Class 6A Quarterfinal Preview

Blue Valley QB Colton McCumber will try to lead the Tigers past No. 1 Lawrence. (by Susie Gurley)
By: Matt Gilmore & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 13, 2015

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Class 6A

East: No. 2 Shawnee Mission East (9-1) at No. 5 Olathe North (9-1)

Is there any possible way that this game can live up to last year’s meeting in the sub-state semifinal? Shawnee Mission East, ranked second, will take on No. 5 Olathe North a round earlier this season with a trip to the semifinals on the line.

Last year’s meeting lived up to the hype as the Lancers prevailed 36-35 in double overtime. Wyatt Edmisten scored in the second overtime to pull the Lancers to within 35-34, and SM East coach Dustin Delaney decided to line up quickly and go for two and the win. The Lancers ran a wide toss play to Sam Huffman that the Eagles appeared to have strung out, but Huffman stopped and cut back through the defense and into the end zone for the dramatic winning points.

Shawnee Mission East went on to win the 6A state championship 33-14 over Hutchinson a week later.

This season the Lancers won their first four games before a 32-20 home loss to surging Lawrence Free State. The Firebirds are also in the state quarterfinals this week, but on the west side of the bracket. Since that loss, SM East has won five consecutive games while averaging 58 points per contest.

Edmisten leads the Lancer offense with 1,100 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, but several other players present significant concerns for opposing defenses. Mike Bamford is less than 20 yards short of 1,000 on the season and has scored ten times. Meanwhile quarterback Luke Kaiser has 743 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Kaiser has also passed for 730 yards and nine scores.  Every third completion has gone for a touchdown pass this season for Kaiser.

Sky Tate is East’s leading receiver with 487 yards and ten touchdowns.

On the other sideline, Olathe North advanced to the quarterfinals after outscoring Blue Valley North 14-0 in the second half to win 35-28. Senior Vinnie Shabazz led Olathe North with 196 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. Quarterback Matt Wright passed for 181 yards and two scores for the Eagles, while Isaiah Simmons caught three passes for 161 yards and both touchdowns.

Shabazz (5-10, 190) has proved to be a more than capable replacement for Kpreps All-State selection Venus Triplett at running back. The senior has rushed for 1,809 yards and 23 touchdowns on 239 carries. Wright has added 1,017 yards rushing and 12 scores.

Wright has been effective in throwing the ball as well. The senior has passed for 1,328 yards and 16 touchdowns. Wright has kept opposing defenses honest by looking for Simmons who has 815 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving on only 25 catches. Simmons averages nearly 33 yards per catch.

The Eagles may need big plays to try and keep up with the Lancers’ ball control offense. 

SM East 35, Olathe North 27 (Gilmore)

West: Lawrence Free State (7-3) at No. 3 Wichita Northwest (10-0)

While Derby versus Junction City is an outstanding game, Lawrence Free State and Wichita Northwest deliver vastly different styles.

Northwest ranks No. 2 in scoring offense with 493 points while allowing 239. Free State, winners of seven straight after an 0-3 start, has outscored teams 325-126. The Firebirds are the lone team to defeat Shawnee Mission East (9-1), ranked No. 2 in 6A. Northwest is the only squad to beat Bishop Carroll (9-1), ranked No. 2 in 5A.

In addition, Northwest plays very quickly at 71.3 snaps per game, while Free State plays more of a ball control style.

Free State changed from its normal 3-5-3 defense to a 50 look this season. The defensive line has played well up front and the linebacking corps has helped lower Free State’s scoring defense from 21.9 last season to 12.6 this fall. Last week, the Firebirds held Wichita West, a top-10 offense, to 118 total yards in a 49-0 victory.

This marks the first-ever meeting between the programs.

During its seven-game win streak, Free State has an average score of 38-8. Northwest has an average scoring margin of 52-24. The Grizzlies biggest challenge of late came in a 28-21 victory over Hutchinson in Week 9 against the Salthawks’ power running game. Free State features a power-running attack behind quarterback Bryce Torneden and running back Sam Skwarlo, both seniors. Either player has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game except one, a blowout victory.

Torneden has committed to FCS power North Dakota State and has 927 rushing yards and eight TDs. Skwarlo has delivered 1,321 rushing yards and 19 scores.

Free State’s rushing offense has dominated several opponents, including 368 yards versus Wichita West and 334 versus defending champion Shawnee Mission East. The Firebirds didn’t run a single passing play in the second half versus East in delivering the Lancers’ only loss in the past two seasons.

Free State, a consistent state power since the school was formed in the mid-90s, is 12-14 all-time in the postseason with a state runner-up in ’08 as its best finish. It made sub-state in ’06, ’12 and ’14. Northwest, 7-17 in postseason history, has just one appearance in sub-state, a 1996 runner-up.

Northwest has continually put up big offensive numbers and remains on pace to break the state record for yardage per game (554.3). Senior quarterback Kevin Folsom has delivered an incredible season with 108 of 160 passing for 1,892 yards with 25 scores against no interceptions. He also has 96 carries for 594 yards and nine scores.

Junior Jahlyl Rounds leads the Grizzlies with 174 carries for 1,279 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The different styles will yield a very intriguing game. However, no team, including Carroll, has been able to match Northwest’s pace for four quarters. The Grizzlies win late behind its great offensive skill players and line.

Wichita Northwest 28, Free State 24 (Nicholl)

The rest of our 6A quarterfinal picks:

Blue Valley (8-2) at No. 1 Lawrence (10-0) – Lawrence

No. 4 Derby (9-1) at Junction City (10-0) -- Derby

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