Semifinal Preview: Class 2-1A

Jeremiah Buche hopes to help Colgan reach its first 2-1A title game since 2010. (by Matt Gilmore)
By: Mark Schremmer & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 15, 2017

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East: No. 5 Olpe (9-2) at No. 2 St. Mary’s Colgan (9-2)

Two teams fresh off thrilling quarterfinal victories will meet in the Class 2-1A East semifinals.

The Olpe Eagles will travel to face the St. Mary’s Colgan Panthers, with the winner set to meet the winner of Plainville and Smith Center in next week’s state championship game at Hays.

Last week, Olpe held off Jefferson County North 7-0, and Colgan scored in the final minute to beat Centralia 25-18.

Olpe’s Blaine Hinrichs scored the game’s only touchdown on a short run in the third quarter. It was an impressive defensive performance for the Eagles, who have recorded five shutouts this season. Jefferson County North entered the game averaging 46 points per game. The Eagles forced two turnovers and stopped the Chargers on downs two other times.

Olpe is on an eight-game winning streak after starting the season with a 1-2 record.

In the final week of the regular season, Olpe used five overtimes to beat Lyndon 41-33.

The Eagles are coached by Chris Schmidt, who has led Olpe to a 96-30 record.

Two weeks ago, Colgan opened the playoffs with a 48-6 win over Lyndon.

The Panthers are on a seven-game winning streak after starting the season 2-2. In last week’s win, Colgan quarterback Bryce Hutchins scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left.

Last season, Colgan defeated Olpe 42-21 in the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers went on to advance to the semifinals before falling 28-0 to eventual state champion Troy.

Colgan and Olpe has twice met in the state semifinals with Colgan winning 35-24 in 2010, and Olpe winning 20-0 in 2008.

Shawn Seematter has the Panthers in the state semifinals is in his first season as Colgan’s head coach after taking over for the legendary Chuck Smith.

Colgan 28, Olpe 16 (Schremmer)

West: No. 4 Plainville (8-3) at No. 2 Smith Center (10-1)

For the second time this year and the fourth occasion in the last two falls, Mid-Continent League foes Plainville and Smith Center meet up. Last year, the Cardinals hosted both contests and defeated Smith Center, 20-16, in the season opener and 14-0 in the state semifinals. Plainville fell to Troy in the state finale.

This year, Smith Center won 16-7 in a mistake-filled Week 1 performance that yielded a dominant showing from Redmen senior defensive end Dalton Kuhn. Kuhn wreaked havoc all over the field, including a late safety that bumped the margin to two scores.

After the game, both squads believed they could see each other again in the semifinals. Plainville has captured eight win in a row after an 0-3 start. Smith Center is 10-1 with its lone defeat to MCL rival Phillipsburg, undefeated and ranked first in 3A. Like the season opener, the Redmen have the game at Hubbard Stadium.

These two teams finished 1-2 in 2-1A scoring defense last year with Smith Center leading the classification. This year, Smith Center has outscored teams 570-71 and has stayed as the No.1-ranked team all year. The Redmen lead the classification by a big margin in scoring offense and defense. Last year, Smith Center has just 415 points in a 9-3 finish.

Smith Center has lost in the semifinals the last two years, including a defeat to Phillipsburg in ’15, the second loss to the Panthers that fall. The Redmen have not reached a state game since 2009 when it fell to Centralia in overtime and ended its state record 79-game winning streak. The Redmen have rolled in the first two rounds with an 84-7 win against Medicine Lodge and 64-7 at Elkhart.

Plainville has retooled its personnel from ‘16 and made some changes this season, most notably with offensive formations and at fullback. The Cardinals have a total margin of 324-149. Plainville is seventh in scoring defense, and 11th in offense.

The Cardinals pulled away from Meade in the second half for a 21-0 victory and beat Ell-Saline, 27-20, in double overtime. In Week 9, Smith Center defeated Ell-Saline, 54-0 in a game marked by three early defensive/special teams score.

Smith Center has averaged 318 rushing yards a game and 9.93 yards per play. Senior Jesse Staples, who saw limited time last year with 291 rushing yards, went over 100 yards in the first Plainville victory. He leads with 76 carries for 1,033 yards and 22 rushing scores. Junior Ethan Peterson has 37 carries for 601 yards and seven TDs. Last year, he had 335 rushing yards and eight scores.

Senior quarterback Colton Hutchinson, who started the majority of ’16 under center after an injury to starter Thayne Benoit, completed 39 of 71 passes for 569 yards with a 6/2 TD/INT ratio. Smith Center has just seven turnovers and is plus-22 in turnover margin, including six interceptions (three for scores) from Staples. He also has three special teams TDs.

Senior Avery Hawkins has a team-high 89 tackles with 14 TFLs, and Kuhn has 80 stops with 15 TFLs.

The Cardinals graduated standout quarterback Hayden Friend and fullback Riley Nyp off of last year’s team. Plainville changed to a fly motion offensive look and started the year with no running back.

Two standout offensive linemen – senior Hayden Gillum and sophomore Jared Casey – have played in the backfield as the year has progressed, and Casey is the current starter. Sophomore Jordan Finnesy has completed 61 of 131 passes for 1,061 yards with a 10/7 TD/INT ratio. He has rushed 232 times for 1,302 yards and 13 TDs.

At this point last year, the Cardinals were at 7.6 yards play, 7.1 yards per carry and plus-18 in turnover margin with 30 turnovers forced. Now, the Cardinals are at 6.5 yards per play, 5.9 yards per carry, plus-5 in turnover margin with 24 turnovers forced. Senior Jaron Rathbun has 82 tackles, 10.5 for loss, while Gillum leads with 13.5 TFLs.

Credit coach Grant Stephenson and the Cardinals for taking significant personnel losses from ’16 and returning to the final four after the tough start against the MCL’s elite. Plainville’s defense keeps the game close, but Smith Center is rolling at a state championship caliber level. Since Week 2 of the ’13 season, Smith Center is 23-0 at home against non-Phillipsburg opponents.

Smith Center 30, Plainville 12 (Nicholl)


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