By Matt Gilmore, Conor Nicholl, Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Posted: November 2, 2012 - 1:28 AM
6A East: Lawrence (7-2) at Gardner-Edgerton (6-3)
The Lawrence Lions are coming off a 28-14 loss to rival Lawrence Free State, while the Gardner-Edgerton is on a five-game winning streak after starting the season with a 1-3 record.
Lawrence is led by senior quarterback Brad Strauss, who has thrown for 1,790 yards and 20 touchdowns and has rushed for 679 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Strauss’ top targets in the passing game are Will Thompson (641 yards, 4 TDs) and Erick Mayo (475 yards, 9 TDs). Mayo also has been big on defense with four interceptions. Kieren Severa, Kharon Brown and Josh Seybert have combined for 12.5 sacks.
Gardner-Edgerton junior running back Traevohn Wrench has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. After a slow start to the season, Wrench has really hit his stride in recent weeks.
Trailblazers quarterback Jared Hobby has passed for about 1,100 yards.
The key to the game will be if Lawrence’s defense can slow Wrench down. If the Lions can, they have a good enough pass rush to pressure Hobby and possibly force some turnovers.
The game will match up two of the best individual players in the state with Strauss and Wrench.
Gardner-Edgerton 28, Lawrence 21 (Schremmer)
6A East: Blue Valley Northwest (5-4) at No. 4 Shawnee Mission West (8-1)
The fourth-ranked Shawnee Mission West Vikings begin their charge towards a 6A title by hosting Blue Valley Northwest.
The Vikings are in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, and are trying to advance past the first round for the second straight season. Prior to last season’s 52-7 win over Leavenworth to open the playoffs, the Vikings had lost three consecutive first round games, including a 27-14 upset by Blue Valley Northwest back in 2008. That marked SM West’s only loss of the 2008 season.
If SM West is to make a deeper playoff run this season, running back Bret Sterbach will likely have to play a large part. Sterbach led the Sunflower League during the regular season with 1,485 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
Quarterback A.J. Verdini has shown the ability to stretch defenses that attempt to stack the box and slow Sterbach. The 6-foot-4 junior has thrown for 848 yards and eight touchdowns.
On the other sideline, Alec Winsor leads the Mike Zegunis spread having thrown for 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Huskies primary rushing threat is Reed Cody, who has produced 1,200 yards and 14 scores on the ground.
Four of Blue Valley Northwest’s five wins have been by exactly seven points, but the Huskies defense will have to tighten against the run.
SM West 28, Blue Valley Northwest 17 (Gilmore)
6A West: No. 5 Topeka High (8-1) at Wichita Northwest (6-3)
The Topeka High Trojans have made huge strides from last season when they finished 4-5 and failed to make the playoffs.
Topeka’s Raymond Solis has been one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the state, compiling 2,140 yards of total offense. Solis has passed for 1,170 and has rushed for 970.
However, Solis is not the Trojans’ only offensive weapon. Senior running back Eli Weinbrecht has rushed for 1,058 yards and 15 touchdowns. Trojans’ receiver Alec Beatty has 28 receptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns.
As a team, Topeka is rushing for 302.8 yards per game and is passing for 124.4.
The Wichita Northwest Grizzlies do have three losses, but to their credit all three were to playoff teams in Dodge City, Wichita Heights and Bishop Carroll.
Northwest rolled through a relatively easy district, beating Haysville Campus, Wichita North and Wichita South.
Deron Thompson and Brendan Johnson are both capable ball carriers as both rushed for more than 100 yards in last week’s 38-22 win against Wichita South.
The Grizzlies are back in the playoffs under the direction of first-year head coach Steve Martin.
Topeka High 35, Wichita Northwest 14 (Schremmer)
6A West: Wichita Heights (7-2) at No. 1 Hutchinson (7-2)
Hutchinson is the defending Class 5A state champion, while Heights won the Class 6A crown two years ago and was runner-up last year. These squads have not matched up since the 2006 playoffs when Hutchinson won 52-31 en route to another state title. Before then, Hutchinson won 28-21 in the 2004 playoffs – and also won the state title that year.
Heights’ season is bookended by a 47-16 loss to Carroll in Week 1 and a 21-15 overtime defeat to Derby last week. Hutchinson defeated Derby 31-28 on Oct. 5.
Hutchinson’s only losses came against Rockhurst (Mo.) in Week 1 and Salina South, currently ranked No. 2 in Class 5A.
Will Smith leads the Salthawks with 905 rushing yards and eight scores, while Trevor Turner has accounted for more than 1,000 yards of total offense this year.
Heights has beaten teams by a collective margin of 281-170 against the No. 22-hardest schedule out of 32 Class 6A teams. Hutchinson has beaten teams by a total score of 371-186 against the No. 9 SOS.
Hutchinson 31, Wichita Heights 28 (Nicholl)
The rest of our 6A first-round picks:
Olathe North (3-6) at No. 3 Lawrence Free State (8-1)
Shawnee Mission East (7-2) at Olathe East (5-4)
Wichita North (1-8) at No. 2 Derby (8-1)
Dodge City (4-5) at Manhattan (6-3)
5A East: Topeka Seaman (5-4) at No. 5 Blue Valley West (7-2)
It has been an up and down season for the Topeka Seaman Vikings. After finishing 2-7 a year ago, the Vikings were one of the state’s early-season success stories as they opened the season 3-0. However, Seaman followed that with three consecutive losses and will open the playoffs as the runner-up after a 23-16 loss to Shawnee Heights in Week 9.
When things are clicking for the Vikings, they are capable of beating almost any team. Seaman quarterback Butch Rea has compiled 1,763 yards of offense with 864 on the ground and 899 through the air.
A key for the Vikings is to get the ball in the hands of sophomore Joe Reagan more often. The state champion sprinter is a threat to break loose on any play as a runner, receiver or return man.
The Blue Valley West Jaguars have won four games in a row since falling 27-20 to Gardner-Edgerton, a Class 6A playoff qualifier.
Conley Wilkins rushed for 281 yards and four touchdowns in Blue Valley West’s 45-21 win against Blue Valley last week. The senior running back has rushed for 1,466 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Jaguar junior quarterback Ryan Ralston has added 846 yards on the ground and 19 rushing touchdowns. He has also passed for 1,205 yards and eight scores.
Blue Valley West 42, Topeka Seaman 24 (Schremmer)
5A East: Bishop Miege (4-5) at Mill Valley (8-1)
This is a game where the records may be deceiving. The Stags compete in a difficult Eastern Kansas League, while the Jaguars compete in a Kaw Valley League that includes several 4A schools. Bishop Miege enters this game with just a 4-5 record, but all five losses have come to playoff teams and four of those by less than a touchdown.
Bishop Miege senior quarterback Montell Cozart, who has verbally committed to play for the Kansas Jayhawks, has completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,950 yars and 18 touchdowns. McKinley Johnson is the Stags’ primary receiver having hauled in more than 700 receiving yards this season.
The Stags are coming off a close 27-24 loss to a ranked St. Thomas Aquinas squad in which they were tackled on the 1-yard line on the game’s final play.
Skyler Windmiller has shined in Mill Valley coach Joel Applebee’s multiple set offense over recent years. The senior quarterback has completed 108 of 179 passes for 1,955 yards with 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Windmiller also has rushed for 511 yards and seven touchdowns.
Seniors L.J. Hatch (37 rec., 813 yds, 12 TDs) and Staton Rebeck (34 rec., 454 yds, 8 TDs) have been Windmiller’s top receiving options.
Bishop Miege 35, Mill Valley 28 (Schremmer)
5A West: Hays (7-2) at No. 1 Bishop Carroll (9-0)
Bishop Carroll, the top-ranked team in Class 5A all season, collected a big win against Wichita Heights in Week 1 and then rolled through the City League schedule. The Eagles are the only unbeaten team in Class 5A or 6A.
Carroll leads Class 5A in scoring offense and defense, outscoring teams by a collective 476-74 margin. Carroll has played the No. 29-hardest schedule out of 32 squads. Quarterback Zeke Palmer has completed 68.9 percent of his passes, thrown for 1,524 yards and compiled a 13-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio. He's also rushed 45 times for 245 yards and eight touchdowns.
Hays High has reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
Coach Ryan Cornelsen has now won at least seven games in the first four years of his Indian tenure. Before Cornelsen came, Hays High hadn’t won at least seven games in a year in more than a decade. Last year, the Indians lost 27-21 to eventual state champion Hutchinson – HHS’ first playoff appearance since 1995.
Salina South and Salina Central have controlled the Indians’ explosive offense in the last two weeks. Hays High has now outscored opponents 340-227, but has just 21 points in the last two weeks.
Hays High has a potent offense, but Carroll has the championship pedigree and is the big favorite to win the 5A state crown.
Bishop Carroll 33, Hays 20 (Nicholl)
5A West: Andover (7-2) at Arkansas City (6-3)
The Ark City Bulldogs will make their first playoff appearance since 2003 when they take on Andover on Friday night. It has been quite the turnaround for a Bulldog program that has posted a record of just 26-55 since that last playoff appearance.
For the Andover Trojans, this season marks a return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. Mike Lee’s Trojans finished 9-2 in both 2008 and 2009 and advanced to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs each of those seasons. The step up to 5A met more difficulty, however, as Andover managed a combined record of only 3-15 the past two seasons.
This season, however, Andover has won seven games built on a defense that has surrendered just 13.6 points per game. Still, the Trojans needed a 25-yard field goal from Toshi Hayashi to edge Newton 30-27 and qualify for the playoffs.
On offense the Trojans are led by quarterback Cole Gumeringer who has thrown for 565 yards and three touchdowns, while adding more than 460 yards rushing. Hayashi is also an offensive weapon having connected on seven field goals this season – three in last week’s win over Newton.
For Ark City, the offense revolves around senior quarterback Riley Dowler. Dowler (5-11, 185) has put up big number both through the air and on the ground at various times this season. He rushed for 127 yards when these two teams met earlier this season in Week 2. Ark City won that game 16-0 after leading just 2-0 at halftime thanks to a blocked punt through the end zone. Dowler scored both Bulldog touchdowns in the second half.
The Ark City defense has also been stout, pitching four shutouts and giving up less than 12 points per game.
Ark City 20, Andover 17 (Gilmore)
The rest of our 5A first-round picks:
Lansing (3-6) at No. 4 St. Thomas Aquinas (8-1)
Blue Valley (5-4) at Shawnee Heights (5-4)
Andover Central (4-5) at No. 3 Emporia (8-1)
Goddard (4-5) at No. 2 Salina South (8-1)
2-1A East: Olpe (7-2) at Onaga (6-3)
The Olpe Eagles and Onaga Buffaloes are both in the playoffs after failing to get there a year ago.
Olpe’s only losses this year have come to Sedgwick, a 3A playoff team, and 2A powerhouse Lyndon.
Coached by Chris Schmidt, the Eagles are a consistent contender in Class 2-1A and enter Friday night on a four-game winning streak.
Senior running back Mitchell Argabright leads the Eagle offense, rushing for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns in a recent 53-7 district win against Chase County.
Onaga not only is in the playoffs as the district winner, but the Buffaloes also achieved the goal of winning a Twin Valley League game. Onaga hadn’t won a league contest in six years before beating Valley Heights 28-6 in Week 3.
Fourth-year coach Jerry Bainum appears to have the Buffaloes headed in the correct path, directing them to a winning record and at least four wins each season. Onaga won only three games in 2008, the year before Bainum, the former head coach at Centralia, arrived.
Olpe 21, Onaga 14 (Schremmer)
2-1A East: Jackson Heights (6-3) at McLouth (8-1)
After some really strong season in the early 2000s, the Jackson Heights Cobras virtually disappeared from the Class 2-1A playoff landscape the past eight seasons. During that span, the Cobras made the playoffs only in 2004 and 2006; both first-round exits. Since that last appearance in 2006, the once proud Cobra program has posted just six wins in the past five seasons.
This season under first-year coach Caleb Wick, Jackson Heights has matched those six wins from the previous five season with a 6-3 regular season campaign.
The McLouth football program had suffered a similar fate until recently. The Bulldogs posted a combined record of just 10-35 the five seasons from 2006-2010. Last season, Chris Stewart’s Bulldogs went 7-2, but missed out on the playoffs thanks to a 3A district that included traditional powers Rossville and Silver Lake.
It their first season down in Class 2-1A, the Bulldogs have posted an 8-1 mark with only a 13-12 loss to Olpe as the only blemish on their record.
Senior quarterback Marc Walbridge has the controls of the offense for the fourth consecutive season. Walbridge has put up some big numbers at times as well; like his 360-yard, six-touchdown passing performance in a win over Pleasant Ridge.
Charles Courtney and Wyatt Farris join Walbridge as four-year starters for the Bulldogs.
While the Cobras and Bulldogs are both Delaware Valley League members, they have not met this season. They have, however, played four common DVL opponents; each posting a 4-0 record against Doniphan West, Jefferson Co. North, Oskaloosa, and Valley Falls.
McLouth 32, Jackson Heights 24 (Gilmore)
2-1A East: Ell-Saline (7-2) at No. 1 La Crosse (9-0)
La Crosse has six undefeated regular seasons in the last seven years and could reach its second straight state championship game. The Leopards have had big contributions from two well-known stars in senior fullback Kip Keeley and senior tailback Levi Morss. Morss hurt his ankle in Week 8 and missed last week’s contest, but will play Friday.
Morss leads the Leopards with 107 carries for 1,255 yards and 13 scores. Keeley has tacked on 812 yards and 13 TDs. Keeley also leads the team with 16 catches for 356 yards and five scores and 66 tackles.
However, the Leopards have had several players step up into key roles namely, senior William Storie, sophomore quarterback Jack Garcia and sophomore lineman Sheldon Schmidt. Schmidt has collected 64 tackles, seven sacks, a fumble recovery and a defensive TD, all numbers that rank first or second on the team. Garcia has completed 55 of 92 passes for 1,056 yards and a 15/4 TD/INT ratio. He has picked off two passes and has six pass breakups, second-best on the squad. Storie has a team-high four interceptions after missing more than half of the postseason last year because of a concussion.
Ell-Saline reached the playoffs four straight seasons before it went 2-7 last year. The Cardinals have bounced back under veteran coach Terry King and have returned to the postseason. The lone losses came against Sedgwick (19-12) and versus Smith Center in district play (20-18).
Ell-Saline senior quarterback Garrett Walker has thrown for 1,393 yards with a 15/8 TD/INT ratio. Senior Toby Omli has rushed for 782 yards. Senior Kaleb Whitehair has caught 33 passes for 531 yards and six TDs.
Ell-Saline has several great athletes, but La Crosse will be too much for the Cardinals.
La Crosse 40, Ell-Saline 16 (Nicholl)
2-1A West: Sterling (3-6) at Smith Center (6-3)
Smith Center started 1-3, but has won five straight contests, including several by close margins. Redmen coach Roger Barta, in his 34th season with the program, says this year’s group is arguably his most improved team. Smith Center started the season with just one returning offensive and three returning defensive starters.
Smith Center’s first win of the season was a 20-14 overtime victory against Oberlin-Decatur Community in Week 3. In district play, the Redmen defeated Ell-Saline 20-18, beat Plainville 23-22, and then won at Bennington 22-16. The Redmen have played the No. 2-hardest schedule in Class 2-1A, according to preppowerindex.com and have actually been outscored this season 179-200.
Four players have rushed for at least 279 yards. Smith Center has now made the playoffs every year since 2002 and is 85-4 in Class 2-1A.
Sterling has lost eight straight playoff games dating back to 2003. This marks the sixth time in the last seven years Sterling made the playoffs with fewer than six wins. Senior Riley Galyon has rushed for 1,314 yards and has accounted for 20 offensive TDs for the Black Bears. Sterling has faced the sixth-hardest schedule and has outscored opponents 258-226.
These two teams matched up in the Class 3A playoffs in 2010, a game that Smith Center won 28-6. Expect a similar result here as the Redmen find another way to win.
Smith Center 21, Sterling 14 (Nicholl)
The rest of our 2-1A first-round picks:
Jefferson Co. North (6-3) at No. 4 Centralia (9-0)
Wabaunsee (2-7) at No. 3 Lyndon (9-0)
No. 5 Stanton County (8-1) at Oakley (6-2)
Oberlin-Decatur County (4-5) at No. 2 Meade (8-1)