The Pick List - Week 4

Aiden Niedens will try to lead Bishop Carroll to a win at No. 1 Derby. (by Ann Harter)
By: Conor Nicholl, Alex Hammeke, & Matt Gilmore for
Sep 26, 2019

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Each Thursday throughout the regular season, The Pick List will feature six of the best match-ups across the state, and make our predictions on a handful of other games.

Feature Games of the Week:

5A No. 3 Bishop Carroll (2-1) at 6A No. 1 Derby (3-0)

Two of the state’s most tradition-laden powers meet up in Derby in a rare midseason non-conference game between ranked teams. Derby is 3-0 in the series with wins by scores of 49-13, 54-45 and 24-6.

Derby has been dominant in its first three contests with a 48-19 road victory against Garden City, a 49-0 win at Salina Central and a 63-7 home victory versus Newton. Those three teams are a combined 2-7.

The Panthers, the defending Class 6A state champions, have won 16 straight games. That includes a 24-6 road win against Bishop Carroll last year. Derby has not lost in the regular season since a 50-20 road loss to Goddard in Week 2 of 2017.

Carroll took another close loss to City League rival Wichita Northwest with a 21-17 loss in Week 1 before back-to-back home wins versus Wichita Heights (55-12) and Wichita West (34-7). West entered the contest 2-0.

Derby has enjoyed big seasons from quarterback Grant Adler, who suffered significant injuries the last two seasons. The Panther line features Alex Conn, a Nebraska commit. Derby also has Tre Washington and Lem Wash, both terrific running backs. Washington ran for more than 1,800 yards last year. Wash had some big ’18 games in a reserve role, including four carries for 112 yards and two scores against Dodge City.

Last week, Washington and Wash combined for six rushing scores. Tyler Dorsey is back on the defensive line after he helped Derby permit just 7.9 points and 39.3 rushing yards a game last year. Derby’s ’18 scoring defense marked the best in 6A since at least 2006, according to Prep Power Index archives.

Carroll features quarterback Aiden Niedens, who has moved into the full-time starting role after he took over in ’18 once the Eagles had several major injuries at quarterback. Carroll has multiple solid players, including senior tight end Max Bullinger (6-2, 207).

Bullinger was honorable mention all-league in ’18, and has taken over in a larger role after Clay Cundiff (Wisconsin signing) graduated. Senior Justin Powell was a first team all-league defensive back. Senior safety Dalton Nichols is also a top player and return specialist. Senior defensive lineman Phoenix Smith (6-3, 205) was an all-league honorable mention player. Powell recovered a key fumble against Northwest. Oscar Gallardo caught a scoring pass from Niedens as Carroll led Northwest, 10-8, at halftime and led until the final few minutes.

It’s likely that Bishop Carroll will keep this game close, but Derby, playing at home, is rolling and is the favorite.

Our Pick: Derby 40, Bishop Carroll 26 (Nicholl)

3A No. 3 Marysville (3-0) at 3A No. 1 Sabetha (3-0)

Two years ago, Marysville and Sabetha met for the Class 3A state championship. Sabetha’s sophomore linebacker Gabe Garber intercepted a pass at the goal line at the end of the game to preserve a 7-6 victory and the state title for the Blue Jays.

Last season, Garber once again led the Blue Jays to another Class 3A state title with a dramatic overtime win over Pratt. The Blue Jays bested Marysville during district play, 36-12.

While Sabetha took some heavy hits to graduation, the Blue Jays have continued winning. Last week, Sabetha rallied from a 14-0 early hole to top Perry-Lecompton, 41-21. It was the Blue Jays’ 23rd consecutive victory.

However, it hasn’t been easy. Sabetha narrowly escaped Nemaha Central, 13-6, in the season-opener. Now the Blue Jays will kick off a challenging District 4 that features three unbeaten teams and one traditional power sitting at 2-1.

Up first is third-ranked Marysville. The Bulldogs return plenty of experience, including 15 total starters from last year’s state quarterfinal team. Marysville is led by senior quarterback Branden Schroedl who has already passed for 477 yards and three scores. Schroedl is a dual-threat athlete as well, and has contributed 170 yards and two scores on the ground.

The Bulldog offense primarily looks to the capable hands of senior Atreyau Hornbeak. Hornbeak rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns a season ago, and is off to a solid start in 2019. Hornbeak has rushed for 432 yards and 11 touchdowns in three games. Stopping Hornbeak will present a challenge for even Garber and the two-time defending champs.

Garber leads the Blue Jay offense with 320 passing yards and a score, while rushing for 280 yards and eight touchdowns. Andrew Frazee has added more than 250 yards and a pair of scores on the ground.

The one constant element of Sabetha’s win streak has been defense. During the Blue Jays 23-game win streak, they’ve given up an average of only 9.8 points per game. During that same span, six of those 23 wins have come via shutout.

Make no mistake, this district will present several challenges. Marysville is talented enough to compete for a state championship, and Wamego is unbeaten thanks to playmakers Isiah Childs and Taybor Vetter. Holton is also going to be a tough out behind a tough defense and power run game.

Whichever team wins this showdown on Friday night will get the upper hand in the district. This one is really a coin flip. Expect it to be close, but I’ll go with the two-time defending champs to find a way.

Our Pick: Sabetha 26, Marysville 21 (Gilmore)


Columbus (3-0) at Caney Valley (3-0)

Another key district game will kick off in southeast Kansas where District 1 has several strong contenders. We’ll highlight a pair of unbeatens as the Columbus Titans travel down to the Oklahoma boarder to take on the Caney Valley Bullpups.

Columbus has had a remarkable turnaround under new head coach Blake Burns. The Titans finished just 1-8 a season ago, but have experience and talented players at key positions.

Leading the Titan offense is quarterback Patrick Cassidy. Cassidy, also a standout basketball player for the Titans, has completed 65 percent of his passes for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns through three weeks. Cassidy is also the team’s leading rusher with 220 yards and five scores.

Sophomore Gabe Martin has added 204 yards on the ground on 30 attempts, while his classmate, Jaxon Haraughty and senior Graysen Walden have each eclipsed the 100-yards mark this season.

Clay Saporito provides the Titans a go-to threat, but ten different titans have a catch this season.

Columbus opened with an impressive 21-14 win at St. Mary’s Colgan, then outscored Coffeyville (53-24) and last week beat Girard (41-19).

Caney Valley always seem sin the position to challenge for a district title. The Bullpups are no different this season. Caney Valley has opened with blowout wins over Cherryvale, Eureka, and Neodesha. The Bullpups have only surrendered 12 points thus far this season.

Trey Richey is a multi-year starter at quarterback for the Bullpups. While Caney has traditionally been a ground-and-pound team, Richey took to the air in last week’ 47-6 win over Neodesha in passing for 130 yards and three scores.

Caney Valley also features quality backs in Eryk Kyser and Ben Nunneley.

The Bullpups were able to control the line of scrimmage and the game last year in beating the Titans 24-6. This is an extremely tight district with four teams that would win the title. After this week’s game with Columbus, Caney Valley travels to Galena before hosting Frontenac. The Bullpups must be ready to play at a high level right as district play begins.

Look for this to be a close game with one of the Titans’ playmakers doing just enough for Columbus to escape with the win.

Our Pick: Columbus 22, Caney Valley 20 (Gilmore)

Jackson Heights (2-1) at 1A No. 3 Olpe (3-0)

Jackson Heights coach Caleb Wick has made a strong attempt to aggressively schedule for the Cobras, which play in a conference that generally hasn’t had great depth. Jackson Heights found the matchup with Olpe, the 11-man team in the Lyon County League. Last year, Olpe won 20-18 en route to the 1A state runner-up to Smith Center. The teams are 103 miles apart down US-75.

Each team is coming off a big game. Olpe defeated Christ Prep Academy, the defending national homeschool champions, 21-14, while Jackson Heights fell late to league rival Maur Hill-Mount Academy, 18-14. The Cobras dropped out of the top-five in the 1A rankings.

Both of these teams have excellent defenses, though Jackson Heights should have the size advantage. Olpe is very senior heavy with quarterback Colby Hoelting and linemen Seth Wright and Joel Dieker among the returning starters. Junior Kynden Robert is a nice player at running back/cornerback. Against Christ Prep, Hoelting threw two touchdown passes and rushed for a score. Olpe led 14-0 and 21-7.

Maur Hill recovered an onside kick and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Jackson Heights 18-14. Cooper Williams and Dylan Thompson rushed for scores for the Cobras. Jackson Heights has Cooper Williams in the backfield and Carson Williams anchoring a big line. The Cobras run the wishbone behind four linemen that are at least 240 pounds. Maur Hill rushed 43 times for 242 yards, and completed 8 of 17 passes for 125 yards.

Jackson Heights – which gets ranked Valley Heights next week – has struggled in close games, while Olpe has done very well in tight contests. Since the start of ’18, Olpe is 4-0 in games decided by seven points or fewer. The Eagles have also won a game, 14-0.

Jackson Heights also owns a 14-0 victory, but is 3-2 in games decided by eight points or fewer since the start of ’18. Last year, Olpe ranked No. 8 in 1A offense at 34.6 points per game, while the Cobras stood No. 13 at 27.9. Defensively, though, Olpe ranked second at 9.3 points allowed a contest, and Jackson Heights ranked fourth at 12.5 points allowed.

This fall, Olpe ranks fourth in 1A defense with just 21 total points allowed, and Jackson Heights is ninth at 34 points permitted. Both squads have averaged at least 34 points a contest, and both rank in the top-nine in scoring offense.

Our Pick: Olpe 20, Jackson Heights 14 (Nicholl)

Sedgwick (3-0) at Ell-Saline (3-0)

In a showdown of Cardinals, one team will come home a league champion. Ell-Saline and Sedgwick meet up this Friday to decide the Heart of America League title. Both teams have two common opponents this season, with both defeating Whitewater-Remington and Sterling, respectively. Sedgwick faced Wichita Independent in week 2; and Ell-Saline played Hutch Trinity in week 3. The combined record of all four schools is 3-9.

Since 2008, this series has been dominated by Sedgwick. Sedgwick won seven straight contests from 2009-2016. Sedgwick had back to back 10-2 seasons in 2012 and 2013. Ell-Saline had a 9-4 season in 2014. Last year, Ell-Saline won over Sedgwick, 27-13.

The Ell-Saline defense has been stifling so far. Last week, they held Hutchinson Trinity to 76 yards and the forced three turnovers. In their season opener versus Sterling, they held the Black bears to 136 yards on offense. Ell-Saline brought back eight defensive starters from a team that surrendered an average of 13.5pts/game in 2018.

Offensively, T.J. Morrical has been doing a fine job in his first year at quarterback. In the win over Sterling, he completed 4 of 11 passes for 41 yards and one touchdown. The more run-heavy Cardinals also got 201 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from Morrical. Ell-Saline was paced in that victory by 144 yards and three touchdowns off of 20 carries from Luke Parks.

Sedgwick has been led by the explosive offence of Lance Hoffsommer this fall. Hoffsommer, like Morrical, is also a first-year behind center. Against Sterling, he went 12 of 28 for 356 yards and 6 touchdowns. His favorite target was Qayden Shepard, who caught five tosses for 146 yards and a score. Defensively, Sedgwick had four players with over 10 tackles in the win over Sterling, and had three more players with nine tackles apiece.

Lance Hoffsommer will force the floodgates of the Ell-Saline defense to open, but it may not be enough. Look for Ell-Saline to send Sedgwick home with their first loss of the season.

Our Pick: Ell-Saline 35, Sedgwick 21 (Hammeke)

1A No. 2 Plainville (3-0) at 1A No. 1 Smith Center (3-0)

The top-two Class 1A squads match up at Hubbard Stadium in Smith Center.

Plainville is without senior Jared Casey, one of the state’s top players. Casey suffered a hand injury against TMP-Marian last week, went to Wichita for surgery this week, and hopefully will miss no more than three weeks.

This marks the seventh time since the start of 2016 season that Mid-Continent League rivals Plainville and Smith Center will face off. In ’16, Plainville won the regular season matchup and again in sub-state. In ’17-18, Smith Center captured both the regular season and sub-state title games. The Redmen have won back-to-back state championship games.

The regular season contests have been 20-16, 16-7, and 21-10 scores. In ’16, Plainville won 14-0 at sub-state, while Smith Center has captured 51-0 and 49-7 victories in the last two sub-states.

Casey led the Cardinals with 330 rushing yards on 40 carries with two rushing scores. He’s also easily been the team’s top receiver with 10 catches for 122 yards and two scores. Casey leads the team in tackles – 11 more than any other player – with 40.

In his career, Casey, a four-year starter with a Fort Hays State offer, has rushed for 1,646 yards and 24 scores, along with five receiving TDs, and 300 career tackles.

However, Plainville, which had comeback wins versus Norton and Phillipsburg the first two weeks, also has one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Jordan Finnesy, a three-year starter.

Finnesy has thrown for 298 yards with a 3/2 TD/INT ratio, along with 50 carries for 189 yards and three TDs. Plainville has a variety of strong supporting talent, including sophomore Ben Hansen, senior Cody Crawford, junior Jonah Smith and sophomore Dakota Yost.

Smith Center has also defeated TMP (34-0), Norton (41-18) and Phillipsburg (27-7), a bigger margin than Plainville had in all three games versus the same squads. Both Smith Center and Plainville ended long losing streaks against Phillipsburg.

Smith Center again graduated all of its top running backs, but the Redmen, as usual, have replenished effectively. Smith Center has shown great improvement in the last two weeks and has rushed for 398 yards a game this fall. Senior Jaden Atwood has rushed 56 times for 535 yards and five scores, and senior Colton Shoemaker had 34 carries for 299 yards and four touchdowns.

While Smith Center has historically not been known for receivers, junior Griffin Kugler has enjoyed a nice start with nine catches for 124 yards and two scores – all from returning senior quarterback Trenton Colby. However, Smith Center’s most well-known players are linemen: senior Joel Montgomery and junior Charlie Timmons, both three-year starters. Montgomery, a returning first team all-state player, has 29 tackles, Timmons with 27.

Smith Center is the prohibitive favorite without Casey. However, this might again be the first of two meetings this year. Two major questions are: How well can Plainville’s line play against Smith Center, and can the Cardinals move the ball effectively without Casey?  If Plainville can, that bodes well for a possible second matchup – with Casey likely back on the field.

Our Pick: Smith Center 42, Plainville 14 (Nicholl)

The Pick List:

Rockhurst (Mo.) (3-1) at Blue Valley (2-1) – Rockhurst

Blue Valley North (1-2) at Blue Valley West (2-1) – Blue Valley North

6A No. 5 Gardner-Edgerton (2-1) at Olathe East (2-1) – Olathe East

Junction City (3-0) at 6A No. 2 Topeka High (3-0) – Topeka High

Great Bend (2-1) at Dodge City (3-0) – Great Bend

5A No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (3-0) at Mill Valley (1-2) – Aquinas

Goddard-Eisenhower (2-1) at 4A No. 5 Goddard (2-1) – Goddard

3A No. 5 Scott City (3-0) at Ulysses (2-1) – Scott City

Spring Hill (2-1) at 4A No. 3 Paola (3-0) – Paola

Beloit (2-1) at Colby (3-0) – Colby

Clearwater (3-0) at Cheney (2-1) – Cheney

Frontenac (3-0) at Galena (2-1) – Frontenac

Hoxie (2-1) at Leoti-Wichita Co. (3-0) – Wichita County

Oberlin-Decatur Co. (3-0) at 8M-I No. 2 St. Francis – St. Francis

South Gray (3-0) at Ness City (3-0) – Ness City

8M-II No. 2 Axtell (3-0) at Pike Valley (2-1) – Axtell

Sylvan-Lucas (2-1) at 8M-II No. 3 Osborne (3-0) – Osborne


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