The Pick List - Week 6

St. Thomas Aquinas running back James Cosentino. (photo by Susan Goodwyn)
By: Matt Gilmore & Conor Nicholl for
Oct 8, 2015

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Each Thursday throughout the regular season, The Pick List will feature a few of the best match-ups across the state, and make our predictions on a handful of other games.

Feature Games of the Week:

Junction City (5-0) at Manhattan (4-1)

The battle for the Silver Trophy will take place in Manhattan on Friday night as the rival Junction City Blue Jays make the short trip to town.

Junction City can wrap up at least of a share of the Centennial League championship with a win.  The game will wrap up Centennial League play for the Blue Jays and the Indians, while unbeaten Topeka High has games remaining against Shawnee Heights and Manhattan that count towards the league standings for the Trojans.

Manhattan and Junction City traditionally wrapped up the regular season in a Week 9 district showdown, but the Blue Jays were sent south this 2014-15 cycle.  They’ll be favored to repeat as champions in a district that also includes Wichita East, Wichita North, and Wichita Southeast.

Junction City has built this year’s team around 10 returning starters on defense. The Blue Jays have responded by surrendering only eight points per game thus far this season.

The Blue Jays have scored 247 points and are averaging nearly 49 points per game. Jovon Baldwin and Raye Wilson are the primary ball carriers for the Blue Jays.

Wilson has put up four straight 100-yard rushing games and has amassed 688 yards rushing this season.

Junction City trailed at Washburn Rural 13-8 at halftime last week, but the Blue Jays shut out Rural 28-0 in the second half to win 36-13. Wilson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Baldwin added 49 rushing yards and two scores and caught six passes for 22 yards.

Quarterback Ryan Henington has not thrown the ball much lately given the Blue Jays success on the ground, but may be required to do so on Friday against a Manhattan defense that is giving up less than 10 points per game.

Manhattan is off to a 4-1 start against the Topeka Centennial League schools. The Indians have wins against Shawnee Heights, Topeka Seaman, Highland Park, and Topeka West, but those schools are a combined 1-19 on the season. The Indians’ one loss came 21-14 to Topeka Hayden on a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Manhattan is led on offense by junior quarterback Ian Trapp. Trapp transferred from Ellsworth in the off-season and has shown no issue in stepping up to the Class 6A level.

Trapp has rushed for more than 100 yards in four out of five games this season and has paced an offense that averages 40 points per game.  He has rushed for 728 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Trapp has added 517 passing yards and seven more scores.

Manhattan has won six of the last ten games in this series including a 16-7 defensive struggle last season.  

Our Pick: Junction City 20, Manhattan 17 (Gilmore)

5A No. 3 St. Thomas Aquinas (3-2) at 6A No. 4 Blue Valley (4-1)

St. Thomas Aquinas visits Blue Valley in a battle of two teams trying to keep pace in the Eastern Kansas League standings.  Both the Saints and Tigers sit at 3-1 in the EKL, trailing 4-1 teams in Bishop Miege and surprising Blue Valley North.

Blue Valley North shook up the Eastern Kansas League standings last week by scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final 1:15 to upset Blue Valley, 28-27.

Blue Valley controlled the game for three quarters and led 27-10 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the ball game. But Blue Valley North quarterback Joey Dolan threw a touchdown pass to Charlie Brock, the Mustangs got the onside kick, and Dolan hit Brock again with 22 seconds left for a 28-27 win.

The Tigers rushed for 246 yards in the game led by quarterback Colton McCumber’s 134 yards and three touchdowns.

On the season, McCumber has rushed for 696 yards and 12 scores and thrown for 505 yards and three more touchdowns.

The Tigers’ backfield duo of A.J. Totta and William Evans have produced 684 and 458 yards, respectively with a combined 14 touchdowns.

Gus Gomez has been the primary receiving target with 19 catches for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

While the Tiger defense has been solid all season, they have given up 25 points per game. The Tigers struggled last week against Dolan and Blue Valley North’s passing attack, but they likely won’t the ball in the air as much this week against Aquinas.

Aquinas rebounded from a loss to Bishop Miege to beat Gardner-Edgerton last week, 30-7. Quarterback Karter Odermann rushed for a touchdown and threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half as Aquinas built a 20-0 lead.

The Saints’ offense is at full strength with the return of James Cosentino to the backfield. Cosentino missed the first couple of games this season, but appears back to his 2014 level after rushing for 191 yards in the loss at Bishop Miege.

The Aquinas backfield of Odermann, Cosentino, Sam Ramaekers, Jacob Leikam, Sam Budetti, and Duron Lowe is going to be difficult for opposing defenses to stop. The speedy Lowe is finding more and more ways to get involved in the offense having scored touchdowns rushing and receiving in last week’s win over Gardner-Edgerton.

While Aquinas sits at 3-2 on the season, keep in mind the Saints’ losses are to Class 5A No. 1 Mill Valley (38-20) and Class 4A-I No. 1 Bishop Miege (41-21). Blue Valley, on the other hand, beat Miege 42-35 when the Stags were without the services of all-state running back Dawson Downing.  

Blue Valley won this matchup 21-14 a year ago and has won the last five regular-season matchups between the two schools. Aquinas last defeated the Tigers 23-22 in the state quarterfinals of the 5A playoffs in 2012.

Our Pick: Blue Valley 27, Aquinas 24  (Gilmore)

3A No. 3 Scott City (5-0) at 4A-I No. 4 Ulysses (5-0)

The GWAC title is on the line when these two rivals meet this week. Scott City has won six of the last seven between the two, save a 25-6 loss to Ulysses two seasons ago. The Beavers won 14-7 last year and are 7-4 in the last 11 meetings.

A major key for Scott City is not necessarily limiting yards for star Ulysses running back Ian Rudzik, but limiting his touches.

Last season, the Beavers ran 60 offensive snaps for 317 yards. Ulysses had just 45 offensive snaps for 185 yards. Rudzik finished with 22 carries for 135 yards.

In 2013, Ulysses won with 48 offensive plays for 353 yards. Rudzik, as a sophomore, had 20 carries for 207 yards and three scores. Scott City ran 56 plays for 198 yards. That game ended Scott City’s 17-game winning streak and 40-game regular season run.

Entering this game last season, Rudzik had 73 carries for 1,134 yards and 15 scores. This season, Ulysses has relied on him even more. He has 102 carries for 1,230 yards and 14 scores.

The Tigers have averaged eight yards per rush and 8.1 yards per play behind a line that features a strong year from 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior Harrison Creed.

Defensively, Rudzik has 47 tackles, 13 for loss, three sacks and an interception he returned 97 yards for a score. Ulysses has already scored three times on defense.

Ulysses has outscored teams 175-98 against the weakest strength of schedule (SOS) in the classification, but does own a 34-20 Week 3 victory against Holcomb. Scott City defeated Holcomb, 15-7, the following week.

This season, Scott City, always known for great defense, has retooled after graduating a standout senior class that helped the Beavers to a 3A runner-up finish. The Beavers have permitted just 49 points, seventh-best in 64-team Class 3A. The secondary has played well with six interceptions for 130 interception return yards.

Offensively, senior Cooper Griffith has 79 carries for 560 yards and nine scores. Senior Wyatt Kropp has 66 carries for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Scott City has averaged 5.2 yards per rush and 5.8 yards per play.

Scott City has the defense to keep this close, but Ulysses has possibly the state’s best all-around skill player and a better offense. Coupled with playing at home, the Tigers win.

Our Pick: Ulysses 21, Scott City 14 (Nicholl)

Pratt (4-1) at Hesston (4-1)

An inter-divisional game in the Central Kansas League features two teams that will challenge for a playoff spot in their respective classifications.

Pratt (4-1) will travel to Hesston (4-1) to take on the Swathers.

Pratt has picked up consecutive close wins after a 34-14 loss to Hoisington in Week 3.

Last week, the Greenbacks rallied in the game’s 90 seconds to top Nickerson, 27-20. Pratt trailed 20-19 late when freshman quarterback Travis Theis tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Kaufman with 58 seconds left. Noah Myers added the two-point conversion for the seven-point lead and ultimately the win.

Theis (5-8, 155) has played in all five games in his first high school season and leads the Greenbacks in rushing with 358 yards and six touchdowns. His biggest outing came in the season-opener against Lyons when he rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

Theis took over for injured starter Landen Studer in a 23-19 win over Kingman in Week 4. Since, he has completed six of 12 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns, while being intercepted two more times. He rushed for 73 yards and three scores in the comeback win over Nickerson.

Kaufman is Pratt’s play-maker. The junior has 13 receptions for 355 yards and three scores, while adding 132 yards rushing and another touchdown. Kaufman also has three interceptions, a fumble recovery, and a blocked field goal on defense.

The Greenback defense is led by senior Devon Koehler and junior Logan Baird who have registered 31 and 30 tackles, respectively.

Hesston has won three straight since their only loss of the season to Class 3A’s No. 4 Halstead Dragons.

The Swathers have scored 35, 49, and 55 points in three of their wins, while their Week 4 game over Lyons was concluded in the second quarter due to weather with Hesston leading 21-3.

Junior Zach Esau has taken over as the dynamic quarterback position in Coach Clint Rider’s offense. Esau has completed 55 percent of his passes for 495 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 392 yards and five more scores.

Freshman Parker Roth and junior Alex Hostetler have added 228 and 199 rushing yards, respectively. Hostetler has rushed for five touchdowns.

Eight different Swather receivers have caught passes this season, led by Zach Vogt’s 14 receptions for 252 yards and four scores.

Rider is 22-4 since taking over at Hesston in 2013 when Marc Marinelli departed for Goddard-Eisenhower.

Hesston has won every meeting between the two schools the past five seasons including last year’s 49-39 shootout. For Pratt to have a chance on the road, the Greenbacks will have to avoid turnovers, having committed 11 in the first five games.

Our Pick: Hesston 36, Pratt 20 (Gilmore)

2-1A No. 2 Segdwick (5-0) at 2-1A No. 4 Phillipsburg (4-1)

Sedgwick travels more than three hours northwest to Phillipsburg in a battle of top-5 Class 2-1A teams.

The Cardinals have won each contest by at least 22 points, except for a 16-9 road win versus Bennington in Week 4 that was played in messy conditions and was eventually completed on Saturday. Sedgwick bounced back with a key district-opening victory, 44-14, against Sacred Heart.

This marks the third road game in four weeks for Sedgwick; the Cardinals are on the road again next week versus Inman.

Senior Grant Hilliard and freshman Hooper Schroeder had split snaps in the Cardinals’ high-octane, fast-paced offense, but Schroeder has suffered a shoulder injury and is likely out for the rest of the regular season.

Hilliard, an efficient dual-threat all season, completed 17 of 21 passes for 267 yards and two scores against one interception last Friday. He also rushed 23 times for 132 yards and a pair of scores.

Sedgwick ran 59 plays for 448 yards against Sacred Heart. Senior Nate Werner had five catches for 131 yards and a score, and senior Alec Tillman hauled in seven catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. Senior Hunter Giffin and Dylan Moore each recorded three tackles for loss.

Phillipsburg opened with a 35-0 win versus Thomas More Prep and then lost, 7-6, to rival Norton in a turnover-filled Week 2 contest. The Panthers collected a 76-42 victory in Week 3 against Plainville and then won at defensive-minded Oakley, 20-12, in Week 4. The Panthers beat Bennington 54-8 last Friday.

Freshman Trey Sides has emerged as the starting quarterback.

Phillipsburg won at Sedgwick, 49-27, last season.

The Panthers have a much bigger margin than Sedgwick against its common opponent, Bennington, and this game should be low scoring. However, Hilliard is the most dynamic athlete on the field, and Sedgwick finds a way to win.

Our Pick: Sedgwick 24, Phillipsburg 20 (Nicholl)

The Pick List:

6A No. 5 Derby (4-1) at Salina South (3-2) – Derby

Salina Central (3-2) at Hutchinson (4-1) -- Hutchinson

Clay Center (3-2) at Abilene (5-0) – Abilene

Mulvane (3-2) at 4A-II No. 2 Andale (3-2) – Andale

Jefferson West (3-1) at Nemaha Central (5-0) – Nemaha Central

4A-II No. 1 Columbus (5-0) at St. Mary’s Colgan (4-1) – Columbus

Conway Springs (4-1) at Wichita Trinity (4-1) – Conway Springs

Centralia (3-2) at 3A No. 1 Rossville (5-0) -- Rossville

Caney Valley (3-2) at Cherryvale (5-0) – Cherryvale

8M-I No. 2 Central Plains (4-1) at Little River (4-1) – Central Plains

Beloit St. John’s-Tipton (4-1) at 8M-II No. 1 Victoria (5-0) – Victoria

Frankfort (2-3) at Pike Valley (4-1) – Pike Valley

Triplains-Brewster (3-2) at Hoxie (3-2) – Hoxie

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