Bishop Miege (9-0)
Andover Central (5-4) at Augusta (5-4)
Mulvane (3-6) at No. 4 McPherson (7-2)


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