Class 3A Semifinal Preview

Hoisington's Cam Davis (5) breaks up a pass from Pratt's Hunter Kaufman in Week 5. (Joey Bahr)
By: Mark Schremmer & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 17, 2016

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Class 3A

East: No. 2 Nemaha Central (12-0) at No. 3 Rossville (11-1)

The two-time defending state champion Rossville Bulldawgs will try to advance to the 3A title game for the third consecutive year. However, an undefeated Nemaha Central Thunder squad stands in their way.

Nemaha Central has rolled through most of its opposition, while also picking up close wins over perennial powers Holton and Silver Lake. The Thunder edged Holton, which is set to play in the Class 4A Division II semifinals, 43-42 in Week 3 and topped Silver Lake, which is the only team to beat Rossville this season, 21-14 in the second round of the playoffs.

Coach Warren Seitz, who played for the Missouri Tigers and briefly in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, led the Thunder to a Big 7 title and consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more. Previously serving as the head coach at Topeka West, Seitz directed the Chargers to the Class 5A championship game in 2002.

Nemaha Central’s defense has been especially stout, pitching four shutouts and allowing 14 points or fewer in 10 out of 12 games. If you remove the game when Holton scored 42 points, the Thunder defense is giving up only 74 points per game.

The Thunder offense also looked strong during last week’s 42-14 quarterfinal win over Wellsville. Senior quarterback Ryan Hasenkamp passed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for another.

Rossville is in the state semifinals for the fifth consecutive season.

Led by coach Derick Hammes, the Bulldawgs own a 51-2 record since he took over the program in 2012.

The Bulldawgs boast an explosive offense, scoring at least 40 points in eight games. However, their defense hasn’t been as stingy as Nemaha Central’s. Rossville has allowed 24 points or more six times, including 28 to Sabetha in the second round of the playoffs and 31 to Caney Valley during last week’s quarterfinals though the game was never in doubt. Caney Valley rushed for 260 yards.

But stopping Rossville’s offense is no easy task. Quarterback Jacob Bradshaw rushed for 369 yards during the win over the Bullpups and has 2,324 yards with 28 touchdowns on the season. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior has also completed 103 of 143 passes (72 percent) for 1,521 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. According to statistics from Sports in Kansas, Bradshaw leads the state in rushing by more than 300 yards.

Rossville’s top receiving target is no secret. Senior Cole Schumacher has 48 catches for 951 yards and 16 touchdowns. The second most receptions on the team is 17.

Dawson Hammes, who is Derick’s son, paces the defense with 137 tackles.

Rossville has been a thorn in the side of Nemaha Central in recent years. The Bulldawgs eliminated the Thunder from the playoffs in 2013 and 2015.

Rossville 35, Nemaha Central 28 (Schremmer)

West: No. 1 Hoisington (12-0) at No. 4 Hesston (9-3)

Two Central Kansas League foes match up for a rare spot for the programs to advance to the state championship game. This is the first contest between the two since a 13-9 Hesston win on Sept. 21, 2007.

Hoisington rolled over Garden Plain, 49-8, and advanced to its first semifinal in school history. The Cardinals have permitted just 24 points in the last month. Hoisington has won every game by at least 18 points, except for a 31-22 Week 2 home victory versus Wichita Collegiate. Hoisington had previously made three trips to the quarterfinals in ’90, ’07 and ’15.

Hesston was outgained by nearly 150 yards, but finished plus-2 in turnover margin and won at Phillipsburg, 38-26. Hesston is into the semifinals for the first time since ’03 and for the fourth time in school annals.

The Swathers opened 0-2 and were 1-3 after four weeks with all their losses coming on the road by a combined 17 points. Since then, Hesston has won eight straight. In those eight contests, Hesston has outscored teams by an average of 41-16. Hoisington has an average margin of 47-12 in its last eight games.

Against Garden Plain, Hoisington played without senior Hunter Hanzlick, the school’s all-time leading rusher, who was hurt in the second round against Norton. However, explosive senior Cameron Davis had 11 carries for 218 yards and three scores, including an 81-yard run. The defense was great again and limited Garden Plain to 51 plays for 187 yards.

Hoisington has averaged 388 rushing yards a contest with 1,493 from Hanzlick, 1,318 by Davis and 887 from junior Sean Urban. Its standout defense has forced 31 turnovers and is plus-25 in turnover margin.

Hesston trailed 7-0 after the first quarter and 14-12 at halftime before outscoring Phillipsburg 26-12 after intermission. The Swathers’ Zach Vogt returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown and later got a defensive score.

Senior quarterback Zach Esau has completed 146 of 245 passes for 2,467 yards with 27 passing scores against 12 interceptions. He has 917 rushing yards, while sophomore Parker Roth has tallied 1,083. Vogt and sophomore Cameron Cox have combined for 71 catches for 1,461 yards and 15 scores.

Hesston has averaged 10.1 yards per pass attempt and 5.2 yards per rush. Hoisington has the better overall resume, but Hesston’s explosive passing offense can pose problems for the Cardinals.

Against Collegiate, Hoisington permitted 172 passing yards with two scores against one interception. Against Pratt, the Greenbacks rushed for 215 yards and passed for 81 on 11 attempts with a touchdown and an interception.

However, in the second round, Hoisington held Norton’s Jace Ruder to 12 of 23 passing with no scores and two interceptions. Hoisington has proved it can run on any team with some combination of Hanzlick, Davis, Urban and senior quarterback Tyler Specht.

For Hesston to win, it must keep turnovers low, likely needs another big non-offensive play and must have an elite day in the passing game. Collegiate had a weaker statistical running game than Hesston, and the Swathers are the best passing offense Hoisington has seen. Hesston has not lost at home. The Swathers give the Cardinals a competitive game, but it’s very challenging to play with Hoisington for a full contest.

Hoisington 34, Hesston 21 (Nicholl)


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