4A District Preview
Josh Pounds is part of the wishbone rushing attack that has built Concordia into a contender under Tim Lambert. (Photo by Marion McReynolds)
By Contributing: Conor Nicholl (Hays Daily News), Mark Schremmer, & Matt Gilmore (Kpreps.com)
Posted: October 13, 2011 - 12:46 PM
Class 4A’s two top-ranked teams will again compete in the same district. Topeka Hayden (5-1) and unbeaten Holton will face each other in Week 8 in what could be a state semifinal preview.
Buhler and Rose Hill appear to be developing into strong contenders out west, while the state should keep an eye out for teams like Ulysses, Concordia, Abilene, and the surprising unbeaten Clearwater Indians.
On the eastern side of 4A history tells us to look at the Frontier League which placed the final four teams on the eastern half last season. This season, the Frontier League members have just beaten each other up.
Defending champ Louisburg is just 2-4 and has played in three consecutive one-point games. Eudora and Paola sit atop the league with 5-1 records, with Baldwin and De Soto right behind. All should be considered contenders in the eastern half of 4A come playoff time.
· KC Piper (3-3) – The Pirates have been defeated the past two weeks to Mill Valley and KC Turner, but they lost those two games by nine points combined. Piper’s passing game has had mixed results. Sophomore quarterback Tanner Eikenbary has completed 68-of-130 passes for 924 yards with seven TDs and six interceptions. Senior Beau Soucie is the team’s leading receiver with 18 receptions for 298 yards, but the Pirates have five receivers with more than 100 yards. The Pirates advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year.
· Atchison (2-4) – The Redmen posted a winning record in 2010 but were unable to make the playoffs. This season, Atchison hopes to get over the hump and into the playoffs. The Redmen appear to have the offense to be able to do so. They have scored at least 30 points in each of the past two weeks.
· KC Sumner Academy (2-4) – The Sabres enter district competition with some momentum as they have won their past two games. After dropping their first four games, Sumner beat Lincoln Prep (Mo.) 22-16 and KC Washington 20-6. The Sabres boast a big-play threat in wide receiver Vernon Vaughn. The 6-2, 190-pound receiver runs a 4.6 40-yard dash and has verbally committed to play for the Kansas State Wildcats.
· Hiawatha (1-5) – It’s safe to say that the Redhawks have struggled this season. They have been held to eight points or less in four of their games this season. Hiawatha’s only victory was against the winless Santa Fe Trail Chargers.
Key Games: (Wk 7) KC Piper at Atchison; (Wk 8) Atchison at KC Sumner; (Wk 9) KC Sumner at KC Piper
Winner: KC Piper
· Basehor-Linwood (6-0) – When you talk about the Bobcats, you have to talk about their passing game. Their 6-6, 200-pound senior quarterback Colin Murphy has completed 84-of-134 passes for 1,545 yards with 14 TDs and only two picks. When Colin drops back to pass, he often looks toward his twin brother Ryan Murphy. The 6-6, 220-pound tight end has 31 catches for 666 yards and three TDs. Junior Ben Johnson has 29 grabs for 568 yards and nine TDs.
· Perry-Lecompton (5-1) – The Kaws enter district play coming off a tough 47-0 loss to the Holton Wildcats. Losing that way had to come as a bit of a shock as the Kaws had won every game by at least two touchdowns before meeting up with Holton. Now the Kaws need to regain focus and work to get back to the playoffs.
· Jefferson West (3-3) – The Tigers opened the season with a solid 29-18 victory against KC Sumner Academy. The Tigers followed with wins against Hiawatha and Santa Fe Trail to open the season 3-0. Since then, Jefferson West has lost to three winning teams in Seneca-Nemaha Valley, Holton and Royal Valley.
· Tonganoxie (1-5) – The Chieftains beat Bishop Ward 34-6 in their season opener, but since then they have lost five straight. A 21-17 loss to KC Piper is the only other game where Tonganoxie was even in striking distance of a victory.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Jefferson West at Basehor-Linwood; (Wk 8) Jefferson West at Perry-LeCompton; (Wk 9) Basehor-Linwood at Perry-Lecompton
· De Soto (4-2) – The Wildcats dominated this district a year ago, scoring at least 39 points in all three wins. De Soto went on to advance to the state quarterfinals before falling to 2010 state champion Louisburg. De Soto could make another run this season as it is one of the many teams in this area that are fairly comparable. De Soto, Paola, Eudora, Louisburg and St. James Academy have all beaten up on each other.
· St. James Academy (3-3) – The Thunder handed Eudora its only loss of the season and appeared really strong with a 3-0 start. But they have fallen to Spring Hill, Baldwin and Paola and enter district competition with three consecutive losses.
· Blue Valley Southwest (1-5) – Yes, the Timberwolves enter district play with only one win. However, you must remember that they did the same thing last year and advanced to the playoffs by beating St. James and Bishop Ward. These will be the first 4A teams Blue Valley Southwest plays all season as it competes in the large school Eastern Kansas League.
· Bishop Ward (0-6) – A struggling Tonganoxie team posted its only win of the season by beating the Cyclones 34-6. Bishop Ward has allowed more than 30 points in every game this season. Things shouldn’t get any easier in a competitive district.
Key Games: (Wk7) St. James Academy at Blue Valley Southwest; (Wk 8) Blue Valley Southwest at De Soto; (Wk 9) St. James Academy at De Soto
Winner: De Soto
Runner-up: Blue Valley Southwest
· Eudora (5-1) – Other than one stumble against St. James Academy in Week 2, the Cardinals have marched through a competitive Frontier League. Quarterback Derek Webb leads the Cardinals in rushing with 599 yards and five TDs on 124 carries. Running back Chris Pyle has added 586 yards and three TDs on 86 carries. Eudora advanced to the playoffs in 2010 but fell 14-7 to DeSoto in the first round.
· Baldwin (4-2) – The Bulldogs won this district in 2010 and advanced to the state quarterfinals. However, Baldwin returned only four starters on each side of the ball. Still, the Bulldogs are a good football team and enter district competition coming off an emotional 34-33 win against Louisburg.
· Ottawa (1-5) – The Cyclones have only one win, but they were able to hang within a touchdown of DeSoto this past Friday. The Cyclones also played St. James Academy within a TD.
· Santa Fe Trail (0-6) – The Chargers’ defense hasn’t been exactly stingy this year. While its offense has averaged an acceptable 17 points, the Santa Fe Trail defense has allowed 44.1 points per game.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Eudora at Baldwin
· Paola (5-1) – The Panthers appeared to be emerging as the 4A favorite to come out of the East, but a 18-10 loss to Eudora in Week 5 shows they will have some competition on the eastern half of the bracket. Paola’s offense is energized by a strong rushing attack and has scored at least 27 points in all five wins. Paola advanced to the state semifinals in 2010 before losing to the eventual state champion Louisburg.
· Spring Hill (3-3) – The Broncos appeared to be in for a long season, opening with an 0-3 record. However, they have rattled off three consecutive victories, including a 28-14 win against St. James Academy.
· Louisburg (2-4) – The Wildcats obviously lost a lot of talent from last year’s state championship team. However, Louisburg can still compete with most of the 4A teams in the state. The Wildcats’ past three games have all been decided by one point. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they have lost the past two of those to DeSoto and Baldwin. Louisburg boasts one of the state’s best players in running back and linebacker Garrett Griffin.
· Osawatomie (1-5) – The Trojans are not only 1-5, but they are 1-5 after playing a relatively weak regular season schedule. Osawatomie lost 56-26 this past Friday to an 3-3 3A school in Central Heights.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Spring Hill at Louisburg; (Wk 9) Paola at Louisburg
· Fort Scott (5-1) – The Tiger dropped their first game of the season in a 27-13 Week 6 loss at Pittsburg. Quarterback Jonathan Stark and backs Dane Cummings and Jason Thorpe run the split-back veer very well, and should make Bob Campbell’s Tigers the clear cut favorite in this district.
· Prairie View (4-2) – Prairie View’s four wins have come against opponents that are a combined 5-19 on the season. For the Buffs to make the postseason, they’ll have to improve on the defensive side of the ball where they’ve given up a total of 114 points in their last two games.
· Anderson County (3-3) – Thomas Mudd leads a balanced Bulldog rushing attack with 505 yards and six touchdowns. Anderson County’s wins have come against opponents that are a combined 3-15 this season, and the Bulldogs gave Osawatomie it’s only win of the season with a 48-42 loss in Week 1.
· Iola (1-5) – The Mustangs have only one win in their last season in the Southeast Kansas League, and that came in Week 6 against a winless Labette County team. Iola will need to pull off some upsets if they plan to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Prairie View at Anderson County; (Wk 8) Anderson County at Iola; (Wk 9) Iola at Prairie View
Winner: Fort Scott
Runner-up: Anderson County
· Parsons (5-1) – The Vikings continue to gain momentum as they rallied to defeat a solid Galena team 28-14 in Week 6. Parsons’ biggest asset may be its team speed as the Vikings have returned several kicks for touchdowns already this season; including two in a 21-20 win over Labette County.
· Independence (4-2) – Despite losing a solid group of seniors a year ago including an all-state caliber back in Matt Bromley, the Bulldogs have posted a nice season thus far. Independence could be 5-1 at this point, but Coffeyville scored a 61-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion with just over a minute to go to nip the Bulldogs 28-27 in Week 5.
· Chanute (4-2) – The Blue Comets were dealt a huge blow when one of the state’s best running back’s Jared McComb moved out of state prior to the season starting. Blake Kisner and Sam Son have filled in nicely and junior quarterback Brock Gilmore (6-4; 220) is effective at directing a wide-open offense. Quintin Schooley (6-4; 245) is a solid performer on the offensive line and along with Son creates a strong group of linebackers.
· Girard (4-2) – Midway through the season, Anthony Scholes made the transition from quarterback to running back and provided the Trojans with a compliment to Matt Perez out of the backfield. The results have been good as Girard has posted back-to-back strong wins over Riverton and Erie.
Key Games: All games are key in this district where anyone can win on any given night.
· Coffeyville (3-3) – The Field Kindley Golden Tornados appear to be figuring things out as they’ve won two straight including an impressive 47-29 win over Chanute in Week 6. Junior quarterback Cory Turner has playmaking ability, and running back Bo Collins provides a strong option out of the backfield. Nash Nelson (6-5; 260) anchors an offensive line that continues to improve.
· Columbus (1-5) – All five of the Titans’ losses have come against teams which carry at least a 4-2 record into district play. The Columbus offense has begun to pick up steam having averaged 28 points per game over the past three, after averaging just 9 points per game the first three weeks of the season.
· Baxter Springs (1-5) – The young Lions have struggled but picked up their first win of the season in a 54-46 shootout over winless Southeast-Cherokee in Week 6. On the season, Baxter Springs has given up an average of 49 points per game.
· Labette County (0-6) – Shane Holtzman’s Grizzlies have struggled on offense averaging just 10 points per game. The schedule has been challenging with five teams having at least four wins, but Labette County couldn’t capitalize when the schedule changed in their favor as they dropped a 24-15 decision to Iola in Week 6.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Coffeyville at Columbus
· Holton (6-0) -- Last year’s state runner-up opened the season with an impressive 37-30 victory against 6A’s Topeka High. Since then, the Wildcats have dominated their opposition by scoring at least 35 points and not allowing more than seven points in the rest of their games. Holton’s Rob Riederer has verbally committed to play football at Tulsa.
· Topeka Hayden (5-1) – The Wildcats’ only loss came 22-17 came to 6A’s second-ranked Manhattan in Week 1. Hayden’s record is even more impressive when you realize it hasn’t played a 4A school all season, competing in a very strong Centennial League. However, Hayden will try to overcome a disappointing 2010 when it was the 4A favorite and fell 21-0 to Buhler in the quarterfinals.
· Royal Valley (4-2) -- Despite a 4-2 record, the Panthers enter as a major underdog. Hayden and Holton are the top two ranked teams in the state, and Royal Valley plays in a relatively weak Big 7 Conference. The Panthers’ toughest game on the schedule was to Perry-Lecompton, and they lost 41-8. And remember, Holton beat Perry-Lecompton 47-0.
· Wamego (1-5) –The Red Raiders’ only victory came against winless Chapman. In Wamego’s other five games, it has been limited to 14 points or less.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Holton at Hayden
Winner: Topeka Hayden
· Rose Hill (5-1) – The Rockets lone loss came in close 18-10 setback to third-ranked Buhler in Week 1. Rose Hill has since won five straight and moved into the #4 spot in our 4A rankings. Quarterback Derrick Decker is a true dual-threat on offense, and Jonny Pearson has been a good replacement to the graduated LaQua Mayes.
· Towanda Circle (0-6) – The Thunderbirds’ struggles have been on offense where they’ve averaged just over 10 points per game and have scored in double digits only twice. Circle can still secure a second straight playoff spot with wins over Augusta and El Dorado.
· Augusta (0-6) – The Orioles have scored just 34 points all season, and have been shutout in their last two games. Augusta has won just nine total games since the 2005 season when they finished 10-2 and lost in the third round of the playoffs.
· El Dorado (0-6) – The Wildcats have now lost 24 straight games since the final week of the 2008 season when they beat Augusta 28-7. El Dorado was competitive in a 28-20 loss to Winfield in Week 6. That 2008 season was also El Dorado’s last playoff team.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Towanda Circle at El Dorado; (Wk 8) El Dorado at Augusta; (Wk 9) Augusta at Towanda Circle
Winner: Rose Hill
Runner-up: Towanda Circle
· Clearwater (6-0) – The Fighting Indians are one of 4A’s best stories this season, still unbeaten after six weeks. Clearwater’s six wins have come against opponents which are a combined 9-27, but they have a signature win over Wichita Collegiate in Week 1. Jarrod Nickelson and Austin True have paced the Indian offense that has averaged nearly 30 points per game.
· Mulvane (4-2) – Mulvane started 4-0 before consecutive losses to state-ranked Buhler and Rose Hill. Quarterback Ty Redington has thrown for 1,076 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Redington’s favorite targets have been Nolan Smith (320 yards; 2TDs), Todd Parton (286 yards; 4TDs), and Austin Duncan (222 yards; TD). Three Wildcat backs have more than 250 yards rushing on the season.
· Winfield (3-3) – The Vikings have scored only seven total points in their three losses, while averaging 29 points per game in their three wins. Winfield will try and reach the postseason for the first time since 2008 when they finished 5-5 and lost in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
· Wellington (3-3) – Wellington begins its quest to try and keep its long playoff streak alive. The Crusaders reached the 4A first round last season despite turning in just a 2-7 regular season. New head coach Dylan Schmidt hope to rejuvenate a once powerful program, and will ride the legs of Taylan Ybarra to reach the playoffs.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Muvlane at Wellington; (Wk 8) Clearwater at Mulvane; (Wk 9) Wellington at Clearwater
· Wichita Trinity (4-2) – The Knights only win against a .500 or better opponent came in Week 1 as they beat Douglass who is now 3-3. All other wins have come against struggling Central Plains programs. Trinity lost 54-14 to Conway Springs in Week 6. The Knights are seeking the first playoff appearance in the program’s history.
· Cheney (3-3) – Cheney’s three losses have come against opponents who are a combined 17-1 entering district play. Two of the Cardinals’ wins have come by a total of four points.
· Maize South (3-3) – The Mavericks will try to get to the playoffs for the second consecutive season behind quarterback Drake Dukes. Maize South is averaging 18.5 points per game, and giving up 19.5 per contest.
· Andale (1-5) – After going 78-10 over the past seven seasons, Andale is a surprising 1-5 this season under veteran coach Gary O’Hair. The Indians graduated standout Jake Hattabaugh off of last season’s team, and the Indians had struggled to break out until their Week 6 rout over Towanda Circle. Trent Horsch (5-11; 190) is the key back in Andale’s offense.
Key Games: All games are important in a district that is really up for grabs.
Runner-up: Maize South
· Buhler (6-0) – Tanner Fisher has already rushed for 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns on just 100 carries. Simple math tells us that is a ridiculous 12.74 yards per carry. If teams key on Fisher, Chandler Shantz has thrown for nearly 600 yards – 420 of which have gone to J.P. Lohrentz.
· Nickerson (4-2) – The Panthers two losses have come to unbeaten Abilene and a one-loss Hesston team. Nickerson has beaten the teams that they should have thus far, but a close win over Kingman is a bit puzzling.
· Pratt (2-4) – The Greenbacks have played a fairly difficult schedule with their four losses coming to opponents who are a combined 19-5. Pratt’s best win of the season has come in a 28-21 victory at Smoky Valley in Week 5.
· Haven (1-5) – Haven’s one win came against a 1-5 Ellinwood team in Week 4. The Wildcats haven’t reached the playoffs since 2003, and have gone just 7-62 during that span. Haven will drop to 3A beginning next cycle.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Nickerson at Pratt
· Ulysses (5-1) - Ulysses has returned to the top in Class 4A. After a 5-5 season in 2009, the Tigers are 14-4 since with the only loss in 2011 coming against Class 3A power Scott City, 27-13. Ulysses has permitted 68 points all season, tied for seventh-best in Class 4A.
· Holcomb (5-1) – The Longhorns have won three games in a row and only allowed seven points in those contests. Holcomb's lone loss is to Class 3A power Scott City. Tyler LaSalle has passed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns against seven interceptions and rushed for 353 yards and nine touchdowns.
· Hugoton (3-3) – The Eagles look for a step back in the right direction after a 10-1 season in 2009 and a 4-6 mark last year. Hugoton has played three games within 10 points, including a 21-16 win against Colby and a 35-25 victory versus Guymon, Okla. Five players have at least 225 rushing yards in the Eagles' split back veer defense, including a team-high 579 yards from sophomore Cordell Barnes.
· Larned (0-6) – Larned, which combined with Rozel-Pawnee Heights this year, has not won a game since 2009 and is 2-31 under coach Al Troyer. The Indians have been outscored by 24 points in all but one game, a 46-40 loss to Cimarron. Larned's defense has allowed more than 40 points in every contest.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Ulysses at Holcomb
· Abilene (6-0) – Abilene, which has not lost a regular season game since a 56-13 defeat to Buhler in Week 2 of the 2010 season, has continued to be a dominant program. The Cowboys have outscored their opponents, 167-68 and are tied for the ninth-best scoring defense in the classification. Junior quarterback Andy Wilson has completed 63-of-112 passes for 1,019 yards with 11 touchdowns against two interceptions, while Collin Sexton has hauled in 25 passes for 458 yards and three touchdowns. Sexton has also picked off a team-high six passes on defense.
· Hesston (5-1) – Hesston has defeated its opponents by a combined score of 219-45 and look to win a playoff game for the sixth time in eight years. The Swathers have pitched three shutouts this season and rank in the top-10 in 4A for scoring offense and scoring defense.
· Smoky Valley (3-3) – Smoky Valley has already won more games than it did all of 2010 and looks for its first playoff berth in four years. The Vikings have not won consecutive games yet this season.
· Chapman (0-6) – The Irish, a long struggling program, have continued to have their troubles in 2011. Chapman has had one game within 20 points, a 14-7 loss to Clay Center.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Hesston at Abilene
· Concordia (5-1) – Tim Lambert built a powerhouse at St. Francis and is doing the same at Concordia. The Panthers went 2-8 in Lambert's first season and finished 8-2 last year. Concordia has averaged 356 rushing yards per game in the wishbone offense, including a team-high 558 from Aren Coppoc. Josh Pounds has added more than 400 yards and seven touchdowns.
· Clay Center (2-4) – Last year, Clay Center lost three games by 14 points or fewer. This season, the Tigers have played four games with 14 points, a 19-6 loss to Ellsworth, a 21-7 loss to Riley County, a 14-7 victory versus Chapman and a 20-14 win over Wamego. Quarterback Caleb Carson has thrown for 704 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
· Russell (2-4) - Nash Karst has been one of Kansas' most productive — but least known — players. He has 979 yards and 11 scores on 159 carries and completed 17-of-32 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The Broncos have permitted 43.2 points a contest.
· Colby (1-5) – The Eagles have fallen off after a 7-3 season in 2009. Colby went 4-5 last year and has just one victory, a 26-2 win against St. Francis, in Week 1. Beau Brown has rushed for 407 yards and three touchdowns.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Clay Center at Russell; (Wk 8) Colby at Clay Center; (Wk 9) Russell at Colby; (Wk 9) Clay Center at Concordia at Clay
Runner-up: Clay Center