Friday Playoff Preview: Class 4A-I

Independence coach Carl Boldra talks with Dalson Hamlin. (David Jackson,
By: Matt Gilmore & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 4, 2015

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Class 4A – Division I

East: De Soto (6-3) at No. 4 Paola (8-1)

Paola will look to avenge its only loss of the season when the Panthers take on De Soto in the first round of the Class 4A, Division I playoffs.

Back in Week 2 of the regular season, De Soto converted a pair of Paola turnovers into two scores in the final 25 seconds of the first half to pull away from the Panthers.

The Wildcats led 7-0 when the defese returned an interception for a touchdown with 25 seconds remaining until halftime for a 14-0 lead.  Shortly after, De Soto recovered a Panther fumble and converted on a field goal to lead 17-0 at halftime. 

Paola could only muster a Nathan Staats touchdown run late in the third quarter to pull within 17-7.  But De Soto would tack on another score and hold on for the 23-7 upset.

That early-season match-up has been the only blemish on Paola’s record. The Panthers were also tested against Eudora (28-21), Ottawa (10-7), and rival Louisburg, but prevailed 11-10 on a touchdown and successful two-point conversion.

Last week, the Panthers went on the road and captured the district championship with a 28-7 win in the rain over Fort Scott. Dalton Rankin scored twice in the third quarter to put the Tigers away. Rankin returned a Fort Scott fumble 11 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to build upon Paola’s 14-0 halftime lead. Rankin later added a 12-yard touchdown run mid-way through the third quarter to put Paola up 28-0.

Quarterback Ryan Gleghorn and Staats each scored touchdowns for Paola in the first half. Staats rushed for a game-high 145 yards, while Gleg horn added 95 yards on the ground. Paola did not complete a pass attempt in the game.

Meanwhile, De Soto scored twice in the second half to defeat Ottawa, 21-6. The Wildcat defense returned an interception for a touchdown to take a 7-6 halftime lead.

Quarterback Nate Thompson and Max Barger each scored on touchdown runs in the third quarter for the Wildcats.

De Soto’s three losses have all come to playoff teams in Class 5A’s St. James Academy (26-10), Louisburg (43-28), and Eudora (27-24).

Paola 26, De Soto 14 (Gilmore)
West:  Abilene (8-1) at Ulysses (8-1)

Abilene, the second-ranked defense in Class 4A-I, suffered a 21-7 loss in a battle of undefeated teams last Friday against Buhler. As the district runner-up, the Cowboys now make a 266-mile trek southwest to Ulysses.

Abilene has enjoyed a two-win improvement from 2014. The Cowboys have won all games by at least 21 points, save a 26-17 road victory versus McPherson in Week 7. Ulysses took a 35-0 home defeat to Scott City in Week 6 that cost the Tigers the GWAC title.

Second-year coach Steve Simpson is 14-4 with Abilene. In the previous two seasons before Simpson, Abilene was 8-13.

Ulysses is 1-3 all-time in the playoffs with standout running back Ian Rudzik. The Tigers’ lone victory, 26-0 against Hugoton, came when Rudzik was a freshman.

Ulysses has outscored its opponents this season by a margin of 322-177. Abilene is at 266-91. The two teams have not met since 2004.

Ulysses continues to be a much better road team in the Rudzik era with a 15-3 road mark and 15-7 at home. However, Rudzik, in what could his final home game, puts the Tigers on his back again and gets the postseason win in a low-scoring contest.

Ulysses 20, Abilene 14 (Nicholl)

The rest of our 4A-I first-round picks:

Louisburg (7-2) at Basehor-Linwood (5-4) – Louisburg

Fort Scott (7-2) at Eudora (6-3) – Eudora

KC Piper (4-5) at No. 1 Bishop Miege (8-1) – Miege

Andover Central (7-2) at Independence (7-2) – Andover Central

Augusta (7-2) at No. 3 Topeka Hayden (8-1) – Hayden

Mulvane (5-4) at No. 2 Buhler (9-0) -- Buhler


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