By Mark Schremmer, Matt Gilmore, Conor Nicholl, for Kpreps.com
Posted: October 14, 2012 - 9:59 PM
As district play opens Friday, there doesn’t appear to be a runaway favorite in Class 6A.
Top-ranked Hutchinson has been dominant at times, but the Salthawks also have two losses. Still, Hutchinson boasts one of the best rushing attacks in the state and beat Derby, 6A’s second-ranked team, 31-28 last week. Before the loss to Hutchinson, the Panthers had cruised through their first five games.
Lawrence Free State, Lawrence, Shawnee Mission West, Shawnee Mission East and Olathe South – last year’s 6A state champions – lead a group of Sunflower League teams that all look to make playoff runs.
Topeka High, from the Centennial League, is the only undefeated left in 6A.
Wichita Heights, which has advanced to the 6A state championship in each of the past three years, is 5-1 and will compete with Derby in District 6.
The most competitive district from top to bottom may be District 5, which includes Topeka High and three 4-2 teams with Junction City, Manhattan and Washburn Rural.
• KC Wyandotte (5-1) – Wyandotte has won five games in a season for the first time since 2006, which is also the last year the Bulldogs made the playoffs. Quarterback Dimonic McKinzy is a talented athlete who already holds offers from Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Sophomores Xavier McKinzy and Antonio Moore have a chance to be really special players in the backfield.
• Lawrence (5-1) – Lawrence has won five straight since a season-opening six-point loss to Shawnee Mission West. Quarterback Brad Strauss is simply one of the state’s best players. Strauss has been hot of late, completing 34 of 43 passes for 448 yards and five touchdowns in the Lions last two games.
• Lawrence Free State (5-1) – Free State has shown the ability to win games with a dynamic offense led by quarterback Kyle McFarland. But perhaps more impressive was their defensive effort in a 28-0 shutout of Shawnee Mission East in Week 6. The Firebirds intercepted East quarterback Jordan Darling three times in the first half and sacked him seven times in the game.
• Leavenworth (3-3) – Leavenworth continues to improve under former St. Thomas Aquinas coach Kevin Kopecky. The Pioneers finished with just two wins last season, but broke a long playoff drought. This season, the Pioneers have already won three games – their most since 2004.
Key Game: All games are intriguing, but (Wk 9) Free State at Lawrence should decide both playoff spots.
Winner: Free State
• Shawnee Mission East (5-1) – The Lancers started 5-0 and were flying up the 6A rankings until being dismantled last week at Lawrence Free State. Highly touted quarterback Jordan Darling has been solid in throwing for 1,075 yards and six touchdowns, but he threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times last week. Wide receiver Connor Rellihan leads the Sunflower League with 573 receiving yards.
• Shawnee Mission West (5-1) – The Vikings are perhaps flying a bit under the radar with just a Week 2 loss to Lawrence Free State on their record. Running back Brett Sterbach needs just five more yards to top the 1,000-yard mark, and he already has rushed for 12 scores. West is trying to extend a four-year playoff streak.
• Shawnee Mission Northwest (1-5) – The Cougars have just win in Linn Hibbs first year as head coach. The former Wellington coach got Northwest off to a good start with a Week 1 victory over Olathe North, but since then the Cougars have lost five straight while giving up 33 points per game.
• Shawnee Mission North (0-6) – SM North is the only Sunflower League school without a playoff appearance in the last eight seasons. To end that drought, the Indians will have to improve on a defense that is surrendering 48 points per game.
Key Game: (Wk 8) SM East at SM West
Winner: SM East
Runner-up: SM West
• Blue Valley Northwest (3-3) – Mike Zegunis’ team will have close game experience as they head into district play. Each of the Huskies’ three wins has been by seven points. Two of Northwest’s losses have also been by a touchdown or less. Alec Windsor has had a solid year at quarterback, and Reed Coda has been Northwest’s main threat out of the backfield.
• Shawnee Mission South (3-3) – South features one of the state’s best players in running back Gabe Guild. After leading the Sunflower League in rushing a year ago with 1,641 yards, Guild has already rushed for 1,199 and ten touchdowns this season. He’ll need three solid performance is the Raiders are to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
• Olathe East (2-4) – Four losses in a season is something unfamiliar for Jeff Meyers’ group. The Hawks have only lost four games in a season one other time in the past eight years. But bear in mind that Olathe East’s four losses are to teams that are a combined 19-5. Hayden Frazier leads the Hawks with 727 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
• Blue Valley North (1-5) – The Mustangs lone win came in Week 4 as they edged Blue Valley Southwest 31-28. North has struggled offensively at times; scoring in single digits in three games thus far. In the win over Southwest, quarterback Cory Taubin threw for 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Key Game: (Wk 7) SM South at BV Northwest; (Wk 8) Olathe East at BV Northwest; (Wk 9) SM South at Olathe East
Winner: Blue Valley Northwest
Runner-up: Olathe East
• Olathe South (4-2) – The defending champion Falcons rebounded from a two-game losing streak to shutout Shawnee Mission Northwest in Week 6. Olathe South’s losses have come 3-0 to SM East, and 34-27 to Lawrence. Russell White leads South in rushing with 722 yards and nine touchdowns. Frankie Seurer has thrown five touchdown pass and has nearly 400 yards passing.
• Gardner-Edgerton (3-3) – Gardner-Edgerton has one of the state’s most exciting players in running back Traevohn Wrench. The junior has rushed for 960 yards and eight touchdowns behind a new offensive line. Last season, Wrench rushed for more than 2,400 yards and 34 touchdowns. Quarterback Jared Hobby has thrown for 852 yards and eight scores this season. Two of the Trailblazers three losses have come by seven points.
• Olathe Northwest (2-4) – The Ravens enter district play with some momentum after winning two straight games. Olathe Northwest quarterback Holdyn Halperin has passed for 1,300 yards and six touchdowns this season. His primary receiving targets have been Nathan Power (395 yards) and Chase Gitlin (386 yards).
• Olathe North (1-5) – Coach Gene Weir’s return to Olathe North hasn’t gone entirely as planned. The Eagles have just one win, a 33-6 decision over Leavenworth in Week 5. Olathe North is struggling to score points. The Eagles are averaging just 15 points per game. Venus Triplett has been a bright spot for North having rushed for 550 yards and six touchdowns.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Olathe South at Gardner-Edgerton
Winner: Olathe South
• Topeka High (6-0) – The Trojans are experiencing one of their best seasons in recent history. Quarterback Raymond Solis leads the way with more than 1,200 yards of offense, passing for 694 and rushing for 597 yards.
• Junction City (4-2) – The Blue Jays opened the season 1-2, but have won their past three games. Farres James gave a boost to the Junction City attack, rushing for more than 100 yards against Highland Park.
• Manhattan (4-2) – Indians also started the season 1-2, but have won three straight against Centennial League opponents. Manhattan quarterback Jacob Holloway passed for nearly 300 yards in last week’s 45-35 win against Shawnee Heights.
• Washburn Rural (4-2) – After a poor start, the Junior Blues have posted solid wins against Shawnee Heights and Topeka Seaman. Rural quarterback Michael Singer has totaled 570 yards of offense for the Junior Blues.
Key games: Every game is important in what has traditionally become one of the state’s most competitive districts.
Winner: Topeka High
• Derby (6-1; 1-0) – The Panthers are No. 2 in Class 6A in 240-58, but took its first loss with a 31-28 defeat to Hutchinson last Friday. Hutchinson took the final lead with just over a minute left. Derby is still ranked No. 1 in Class 6A in scoring defense, allowing just 9.7 points a contest, according to preppowerindex.com. Buhler transfer Chandler Schantz has passed for 205 yards and four TDs against one interception in the loss. Since 2008, Derby has lost six in a row to Wichita Heights, including two meetings last year (49-35 and 34-14).
• Wichita Heights (5-1) – Heights lost its season opener 47-16 to Carroll before it reeled off five straight victories. The Falcons, who have made the last state championship game in the last three seasons, still rank among Class 6A's top squads. Heights has outscored opponents 182-104 and rank ninth in the classification in scoring
• Wichita East (4-2) – East started the season with two victories, then lost 44-13 to Wichita Northwest. After two more wins, East dropped back with a 34-13 loss to Garden City last week. The Aces have outscored opponents 140-126, but have played the second-easiest schedule in Class 6A.
• Wichita Southeast (3-4; 0-1) – Southeast has played 6A's third-easiest schedule and have outscored opponents 133-126. The program is 0-2 at home, but 3-1 on the road. None of Southeast's contests are within 18 points. Senior William Young leads the team with 94 carries for 564 yards and 10 scores.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Derby at Wichita Heights
Runner-up: Wichita Heights
• Wichita Northwest (3-3) – Northwest started off the season 3-1, but has suffered two big losses to Carroll (61-14) and Heights (28-7) in the last two weeks. Northwest has played the No. 5-hardest schedule in the classification. Deron Thompson is one of the state’s top running backs and should lead the Grizzlies back to the playoffs.
• Haysville Campus (0-6) – Campus has struggled immensely this season, being outscored 252-20. The Colts have scored the fewest points in Class 6A. Campus is 5-26 under coach Mike Schartz and have lost 13 straight contests. The Colts haven’t posted a winning record during the regular season in six years.
• Wichita North (0-6) – North has also struggled, being outscored 243-26. North is 1-23 in its last 24 games. North has played the No. 8-hardest schedule in Class 6A. The Redskins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, and haven’t posted at least three wins in a season since 2004.
• Wichita South (0-6) – South has played the hardest schedule in Class 6A and has lost games by a combined score of 266-58. The Titans were most competitive in a 32-26 double-overtime loss to Wichita West in Week 1. Last year, South made the playoffs with a 4-6 record.
Key Games: (Wk 7) Wichita South at Wichita North; (Wk 8) Campus at Wichita South; (Wk 9) Wichita North at Campus
Winner: Wichita Northwest
Runner-up: Wichita South
• Garden City (4-2) – The Buffs can still claim a share of the Western Athletic Conference title for the second straight season if it beats Dodge City in Week 9 and Great Bend defeats Hays High on Friday. Garden City quarterback Greyson Temple has passed for 1,024 yards and nine TDs and leads the WAC with 793 rushing yards and ranks second with 10 rushing TDs. Dustin Tempel paces the Buffs with 29 catches for 370 yards and four scores.
• Hutchinson (4-2) – After a big Week 5 loss to Salina South in Week 5, Hutchinson reasserted itself as the team to beat in Class 6A with a 31-28 victory against Derby last week. The win moved the Salthawks to No. 1 in Class 6A. Trevor Turner had 14 carries for 124 yards and a score, and completed 5-of-12 passes for 65 yards and a TD.
• Maize (4-2) – The Eagles have won their last three contests against Goddard (62-19), Salina Central (28-21) and Haysville Campus (34-0). Maize has already won more games than it did last year in a 3-6 season, and is seeking a playoff appearance for the first time since 2009.
• Dodge City (3-3) – The Red Demons have made the playoffs in each of coach Dave Foster's first two years with the program. However, Dodge City is 8-9 in its last 17 games after an 11-0 start. Kelan Newton has completed 115 of 197 passes for 1,493 yards and 14 TDs against four interceptions. Dakota Duckett paces the Red Demon
wideouts with 37 catches for 554 yards.
Key Games: (Wk 9) Garden City at Dodge City
Runner-up: Garden City