Commentary: Favorites, sleepers and storylines
Patrick Piper's Otis-Bison Cougars are one of the sleepers to contend in 8-Man Division II. Photo by Everett Royer,
By Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Posted: October 6, 2011 - 9:45 PM
We are now past the halfway point of the season. So let’s take a look at what we’ve learned and which questions are still unanswered. In some classes the favorites are clear, and in others there are plenty of teams ready to contend.
There have been many great games and storylines, and plenty more can be expected for the second half of the season.
Here are the favorites, sleepers and storylines for each classification:
Wichita Heights – The defending state champs certainly have appeared ready to return to the state title game for the third consecutive season. The Falcons are 5-0 and have scored more than 40 points in every game. Heights has been dominant on the ground, rushing for 425 yards per game. Three players have more than 500 yards rushing -- Matt Reed (668 yards), Kenneth Iheme (515) and Marquel Moore (515) -- on the season. The Falcons play a relatively week regular season schedule, but Friday’s 41-21 win over a solid Wichita Northwest team supports their case. As the games get more difficult, Heights may need to turn to its passing game more. Reed has completed only 10-of-25 passes so far.
Manhattan – The Indians are 5-0 but will have quite a challenge to get through a West side that includes Wichita Heights. Only one of five of Manhattan’s opponents have a winning record, and the team that does is Class 4A Topeka Hayden. However, the Indians do have several talented players and boast big-play ability with the likes of running back Ty Suggs. The running back rushed for 170 yards and three TDs Friday against Seaman.
Others: Junction City, Washburn Rural
Olathe North – The Eagles are playing like it could be very possible for them to be playing in the state championship game against Wichita Heights for the third consecutive season. Olathe North is 5-0 and already has a big win against Olathe East to its credit. The Eagles are most known for their running game with Orange Mooney and Treshawn Root, but they also can execute through the air. Quarterback Jordan Bruce completed 15-of-23 passes for 246 yards and three TDs in Friday’s win against Leavenworth.
Olathe South – The 5-0 Falcons will get to prove this Friday if they deserve to be the favorite as they face Olathe North. Olathe South tries to be fairly balanced, rushing for 252 yards per game and passing for 131. Jordan Ward leads the team in rushing with 405 yards and four TDs on 50 carries. Quarterback Frank Seurer has completed 28-of-49 passes for 656 yards and five TDs. Drew Johnson has been his main target with 11 catches for 278 yards and two TDs. Defensively, linebacker Remington Whitley has been all over the field with 15 tackles per game.
Olathe South is off to a 5-0 start after coach Scott Gourley scrapped the spread for the Wing T last year. South posted just a 7-11 record before the change in offensive philosophy.
Hutchinson – The Salthawks are 4-1, but their only loss comes to a very strong and undefeated Rockhurst, Mo., team. Since that opening loss, Hutchinson has cruised past Derby, Newton, Salina Central and Salina South. The Salthawks are very strong on the ground with running back J’Mon Cotton (679 yards, 13 TDs) and quarterback Trevor Turner (629 yards, 5 TDs). Defensive lineman Najahaun Tipton-Wyle has the ability to get to the quarterback with three sacks on the season.
Bishop Carroll –The Eagles hope they can be the sleeper team to make it to the state title game for the second consecutive year. Just like this season, Hutchinson was expected to be the West representative in 2010. Bishop Carroll graduated a lot of talented players from last year, but they seem to be improving every week. A 31-7 win against Wichita Northwest certainly attests to that. The Eagles’ only loss this season was to 6A Wichita Heights in Week 1.
Blue Valley – Stilwell – The defending state champs are undefeated and proved they are strong again this year with a 24-21 win against Bishop Miege in Week 4. Quarterback Kyle Zimmerman was big in the game, throwing for two TD passes. Justin Fulks has been the leader of the running game, rushing for 261 yards on 31 carries against Miege.
Bishop Miege – Yes, the Stags lost to Blue Valley. However, they played close enough to show they have the ability to compete if the two teams meet again. Miege has shown it is a strong team on offense and defense. Quarterback Montel Cozart passed for 260 yards and three TDs in the loss to Blue Valley, and the Stags recorded three defensive touchdowns to beat St. Thomas Aquinas. Miege also shut out a Gardner-Edgerton team that has scored at least 20 points in each of its other four games.
Ark City is off to a 4-1 start after finishing just 15-48 the past seven seasons.
Topeka Hayden – A 4A school playing in a big school Centennial League, the Wildcats always enter the postseason prepared. They are 1-1 against 6A schools this season, falling 22-17 to Manhattan in Week 1. However, Hayden was the favorite to represent the West last season but failed to do so. The Wildcats will have another tough road with most of the top 4A teams residing on the west side of the bracket.
Holton – They may not receive as much attention as Hayden, but the Holton Wildcats have proved they can play. They beat 6A Topeka High 37-30 in Week 1 and haven’t allowed more than seven points in a game since then. Holton made it to the 4A title game in 2010.
Buhler – The 5-0 Crusaders have dominated the games they should and have been victorious against good competition like Rose Hill and Mulvane. Tanner Fisher ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns in Friday’s 31-21 win against Mulvane. With a player as explosive as Fisher, the Crusaders should be able to compete with anybody. Unfortunately for Buhler, it is in a stacked West that includes Hayden, Holton and Ulysses.
There is no true favorite in the East, but Paola, Eudora, Fort Scott and Basehor-Linwood all have the opportunity to make a run in what appears to be a wide open side of the bracket. It would be a big surprise if a West school doesn’t win the state title this year.
The typically dominant Andale has started the season 0-5 after going 78-10 the past seven seasons. Andale lost some key players to graduation, but an 0-5 start was unexpected.
Garden Plain – If there was any question whether the Owls could compete for the state championship, they answered with a resounding “yes” by defeating Conway Springs 19-13 in Week 4. That was the only game of the season that Garden Plain allowed more than seven points.
Conway Springs – For the second consecutive season, many around the state thought the Cardinals were the unquestioned favorite. However, Conway Springs didn’t win the state title a year ago, and Garden Plain showed their offense can be slowed down. With that said, don’t count the Cardinals out. They still have the ability to beat any 3A team in the state.
Scott City – The Beavers just keep winning, and they keep winning big. Scott City defeated 6A Garden City 30-3 in Week 1. The Beavers have scored at least 30 points in every game and haven’t allowed more than seven. They will have a true test this week against Ulysses, a quality 4A school.
Silver Lake – The defending 3A state champs are still developing after losing most of their top players from 2010. Playing Riley County and Rossville in the next two weeks, we will see if the Eagles are truly the favorites to win the East.
Rossville – The Bulldogs are undefeated and have been especially impressive on defense. They haven’t allowed more than eight points in a game this season, while posting two shutouts. Like Class 4A, the East appears to be fairly wide open with many of the state’s top-ranked teams in the West.
Others: Caney Valley, Wellsville
Belle Plain is 4-1 after finishing 16-47 over the past seven years.
Meade – As odd as it is to say, the defending state champion Buffaloes may be even better than they were last year. They beat Canadian, Texas, in the opener and got the best of rival Stanton County 34-16 this past Friday. Meade is rushing for more than 400 yards per game.
Plainville – It wasn’t long ago that teams could pencil in a “W” on the schedule before facing the Cardinals. However, wins against Norton and Smith Center show that Plainville is for real.
Others: Stanton County
St. Mary’s Colgan – Coach Chuck Smith, who is on the brink of 300 wins, seems poised to get the Panthers back to the state title game. This will be Colgan’s final opportunity – for at least the next two years – to do so in 2-1A as it moves up a class next season. The Panthers haven’t really been tested so far this season, beating everyone by 29 points or more.
Lyndon – The Tigers will get the opportunity in Week 8 to show if they deserve to be considered the favorite when they host Colgan.
Herington is 5-0 under remarkable circumstances. Not only did the Railers enter the season on a 15-game losing streak and with just seven wins in seven season, but their coach Bud Peterson died early in the year.
8-Man Division I
Osborne – The Bulldogs boast one of the state’s best offenses, and their only loss came in the closing minutes to Lakeside-Downs, a contender in the East. Osborne may be one of the best teams in the West, but many of the state’s top-ranked teams reside in the East.
Ness City – The undefeated Eagles have posted shutouts their past two games, beating Hill City and Minneola. Junior Garrett Flax has been key for Ness City’s ground attack.
Others: South Gray, Macksville
Madison – The Bulldogs may be as dominant as any team in the state. They have outscored their opponents 249-6 in five games. The defending state champs look to have a strong chance of returning to the title game, but they could face strong competition from the likes of Lebo and Lakeside-Downs.
Lebo – The Wolves probably wish they were in a different district, but don’t be surprised if Madison and Lebo meet in the state semifinals. Lebo is undefeated and has good wins over St. Paul and Waverly. Ranked No. 2 in the state, the fact that they are the sleeper says more about the strength of Madison than it does anything about the Wolves.
Central Plains, the consolidated school from Claflin and Quivira Heights, is 4-1. The former rivals are combining efforts to compete for the District 8 title and the postseason. The Oilers’ only loss is to Otis-Bison.
8-Man Division II
Thunder Ridge – The Longhorns have faced good teams like Hanover and Otis-Bison, but they just keep on rolling. Thunder Ridge beat the two teams by a combined score of 70-24. Running back Joel Struckhoff is already nearing 1,000 yards in rushing this season. He also should hit the 6,000-yard mark for his career.
Otis-Bison – A 44-18 loss to Thunder Ridge makes the Cougars’ quest appear to be an uphill battle. However, they have rolled through every other opponent and could make a run in the postseason.
Baileyville B&B – The defending state champs are riding an 18-game winning streak and haven’t really been tested this season. The Falcons have scored at least 48 points every game and haven’t allowed more than 12.
Hanover – The Wildcats already have two losses, but they should continue to get better after losing a lot of players from last year’s team.
Cheylin lost a great senior class and star running back Dalton Magnani, who was injured in a car accident, but still boast a 4-1 record. The Cougars also posted a big win against Sharon Springs.