Playoff Preview: Class 3A & 2A

Belle Plaine's Luke Baker hands off to Gerardo Rivera earlier this season. (by Cheyenne Cooper)
By: Conor Nicholl, Alex Hammeke, & Matt Gilmore for
Oct 31, 2019

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Class 3A

VIEW: 3A Bracket


Girard (4-4) at Frontenac (8-0) – Frontenac                                     

These two CNC League rivals did not meet in the regular season despite being located approximately 13 miles apart. Girard has posted back-to-back wins over Iola and Osawatomie in order to reach the post season. Meanwhile, Frontenac has rolled to an undefeated regular season and top-four ranking in the state. Jake Beckmann leads the Raider offense and Alex Johnson can be difficult to contain out of the backfield. Johnson rushed for a pair of early touchdowns in last week’s 23-0 shutout of previously-unbeaten Columbus.

Galena (5-3) at Burlington (5-3) – Galena

Galena will travel to Burlington in an intriguing first-round game on the top half of the bracket. The Bulldogs feature sophomore quarterback Brett Sarwinski at quarterback and his brother Nick as the primary receiver. Galena has been well-tested this season with losses only to unbeaten Prairie View, undefeated Frontenac, and one-loss Columbus. Burlington will counter with the backfield duo of Cael Johnson and Braden Sloyer. Johnson has rushed for a team-high 842 yards and 13 scores, while Sloyer has produced 717 yards and seven touchdowns.

Sabetha (6-2) at Topeka Hayden (7-1) – Hayden

One of several first-round matchups that has the feel of a state semifinal. Two-time defending champion Sabetha will travel to Topeka Hayden. The Blue Jays finished fourth in the ultra-competitive District 4, while Hayden won District 3 by virtue of the points margin. The Wildcats lone loss came 21-20 in overtime to Perry-Lecompton – a team that Sabetha defeated 41-21 back in Week 3. The Blue Jays are led by two-time all-state selection Gabe Garber who has passed for more than 1,000 yards this season and added 680 rushing yards with 19 touchdowns. Hayden’s backfield is led by a pair of juniors in quarterback Johnny Holloway and fullback Jack Konrade. Konrade leads the Wildcats with more than 500 rush yards, while Holloway has thrown nine touchdown passes.

Jefferson West (7-1) at Marysville (7-1) – Marysville

Another first-round game that feels like it could be a mid-November playoff showdown has Jeff West traveling to Marysville. Jeff West finished in a tie with Topeka Hayden and Perry-Lecompton in District 3 standings, but took third place based on having the lowest number of district margin points of the three. As a result, the Tigers must travel to Marysville – runner-up finisher in the tough District 4. The Bulldogs features a talented roster that includes Branden Schroedl at quarterback and Atreyau Hornbeak in the backfield. Hornbeak has been slowed by injury, but has still produced more than 900 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Schroedl has passed for more than 1,000 yards and eight scores and added more than 450 yards on the ground. They’ll have to go against one of the classifications’ top defense in Jeff West which allows less than six points per game.

Caney Valley (5-3) at Prairie View (8-0) – Prairie View

This is a rematch from Week 9 last season, a 27-7 win by Prairie View. Caney Valley finished 6-3 in ’18, while Prairie View was 8-2. This year, Prairie View has its first perfect regular season in 21 years. The Buffaloes have received more than 860 rushing yards from Hunter Boone. He tallied 1,114 rushing yards last season. Prairie View is one of five 3A undefeated teams with Andale, Halstead, Frontenac, and Colby. The Buffaloes have played the second-easiest schedule in 3A, according to Prep Power Index. Prairie View has a 299-63 margin. Caney Valley has played the No. 34 SOS with a 247-139 margin. The Bullpups feature standout quarterback Trey Richey and backs Eryk Kyser and Ben Nunneley.

Anderson County (4-4) at Columbus (7-1) – Columbus

Perhaps no team is more anxious to get back on the field than the Columbus Titans. After rolling to a 7-0 start, the Titans were completely out of sync on offense in last week’s 23-0 loss to unbeaten Frontenac. The Raider defense had something to do with that, holding Columbus to 20 yards of total offense. Senior quarterback Patrick Cassidy will try to lead the Titans to the next round after they managed just one win last season. Cassidy has passed for nearly 850 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 433 yards rushing and nine scores. Anderson County will counter with Bo Dilliner who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards on the season.

Santa Fe Trail (4-4) at Holton (6-2) – Holton

Despite not being the favorite, Holton won highly publicized District 4 over Marysville (7-1), Wamego (6-2) and Sabetha (6-2). The Wildcats have doubled their win total after a 3-6 mark in ’18. Holton had the first losing season since the inaugural year under legendary coach Brooks Barta, who stands at 225-53 in 24 falls with the Wildcats. Holton earned marquee victories with a 30-8 road victory versus Marysville and a 41-14 home victory against Wamego. Holton had a rare halfback pass for a touchdown versus Wamego. Holton had seven new linemen starters, and coach Barta has been pleased with the team’s progression on the line and on defense. Junior Konnor Tannahill has received the bulk of the carries, especially recently, with 129 carries for 669 yards and eight touchdowns. He ranks third with 55 tackles. Holton is 6-0 versus Santa Fe Trail from ’10-17, including a 21-6 win in the last matchup. Senior Andrew Berckefeldt has thrown for 1,156 yards with a 13/8 TD/INT ratio.

Wamego (6-2) at Perry-Lecompton (5-3) – Perry-Lecompton

Much of this game hinges on Wamego standout running back Isiah Childs, an Akron commit. He did not play in last week’s loss to Holton. As well, Wamego quarterback Brad Sackrider was unable to finish the game versus Holton. Wamego has a total margin of 251-149, and Perry is at 259-116. Perry lost 14-7 versus Holton, 41-21 against Sabetha, and 8-3 at Jefferson West. Two weeks ago, Perry-Lecompton earned a 21-20 overtime victory versus Topeka Hayden. Senior Billy Welch has completed 98 of 149 passes for 1,410 yards with a 16/5 TD/INT ratio, though junior Thad Metcalfe stepped late in the Hayden game when Welch was injured. Welch returned last week to throw six touchdown passes against Bishop Ward. Metcalfe has 150 carries for 946 yards and eight touchdowns.


Wichita Collegiate (5-3) at Halstead (8-0) – Halstead

Hastead has rolled to an unbeaten regular season and the No. 2 ranking entering the playoffs. The Dragons average more than 330 rushing yards per game led by senior Scott Grider’s 989 yards and 20 touchdowns. Quarterback Lakin Farmer has contributed 670 yards and 11 more scores, while senior Kaden Kraus has added 473 yards and four touchdowns. The Dragon defense has been solid in allowing only 12.5 points per game, but will face a Collegiate offense that presents challenges with quarterback Nate Voegeli. Collegiate has dropped three of its past four games against the likes of Cheney, Andale, and Clearwater.

Rock Creek (3-5) at Cheney (6-2) – Cheney

Cheney has a four-win improvement and Rock Creek a three-victory bump from ’18. Cheney has third-year coach Shelby Wehrman, and Rock Creek has new coach Shane Sieben after Mike Beam retired. Rock Creek has one-score losses to Riley County and Halstead, a combined 14-2. Cheney, led by quarterback Zac Block and running back Riley Petz, gave No. 1 Andale by far its closest game last week in a 29-22 loss.

Concordia (4-4) at Hugoton (4-4) – Hugoton

Concordia makes the nearly 300-mile drive down to Hugoton to take on the Eagles. The Panthers and Eagles are both 4-4 on the season, but Hugoton has won three straight games to claim the District 7 title and earn the home game. The Eagles beat Pratt, Larned, and Holcomb in the last three weeks with only a two-point loss to Nickerson keeping them from a perfect district mark. Meanwhile, Concordia posted consecutive wins over Goodland and Beloit before being shut out by Scott City last week. The Panthers are led by Hunter Schroeder who has 971 rushing yards and four touchdowns.  

Holcomb (4-4) at Scott City (6-2) – Scott City

This is a rematch from the regular season when Scott City defeated Holcomb at home in Week 2, 14-3. The Beaver defense held Holcomb to 170 yards, the lowest yardage the Longhorns would produce all season. Holcomb has had an up and down season so far, with losses to Colby, Larned, and Hugoton, alongside the Scott City game. Scott City was undefeated on the season until Beloit rolled into town and spoiled the Beavers’ homecoming game, winning 28-13. Scott City would lose to undefeated Colby in double-overtime before righting the ship in the final week with a win against Concordia.

Clay Center (3-5) at Andale (8-0) – Andale

Top-ranked Andale got its toughest test of the season in last week’s 29-22 win over Cheney. The Indians rushed for 279 yards in the game and held the Cardinals to only 32 rush yards on 21 attempts. Four different Andale players scored rushing touchdowns including Noah Meyer, Eli Rowland, Mac Branc, and Easton Hunter. Hunter returned from injury a couple of weeks ago and passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns against Clearwater. Clay Center has lost three consecutive games including last week’s 28-27, double-overtime thriller against Hesston. Junior Logan Mullen leads the Tiger offense with 820 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Clearwater (6-2) at Hesston (7-1) – Clearwater

Hesston is 7-1 on the season with its only loss coming in blowout fashion to No. 2 Halstead. The Swathers have had to work in winning competitive district games over Rock Creek (41-28), Chapman (43-32), and Clay Center (28-27) the last three weeks. Hesston defeated Clay Center in two overtimes last week when they stopped a Tiger two-point attempt. Jacob Eilert threw three touchdown passes in the victory. On the other sidelines, Tanner Cash has returned at quarterback for Clearwater and led the Indians to a 35-14 win over Wichita Collegiate. Clearwater’s only two losses have come to Andale and Cheney.

Nickerson (4-4) at Colby (8-0) – Colby

Colby earned the district and GWAC titles and had its first perfect regular season since 1984. The Eagles are 16-2 since the start of ’18 and 22-6 under third-year coach Rees McKinney, a Scott City graduate. McKinney has raised Colby, with little football tradition, to the No. 5 ranking in deep Class 3A. Colby graduated Jordan Schippers, a Western Illinois signing, but have replaced him with its bevy of talent. All-purpose threat Calvin Stapp has performed well in all three phases, along with fullback Hagan Booi, and lineman Aaron Kurth (KU offer). Colby has a double-overtime victory versus Scott City. The Eagles have a total margin of 272-104 and are tied for tenth in 3A in scoring defense. Nickerson has doubled its win total from last year.

Beloit (5-3) at Larned (4-4) – Beloit

After going 0-9 the year prior, Larned has turned rebounded under second-year head Coach Tad Remy. The Indians are 4-4 on the year and finished as the District 7 runners-up, after three consecutive wins over Pratt, Holcomb, and Nickerson. Larned dropped the final two games on the season versus Hugoton and Kingman, and are without explosive playmaker Mason Perez for the rest of the season with injury. Beloit has been a good team that has ran into a couple tough challenges this fall, with losses to once ranked Southeast of Saline, undefeated Colby, and an upstart Concordia team.


Class 2A

VIEW: 2A Bracket


Central Heights (2-6) at Humboldt (8-0) – Humboldt

Humboldt reached the state semifinals last season behind the duo of Dagen Goodner and Conor Haviland. Goodner graduated, but Haviland has taken on most of the offensive load this season. The senior has rushed for 1,821 yards and 29 touchdowns while averaging more than 16 yards per carry. The Cubs are unbeaten with a come-from-behind win over Eureka (38-32) and a close district victory over Riverton (20-14) as their closest challenges. Central Heights is in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Vikings picked of their wins in each of the past two weeks over McLouth (32-0) and West Franklin (22-18).

Southeast-Cherokee (6-2) at Osage City (5-3) – Osage City

Southeast-Cherokee finished third in District 1 behind Humboldt and Riverton. The Lancers won their first six games this season before consecutive losses to the Rams and Cubs. Southeast averages 315 rushing yards per game led by Zaden Hendricks’ team-high 1,097 yards and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Bryce Petersen has added 644 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground while throwing for 638 yards and eight more scores. Osage City dropped games to Lyndon and Northern Heights to open the season before four straight wins. Sophomore Brody Littrell leads the Indians with 327 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Landon Boss has five rushing touchdowns and has passed for nearly 350 yards and three scores.

St. Marys (2-6) at Nemaha Central (6-2) – Nemaha Central

Nemaha Central won the District 3 title and has won five straight games since early season losses to Sabetha (13-6) and Holton (28-14). The Thunder are led by quarterback Dylan Schultejans who has passed for 1,165 yards and 17 touchdowns against only five interceptions. Nemaha Central averages a little more than 155 yards per game on the ground with Gavin Duryea (343 yards) and Gage Palic (338 yards) leading the way. St. Marys picked up its only two wins in district play to advance. The Bears beat Council Grove and Mission Valley – a pair of two-win teams out of the Flint Hills League. Senior Caden Hurla has passed for 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bears, but has been intercepted ten times. Senior Charles King leads the team with 430 receiving yards and five scores.

Maur Hill-Mount Academy (6-2) at Rossville (6-2) – Rossville

One of the stronger first-round matchups features a rematch from last year and two strong quarterbacks with Rossville sophomore Torrey Horak and Maur Hill’s Jack Caudle. In ’18, Rossville defeated Maur Hill, 21-14, in the second round. Horak has passed for 801 yards with a 14/4 TD/INT ratio. He has 112 carries for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns. Rossville junior Bo Reeves has 20 catches for 460 yards and eight touchdowns. The Bulldogs average 7.9 yards per play and 53.8 plays per game. The left-handed Caudle, a four-year starter, has completed 105 of 155 passes for 1,721 yards with a 26/4 TD/INT ratio. He has rushed for four touchdowns. Junior Andrew Schwinn has 94 carries for 645 yards and 11 TDs. MHMA has 8.6 yards per play and 42.3 plays per contest. Rossville has a total margin of 315-116, and Maur Hill stands at 320-82. A big difference comes in strength of schedule. Maur Hill has played the No. 42 SOS in the classification, according to Prep Power Index, and Rossville has faced the No. 6 SOS.

Jayhawk-Linn (5-3) at Silver Lake (8-0) – Silver Lake

Silver Lake is the sizable favorite after a 10-1 mark last year. Silver Lake has permitted just 33 points, best in the classification, and owns victories versus Riley County and Rossville, both 6-2. Senior Cody Hay has thrown for 1,292 yards with an 18/3 TD/INT ratio. Senior Gideon Remer has 66 tackles, nine for loss. Junior Trent Reamer has 52 stops, nine TFLs. Senior Dawson Schwarz has 32 stops, 10 for loss. Jayhawk Linn is 0-12 all-time in the playoffs, though has posted 9-1, 8-2, 6-3 and 5-3 marks in the last four years. Silver Lake coach C.J. Hamilton is 430-92 in 44 years with the Eagles and is the state’s all-time winningest coach.

Oskaloosa (3-5) at Riverton (5-3) – Riverton

Oskaloosa ended a 16-game losing streak earlier this season with a 48-42, five-overtime affair with Central Heights. The Bears used that momentum to win additional district games over McLouth and West Franklin. Riverton hadn’t won more than two games in a season since 2014, but this year’s Rams are much improved under veteran coach Johnny Mallett. Riverton finished as the runners-up in District 1 and played state-ranked Humboldt to a 20-14 decision.

Pleasant Ridge (3-5) at Riley County (6-2) – Riley County

Riley County reached the 2A state championship game last fall finishing as runner-up to Phillipsburg. The Falcons again will be a factor on the east side of 2A. After early-season losses to Silver Lake and Centralia, Riley County has rattled off five straight wins including impressive victories against Rossville (34-15) and Southeast of Saline (33-29). Quarterback Garrett Harmison has passed for 1,104 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Deon Barnes leads the ground attack with 756 yards and 14 scores. Sophomore Trey Harmison is the leading receiver with 34 catches for 547 yards and five scores, while Avery Brokenicky has 456 receiving yards and eight scores. Juniors Conner Gibson and Jake Heckman lead the Pleasant Ridge offense. Gibson has passed for more than 600 yards and eight scores, while Heckman has 617 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Southeast of Saline (6-2) at Riverside (6-2) – Southeast of Saline

Southeast of Saline makes the 195-mile route to Wathena in a highlighted first-round matchup. Riverside has a collective 260-157 margin with the No. 35 SOS, and SE Saline stands at 299-143 with the No. 27 SOS. The Cyclones have their first winning season since ’14 with first-year coach Bryce Paden. Quarterback Kobe Davis has more than 1,300 passing yards and 18 touchdowns with a supporting cast that includes Quenton Barron, Beau Horn and Bradley Horn. Riverside has a 28-27 win versus Maur Hill on a last-second touchdown pass from Davis. Southeast of Saline is 14-4 since the start of 2018 and finished third in District 4 behind Rossville and Riley County. Junior Jaxson Gebhardt has 955 passing yards with a 7/5 TD/INT ratio. Junior Bryant Banks has 140 carries for 809 yards and 18 scores. Gebhardt has delivered 143 carries for 724 yards and 11 scores.


Hutchinson Trinity (4-4) at Eureka (5-3) – Eureka

Much as been made of the story of Eureka. The Tornadoes played all of their games on the road last season when an actual tornado destroyed their stadium. Eureka returned home earlier this season and won the District 5 title despite a 40-31 loss to Cherryvale last week. Quarterback Cade Larcom has passed for 1,511 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Zach Hare leads the team with 31 receptions for 561 yards. Brennan Lowe leads the Eureka ground game with 682 yards and four touchdowns. Hutchinson Trinity took heavy hits to graduation last fall, but has posted a 4-4 record despite that face. The Celtics victories have come in pairs – over Marion and Inman in the first two weeks, and over Wichita Independent and Remington in Weeks 6 and 7.

Cherryvale (5-3) at Conway Springs (6-2) – Conway Springs

Conway Springs has been ranked for much of the season, but fell out of the poll after last week’s 32-21 loss to No. 3 Garden Plain. The Cardinals are led by Collin Koester who directs the offense to the tune of 974 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Koester has also passed for 634 yards and five scores. Conway Springs still gets things done primarily on the ground in averaging more than 300 yards per game. Cherryvale is coming off of its biggest win of the season – a 40-31 victory over District 5 champion Eureka. The Chargers jumped on Eureka 20-0 in the first quarter and held off the late Tornado charge. Zaine Lantz rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns in that victory, while Gavin Hooper passed for more than 230 yards and two scores. Lantz had 130 receiving yards and two touchdown catches.

Minneapolis (4-4) at Cimarron (8-0) – Cimarron

Cimarron is undefeated and claimed an unbeaten district championship for the fourth year in a row. The Bluejays did this with a stout defense, holding opposing offenses to just under 11 points per game and an offense that produces 335 yards per game. Minneapolis was on the outside looking in last fall, having to settle for a non-bracket game versus Ellinwood, which the Lions cruised to victory, 58-8. Minneapolis made a one-win improvement under new head coach Tom Flax, formerly at Herrington. The Lions broke a four-game losing skid versus Thomas More Prep in Week 7 and then defeated defending-champion Phillipsburg in Week 8 to clinch their playoff bid.

Sterling (4-4) at Norton (5-3) – Norton

Norton took on the top two teams in class 1A this season, starting 0-2 with losses to Plainville and Smith Center. The Bluejays would never look back, taking a five-game winning streak through district play before falling to top-ranked Hoisington to end the regular season and decide the district championship. Sterling hasn’t won back-to-back games this year, and their four losses have come to quality programs (Ell-Saline, Sedgwick, Cimarron, and Lakin). The Black Bears average 258.5 yards of rushing offence per game.

Fredonia (4-4) at Garden Plain (8-0) – Garden Plain

Garden Plain is the heavy favorite with a total 397-113 margin. The Owls are one of five undefeated teams left in 2A, along with Silver Lake, Humboldt, Hoisington and Cimarron. Fredonia has played the No. 14 SOS, a significantly harder schedule than the Owls, with a 206-194 margin. Garden Plain owns wins versus Cheney and Conway Springs, both two-loss teams. Quarterback Matt Pauly has led the Owls offense. This is the first meeting between the teams since before ’04.

Chaparral (4-4) at Belle Plaine (7-1) – Belle Plaine

Belle Plaine is one of the surprise stories of the 2019 season. First-year coach Colton Koenigs has led the Dragons to a 7-win season when the program hadn’t won more than five games in a season for at least the last 15 years. Last season’s playoff berth ended a streak of 21 consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance. The Dragons have had steady quarterback play with Luke Baker and Eli Wiseman is ben a threat to break a big play at any time. The Dragons will take on Central Plains League rival Chaparral, who they didn’t play this season. The Roadrunners are 4-4 under new coach Jordan Moshier after last week’s 21-20 win over Hutchinson Trinity.

Southwestern Heights (4-4) at Hoisington (8-0) – Hoisington

Southwestern Heights has produced a two-win improvement this season, defeating Syracuse and Meade in the first three weeks before picking up district wins over Lyons and Ellinwood. The Mustangs fell to Sterling in a close matchup, 22-28, last week in a game that decided third place in the district. Last season Sterling and Southwestern Heights went to three overtimes to decide a winner. Hoisington has been undefeated all season and is the No. 1 ranked 2A team in the classification. The Cardinals have allowed only 15 points per game defensively while putting up about 45 points per game on the other side of the ball. The Cardinals feature North Dakota commit Wyatt Pedigo at running back who has rushed for more than 1,600 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Ellsworth (5-3) at Lakin (7-1) – Lakin

Despite a surprise loss to Thomas More Prep-Marian last week, Ellsworth has bounced back tremendously from a 2-7 season last year. Ellsworth was able to go 4-0 in the first half of the season, which consisted of league schools; however, the Bearcats dropped to 1-3 in the back half of the season, which included Powerhouse programs Hoisington and Norton. Lakin has only suffered one loss of the season to undefeated Cimarron. Outside the Cimarron game, the Broncs have been able to outscore their opponents by more than 25 points per game. Lakin features K-State commit Hadley Panzer on the offensive line and Kayden Christianssn in the backfield.



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