3A District Preview
Photo by Michelle Ross, Prairie Images
By Contributing: Mark Schremmer, Conor Nicholl, and Matt Gilmore for Kpreps.com
Posted: October 14, 2011 - 11:02 AM
The western side of the state in Class 3A is among the state’s best as four out of the top five teams in our 3A rankings reside on that half of the classification.
Top-ranked Garden Plain earned that billing with an overtime win over #2 Conway Springs. Scott City is believed to have one of the better teams in school history. And Beloit, Smith Center, and Southeast of Saline also appear capable of deep playoff runs.
The eastern half of Class 3A may be more open than it has ever been. Defending champion Silver Lake has had a stranglehold on the eastern side of 3A; but several contenders including Rossville, Caney Valley and Wellsville all look poised to challenge the Eagles for the title game spot in 2011.
· Caney Valley (6-0) – The Bullpups are for real. Caney Valley has scored at least 35 points in every game they’ve played and are coming off a convincing 44-14 win against a previously unbeaten Neodesha team. Caney Valley is experienced as it returned seven starters from each side of the ball from a team that finished 9-3 and reached the 3A quarterfinals in 2010. The Bullpups almost reached the semifinals, falling 18-16 to Rossville.
· Galena (4-2) – The Bulldogs do enter district play with two losses, but those come to an undefeated powerhouse in St. Mary’s Colgan and Class 4A’s 5-1 Parsons Vikings. Senior running back Tylor Albright has explosive ability, rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns on six carries against Erie. Galena finished 7-2 a year ago but failed to make the playoffs in this competitive district.
· Riverton (4-2) – The Rams started the season 4-0 but have dropped their past two games to the Girard Trojans and Frontenac Raiders. It won’t get any easier for the Rams in district play as they open on the road against undefeated Caney Valley. Riverton has committed four turnovers over the past two weeks. The Rams will need to limit the turnovers in order to return to the playoffs out of this competitive district.
· Cherryvale (2-4) – This young Cherryvale team has been really fighting the injury bug. The Chargers’ only wins of the season have come against a winless Northeast Vikings team and the 1-4 Fredonia Yellow Jackets. In Cherryvale’s other four games, it has been beaten by an average score of 34.7 to 8.2
Key Games: (Wk 8) Caney Valley at Galena; (Wk 9) Riverton at Galena.
Winner: Caney Valley
· Neodesha (5-1) – The Bluestreaks enter district play coming off a tough 44-14 loss to the Caney Valley Bullpups on Friday. The game may have shown the separation between 3A District 1 and District 2 as Caney Valley outscored Neodesha 30-0 in the second half. The Bluestreaks boast only one victory against a team with a winning record. Neodesha advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2010.
· Eureka (3-3) – The Tornadoes have been able to beat up on lesser opponents but have struggled against the better teams. They fell 40-14 to Burlington and 45-8 to Caney Valley. Eureka also suffered a 28-26 loss to an Erie team that has been beat up in the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League this season. However, the Tornadoes appear to have a good chance to return to the playoffs out of a weak District 2.
· Fredonia (1-5) – The Yellow Jackets beat the winless Northeast Vikings 27-0 in Week 1. Since then, they have been limited to six points or fewer in four of their next five games. To put things into a little bit of perspective, a two-win Cherryvale team beat Fredonia 36-0.
· Leon-Bluestem (1-5) – The Lions are only 1-5, but there is some good news. First, they enter district play coming off a 29-0 win against Wichita Independent. Second, Leon-Bluestem plays in a much more competitive Central Plains League. All five of the Lions’ losses come to teams with a record of at least .500.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Eureka at Neodesha; (Wk 8) Fredonia at Leon-Bluestem
· Frontenac (3-3) – The Raiders appear to be coming on at the right time. After finishing 2-8 in coach Kevin Carey’s first season last year and an 0-3 start to the 2011 season, this young Frontenac squad seems to be emerging. Frontenac opened with losses to Neodesha, St. Mary’s Colgan and Galena. Since then, the Raiders have posted quality wins against Girard, Baxter Springs and Riverton. Running back Bryce Burdette ran for 101 yards and a TD in the win against Riverton. Frontenac also has shown some balance as quarterback Devon Keith completed 8-of-12 passes for 127 yards.
· Erie (2-4) – The Red Devils are 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League, so you’d think the playoffs would be a distant dream. However, Erie plays in a district that includes two winless teams in Southeast-Cherokee and Northeast-Arma. Erie’s biggest competition should be Southeast, but the Lancers fell 54-46 this past week to Baxter Springs, and the Red Devils beat Baxter 53-12 in Week 3.
· Northeast-Arma (0-6) – To steal a line from former southeast Kansas sportswriter Bill McMillen, the Vikings haven’t won a game since Moby Dick was a minner. Northeast is on a 15-game losing streak. To make matters worse, the Vikings were on a 22-game losing streak before beating Pleasanton 14-6 in their final game of the 2009 season. Northeast hasn’t played any opponent within three touchdowns this season.
· Southeast-Cherokee (0-6) – The good news for the Lancers Is that they entered district play last season with an 0-6 record and still made it to the second round of the playoffs. The bad news is that Frontenac and Erie are much improved from last season. First-year head coach Clint Rider’s squad has shown some life in recent weeks, scoring 28 and 46 points against Parsons and Baxter Springs, respectively, after not scoring more than 12 points in its first four games.
Key Games: Key games: (Wk 8) Erie at Southeast-Cherokee; (Wk 9) Frontenac at Erie
· Wellsville (6-0) – The unbeaten Eagles have scored at least 32 points in every game and have kept opponents to 14 points or fewer in four games. Wellsville is rushing for 337.7 yards per game this season. Senior running back Jesse Lamay leads the way with 815 yards and 11 touchdowns on 106 carries. Senior quarterback Cole Gardner keeps defenses honest, completing 21-of-39 passes for 425 yards with 10 TDs and one interception. Defensive lineman/linebacker Logan O’Dea has recorded 64 tackles and four sacks. Wellsville made it to the quarterfinals last year before falling to the eventual state champion Silver Lake Eagles.
· Uniontown (3-3) – The Eagles will try to make the playoffs in what could be their last run as an 11-man football team. The recently announced football classifications have Uniontown dropping to 8-Man Division I for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The school’s decision to move to 8-Man rather than 2-1A is curious as the Eagles have had good teams in recent history.
· Central Heights (2-4) – The Vikings will likely be battling with Uniontown for the runner-up spot out of this district. That game should be winnable for Central Heights, but what is troubling for the Vikings is that they lost 36-6 to Christ Prep Academy in Week 3. Uniontown beat Christ Prep 21-20 this past Friday.
· West Franklin (1-5) – The Falcons have explosive ability as senior running back Briar Shaffer ran for 197 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-6 win against Northern Heights this past Friday. West Franklin will need to rely on its running game to have a chance of making the playoffs.
Key Games: All the games between Uniontown, Central Heights and West Franklin will be important as those three teams will likely be vying for the runner-up spot out of the district.
· Burlington (4-2) – The Wildcats have only two losses, but they have been unable to beat the only two high-quality teams they have faced this season in Neodesha and Caney Valley. In their other four games, the Wildcats have scored at least 38 points and played staunch defense. There’s no doubt that senior running back Britton Curtis is Burlington’s go-to guy. He has rushed for 1,045 yards and 13 TDs on only 97 carries.
· Osage City (3-3) – The Indians are kind of difficult to figure out. They lost 52-0 to an undefeated Rossville team in Week 3 but gave the undefeated Lyndon Tigers everything they wanted in a 26-24 loss a week later. Regardless, the Indians are much improved after finishing 2-7 in 2010.
· Council Grove (1-5) – The Brave’s playoffs hopes don’t look promising when you look at scores of like opponents with Osage City. The Indians beat Chase County 22-0, but Council Grove fell 26-19 to Chase County. Council Grove also was shut out 38-0 by Lyndon.
· Northern Heights (0-6) – The Wildcats have struggled after finishing 7-3 and making the playoffs just a year ago. Northern Heights hasn’t played within three touchdowns of an opponent this year. The Wildcats have had a difficult time finding their identity after the graduation of record-setting quarterback DJ Bronson and All-State receiver Nick Mendez.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Council Grove at Osage City; (Wk 8) Osage City at Burlington
Runner-up: Osage City
· McLouth (6-0) – The Bulldogs are playing their best football in recent history as they have already matched their wins total from the previous two seasons combined. The Bulldogs have scored at least 41 points in every game this season and haven’t allowed more than 13. However, McLouth has the unfortunate task of trying to make the playoffs out of a district that includes undefeated Rossville and the defending state champion Silver Lake Eagles.
· Rossville (6-0) – The Bulldogs have been dominant at times but also have had some struggles. When they’ve been at their best, they’ve beaten Osage City 52-0. But Rossville also escaped with a 7-0 win against a one-win Wabaunsee team in Week 2. Senior fullback Gage Steckel leads the Bulldogs offense as he has rushed for 536 yards and five TDs on 84 carries. Rossville advanced to the semifinals last year.
· Pleasant Ridge (5-1) – The Rams came across their first strong opponent this past week in Effingham-Atchison Co. and were pummeled 30-7. Before that, Pleasant Ridge dominated five teams by an average score of 34.6 to 9.6. But to keep it in perspective, those five teams have a combined 6-24 record.
· Silver Lake (5-1) – The defending champion Eagles lost a lot of talent to graduation, but Silver Lake is a legitimate 3A contender each and every season. Sophomore quarterback Dailin Kruger is improving after taking over for the injured Evan Burdiek in Week 4. Junior running back Peter Pfannenstiel has rushed for 435 yards and six TDs on only 67 carries. Senior Justin Malloy has been the top receiver with 14 catches for 341 yards and two TDs. Defensive end Kyle Smith has been a nuisance for opposing quarterbacks with six sacks.
Key Games: With the four teams combining for two losses, all the games will be important. However, this week’s War on 24 of Silver Lake at Rossville could be another preview of the 3A semifinals.
Winner: Silver Lake
· Effingham-Atchison Co. (5-1) – The Tigers play a relatively weak schedule, but they have made the most of it. Atchison County’s only loss was to a 5-1 Doniphan West team in Week 3. Other than that, the Tigers have mostly cruised through their other five opponents. Atchison County advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2010.
· Maur Hill (3-3) – The JR Ravens’ three wins come against teams with a combined 1-17 record. They haven’t scored more than 13 points in any of their three losses.
· Sabetha (3-3) – The Blue Jays will try to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season under coach Garrett Michael. Sabetha finished last season with a 3-7 record after falling 28-6 to Riley County in the first round of the playoffs.
· Horton (2-4) – The Chargers’ two victories come against two winless teams in Leavenworth-Immaculata and Oskaloosa. Horton lost by more than three touchdowns each to Riverside, Wichita Sunrise Academy and McLouth.
· Key games: (Wk 7) Sabetha at Maur Hill
Key Games: (Wk 9) Atchison County at Sabetha
Winner: Effingham-Atchison Co.
· Riley County (4-2) – The Falcons have lost their past two games as injuries to quarterback Bryce Chavis and running back Ty Wendland have hurt. Those losses, however, were both to two of the better 3A teams in Rossville (18-6) and Silver Lake (24-14). Riley County is not only vying for the playoffs, but the Falcons also are trying to give longtime coach Steve Wagner his 200th career win. Wagner, in his 27th season at Riley County, boasts 197 victories.
· Rock Creek (4-2) – Like Riley County, the Mustangs’ only two losses are to Rossville and Silver Lake. Before that, Rock Creek dominated its four opponents by an average score of 43.7 to 12.5. Senior Logan Miner has been Rock Creek’s leading rusher with 468 yards and five touchdowns.
· Seneca-Nemaha Valley (4-2) – Both of the Raiders’ losses has come to 4A teams with winning records in Royals Valley and Perry-Lecompton. Other than that, Nemaha Valley has scored at least 26 points, while not allowing more than eight.
· Marysville (3-3) – The Bulldogs lost this past Friday, but it is what you call an encouraging loss. Marysville fell 21-14 to 4A’s undefeated Abilene Cowboys. Even more encouraging is the fact the Bulldogs know they could have played better. Marysville threw five interceptions in the game. The Bulldogs advanced to the first round of the playoffs last year.
Key Games: All of the games will be crucial in a district with four similar caliber teams.
Winner: Rock Creek
· Southeast of Saline (5-1) – The Trojans are coming off of the first loss of the season last week; 22-12 to state-ranked Beloit. Nathan Peterson leads a Trojan offense that averages 44 points per game. Peterson has thrown for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns, and added 710 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
· Marion (4-2) – The Warriors have lost two straight after beginning season 4-0. Colten Johnson has the ability to rush for big games for Marion, and will have to stay consistent if the Warriors are going to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
· Whitewater Remington (3-3) – The Remington offense has been shutout in their previous two games entering district play. The Broncos must find some consistency on that side of the ball as they’ve averaged just 14 points per game thus far this season.
· Hillsboro (3-3) – The Trojans are 3-3, but have a quality win over a good Hesston team. Luke Moore has been solid at quarterback again this season, and tight end Aaron Klassen (6-2, 180) provides a good target in the passing game.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Remington at Marion; (Wk 8) Hillsboro at Remington; (Wk 9) Hillsboro at Marion
Winner: Southeast of Saline
· Hutchinson Trinity (6-0) – The Celtics took a heavy hit to graduation and are once again unbeaten entering district play. Austin Rea leads a much more run-oriented offensive attack for Sean Racette this season with 753 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ivan Guerrero has added more than 450 yards on the ground for Trinity.
· Garden Plain (6-0) – Garden Plain won the game of the year thus far in Class 3A with a 19-13 overtime victory over rival Conway Springs. Joey Capul has been the Owls’ workhorse out of the backfield this season, but was reportedly banged up in a Week 6 win over Belle Plaine. Lucas Jennings and a host of other solid players make Garden Plain a legitimate contender in 3A.
· Sedgwick (6-0) – Sedgwick is unbeaten thanks to a steady offense and an improved defense that has already logged three shutouts. Quarterback Trent Stucky is a special player who has already thrown for 960 yards and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for an additional 686 yards and six scores. The Cardinals only test came Week 1 as they beat Hoisington in overtime 22-21.
· Halstead (5-1) – The Dragons lone loss came in Week 2, 38-23 to Hesston. Halstead feels the Central Kansas League schedule has prepared them for this tough district. The Dragons have outscored opponents by an average of 33-14 this season.
Key Games: All games are key in a district with a combined 23-1 record.
Winner: Garden Plain
· Wichita Collegiate (4-2) – After season opening losses to Clearwater and Rose Hill, the Spartans have strung together four straight wins by an average score of 40-7. Quarterback Markus Phox leads the Collegiate offense with 778 yards passing and six touchdowns, while rushing for 636 yards and eight scores. Back Isaiah Franklin has also rushed for 471 yards and four scores.
· Belle Plaine (4-2) – The Dragons have been one of the better stories of the 2011 season, having already notched their most wins since a 5-4 finish in 2007. The next step for Brian Seba’s team is to make the playoffs – something Belle Plaine hasn’t done in the last eight seasons. The Dragons’ two losses have come in blowouts to Garden Plain and Conway Springs, but the rushing attack of Dakota Richardson and Jeremiah Brent will give Belle Plaine a legitimate shot at extending their season this year.
· Douglass (3-3) – The Bulldogs are entering district play on the right foot having won three straight after season opening losses to Wichita Trinity, Conway Springs, and Garden Plain. During their current three-game win streak, Douglass has given up just 11 points per game.
· Wichita Independent (0-6) – The Panthers are really struggling having surrendered nearly 50 points per game, while only scoring 21 total points. Their 29-0 shutout loss to Leon-Bluestem last week ended the Lions 29-game losing streak.
Key Games: (Wk 8) Belle Plain at Douglass to decide the runner-up spot
Winner: Wichita Collegiate
Runner-up: Belle Plaine
· Conway Springs (5-1) – The second-ranked Cardinals are averaging 53 points per game behind a rushing attack that features Cory Misak (582 yards; 15TDs), Brian Doffing (511 yards; 5 TD), and Jordan Ast (478 yards; 10 TDs). Ast and Misak are averaging 17 and 11.5 yards per carry, respectively. Doffing left the loss to Garden Plain with an injury, but may return as early as Week 7.
· Medicine Lodge (2-4) – The Indians are just 2-4 in what will be their last season in Class 3A before moving down to 2-1A next cycle. Fiver different backs have at least 20 carries for Faron Kraft’s offense; including Jake Beecher who has rushed for 435 yards as the Indians try and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
· Chaparral (1-5) – After posting their best season in a number of years last fall, Chaparral has fallen back to 1-5 thus far this season. The Roadrunners finished 7-3 and qualified for the playoffs in 2010, but to reach the second season again this year Justin Burke’s team will need to improve on the defensive side of the ball where they’ve given up an average of 31 points per game.
· Kingman (1-5) – The Eagles’ lone win came in Week 1 against winless Haven. Since that win, Kingman has scored just 40 points over the next five games and have been shutout twice. Not a good sign for a school trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Chaparral at Medicine Lodge to decide the district runner-up
Winner: Conway Springs
Runner-up: Medicine Lodge
· Hoisington (4-2) – In 2010, Hoisington missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years and finished 6-3. This year, the Cardinals, behind six returning starters on both sides of the ball, have already won the MCAA title for the second straight year with wins against Ellinwood, Larned and Thomas More Prep-Marian. Hunter Hanzlick paces Hoisington with 143 carries for 907 yards and seven scores.
· Sterling (4-2) – Chad Bennett leads the Black Bears with 93 carries for 823 yards and 11 scores, including a 312-yard, 6-TD performance against Haven in Week 5. Sterling is 1-7 in the playoffs in the last eight years, but has not won a playoff game since an 8-6 victory over Inman in 2003.
· Ellsworth (4-2) – Last year, Ellsworth lost its first three games before they reeled off six straight and made the playoffs before losing to Beloit in the first round. The Bearcats have lost only to Sedgwick and Beloit, a Class 3A power. Ellsworth has won its other three games by at least 13 points, including a victory over Class 4A Clay Center. Jacob Froese has rushed for 1,064 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ellsworth is 0-2 in the playoffs in the last eight seasons.
· Lyons (1-5) – The Lions have again struggled this year after they finished 1-8 last year. Under first-year coach Clancy Moses, Lyons has been outscored 179-24.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Ellsworth at Sterling; (Wk 8) Hoisington at Sterling; (Wk 9) Ellsworth at Hoisington
· Beloit (5-1) – From 2007-10, Beloit ranked no worse than seventh in Class 3A in scoring offense, including a second place finish last year. This fall, the Trojans have scored 268 points, fifth-best in the classification behind Garden Plain, Conway Springs, Wellsville and McLouth. The team’s leading rusher, sophomore Jadon Adams, remains in critical condition after collapsing during the Trojan’s Week 6 game at Southeast of Saline. Adams had rushed for 872 yards and 12 scores on the season.
· Smith Center (4-1) – The Redmen finished 8-3 and won the district last season. This year, Smith Center lost to Class 2A Plainville, one of the state's biggest surprises. Senior Truitt Kuhlmann does virtually everything for Smith Center. The halfback/defensive back/returner has rushed for 1,082 of Smith Center's 1,782 yards and has scored 18 of the team's 27 rushing touchdowns as the Redmen have averaged 47 points a game. He also has four interceptions for 147 yards and a score, and nine special teams returns for 134 yards and another touchdown.
· Minneapolis (2-4) – Minneapolis has played in two close games, a 24-22 home win against Valley Heights and a 38-36 loss to Russell. The Lions also own a Week 2 victory at Washington County. Matt Comfort paces Minneapolis with 663 yards and eight scores and has thrown for 593 yards and three more touchdowns.
· Belleville-Republic Co. (0-6) - Republic County is 2-40 in its last 42 contests. This year, the Buffs have been competitive in just one game, a 22-18 loss at Valley Heights.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Beloit at Smith Center
Runner-up: Smith Center
· Thomas More Prep (4-2) – The Monarchs have experienced a turnaround under second-year coach Jon Borer. TMP has already doubled its win total from last year and has won the most games in the program since 2003. The Monarchs have not made the playoffs since 2002. Senior quarterback Nick Hammeke is the school's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns and has thrown for 1,558 yards in the Monarchs' pass-heavy spread offense. Run defense is a big question mark for TMP; they've allowed 264 rushing yards per contest.
· Phillipsburg (3-2) – The Panthers started out 0-2, but then regrouped with three straight quality wins, including a 49-28 victory against Class 2A power Oakley. Phillipsburg missed the playoffs last year when Goodland upset them in district play. Junior quarterback Sean Newlan, one of Northwest Kansas' top all-around athletes, leads the Panthers. This is the last season Phillipsburg will play in Panther Stadium, a field located in the center of town that Phillipsburg has played at for more than 65 years.
· Norton (3-3) -- The Bluejays, one of Class 3A's most tradition-laden programs, have struggled some this fall after losing all but one starter off each side of the ball. The Bluejays have lost to Plainville, Smith Center and Perryton, Tex. Quarterback Jordan Wahlmeier has thrown for 444 yards and rushed for 153 yards. Norton has had a winning season every year since 1994 and made the postseason each fall since 1999.
· Goodland (3-3) – The Cowboys have dropped three games, but two of the losses are to powerhouses in Ulysses and Scott City. The other defeat was a 34-19 defeat to Holcomb. Goodland runs the spread offense behind Reed Bellamy, who has thrown for 692 yards with five scores against seven interceptions.
Key Games: Every game in this district is key — and could produce an upset. Last year, Goodland's win against then-undefeated Phillipsburg was one of the biggest surprises in district play across the state. All four teams could make the postseason this year.
· Scott City (6-0) – The Beavers, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, are the class of this district. Scott City has always ranked among the top-five in scoring defense in Glenn O'Neil's five years as head coach. This year is no exception. Scott City has permitted 39 points in six contests, fourth-best in the classification. Dalton Buehler has rushed for 385 yards, while Colborn Couchman has rushed for 335 yards and has a team-high five sacks.
· Cimarron (2-4) – Cimarron is 0-3 on the road this season, but does get Lakin at home in Week 7. The Bluejays reached the playoffs last year for the first time in more than a decade last year. Tyler Siek has passed for 583 yards, while Alex Neuschafer has rushed for 695 yards and seven scores.
· Lakin (2-4) – Lakin has already matched last season's win total after victories against Elkhart and Sublette. Quarterback Bryant Miller has thrown for 469 yards with eight touchdowns against four interceptions.
· Southwestern Heights (1-5) – Matt Scripsick, the former Ashland coach, paced the Mustangs to a 1-8 record last year. Southwestern Heights is 1-5 this season and has been outscored 237-77.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Lakin at Cimarron should determine the runner-up spot
Winner: Scott City