The Pick List - Week 6

Lawrence High's Devin Neal. (by A.J. Hildreth)
By: Conor Nicholl, Alex Hammeke, & Matt Gilmore for
Oct 8, 2020

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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.

**We will only feature five games this week given one of the games on our poll (3A No. 5 Maur Hill-Mount Academy at Nemaha Central) was cancelled due to MHMA being in quarantine.

Feature Games of the Week:

6A No. 1 Lawrence (4-0) at 5A No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (4-0)

It doesn’t get much bigger than this. The two top-ranked teams in the two largest classes are set to clash in a showdown in Overland Park on Friday.

The game will feature two of the state’s top running backs in Lawrence’s Devin Neal and Aquinas’ Tank Young.

Class 6A’s top-ranked Chesty Lions returned from a quarantine period to earn a 37-28 victory over Bishop Carroll last Saturday. Neal, the KU commit, has rushed for 647 yards and nine touchdowns on 59 carries. He also has 148 yards and three touchdowns receiving.

Meanwhile, Young has rushed for 601 yards and eight scores on 87 carries for the Saints. Young has only played in three of the Saints’ game having missed a 28-14 win at Raytown (Mo.) back in Week 4.

Last week, St. Thomas Aquinas fell behind 28-7 at halftime to Shawnee Mission Northwest before storming back to tie the game on a touchdown run by Young with less than three minutes remaining. Aquinas took their first lead a short-time later on an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown by Danji Brooks. Shawnee Mission Northwest scored in the final minute, but elected to go for the go-ahead two-point conversion which fell incomplete.

While the backfield’s have the star power, there are questions marks with both teams. Aquinas quarterback Blake Anderson did not play last week. Maxwell Ford filled in nicely with 183 yards passing and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Neal did not play in the fourth quarter of Lawrence’s win over Carroll due to an injury.

Lawrence will counter with quarterback Jackson Dooley who has completed 69 of 109 for 1,089 yards and 11 touchdowns. Along with Neal, his primary receivers have been John Green and Tre’ Jackson.

The health of both team’s key players will certainly be a key in this one. If both are at full strength, Lawrence may be the team with a little more firepower.

Our Pick: Lawrence 35, Aquinas 31 (Gilmore)

5A No. 4 Maize (5-0) at Maize South (3-1)

The battle for Maize finally will be played for the fifth time since Maize South opened in 2009. With the AVCTL-I title race heating up, Maize South can play spoiler against their crosstown rival.

Maize South and Maize have split in their four meetings. In two regular-season meetings, Maize South has come out on top by scores of 28-27 in ’14 and 35-7 in ’15. The two did not play in ’16 and ’17, but met again in the playoffs with the Eagles ending the Mavericks season the past two years. Maize won by a 35-0 shutout in 2018 and a 28-0 score last season. Maize South has been a member of the AVCTL-II since their entrance into the league in 2010, but jumped up this season to AVCTL-I this season.

Maize has been led by Avery Johnson and Josh Sanders this season. Johnson has completed 62 of 99 passes for 913 yards and six touchdowns. Four of Johnson’s touchdown passes have gone to Jacob Hanna, who has totaled eighteen catches for 308 yards. Josh Sanders, the electric Wichita Heights transfer, has caught one of those passes, but has torn up the field on the run game, with 734 yards and 12 touchdowns on 92 carries. Sanders also is dangerous in the return game, with two kickoff return touchdowns.

The Maize defense has also been stout this fall. During last week’s 53-13 blowout over Salina South, the Eagles forced five fumbles, recovering three of them. Overall, the Eagles are +8 (9/1) in turnover margin. While the Eagles allow 343 yards of offense a game, they only allow for roughly 14 points a game.

Maize South has been forced to adjust in the running game in short notice. A season-ending injury to senior running back Hunter Niemann before last week’s game versus Newton led to the first varsity start for junior back Evan Cantu. Cantu rushed for 185 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown in the 30-10 win over the Railers.

Maize South quarterback Colin Shields completed 42 of 60 passes through the first three games of the season for 680 yards and ten touchdowns with only two interceptions. Shields has garnered recruiting interest from D2 Central Missouri, Wayne State, Washburn, Missouri Western, and Southwest Oklahoma State alongside junior colleges including Hutchinson, Coffeyville, Fort Scott, and Butler.

Maize South has long been known for its defense and this season the Mavericks plus-4 in turnover margin through four games while holding opponents to less than 13 points per contest.

Both of these rivals have wins over Newton and Salina South. Maize finished off an upstart Newton team still looking for their first victory, while South had a convincing 30-10 victory in their first contest without Niemann. Evan Cantu stepping into the feature role for the Maverick offense might add some unpredictability for Maize South to use to their advantage. However, Sanders is prime for a big night after being held to under 100 yards per game the last two contests. The math says this will be a close one, but I’m calling for Maize to stretch this one out a bit to get their first regular-season victory over their cross-district rival.

Our Pick: Maize 34, Maize South 24 (Hammeke)

3A No. 5 Cheney (5-0) Holcomb (5-0)

This is the first matchup between the schools in at least 27 years, according to the Kansas Football History database. Cheney makes the 195-mile trip west on US-400W.

This will likely be for the District 8 title as both teams are 5-0, 2-0. Cheney enjoyed the best season in school history at 10-2 and a state semifinals appearance last fall. The Cardinals graduated 3A Offensive Player of the Year Riley Petz, an all-purpose threat in multiple phases. However, Cheney has continued to excel with coach Shelby Wehrman, a former Derby assistant.

Cheney has won each game by at least 24 points, including 38-14 win in the season opener versus Kingman and 44-7 at rival Garden Plain in Week 3. Kingman and Garden Plain are a combined 8-0 when not playing Cheney. It marked the biggest margin of victory for Cheney in the 70-year history of the Garden Plain/Cheney rivalry. Harrison Voth is the state’s third-leading passer with 1,277 yards. Logan Bartlett is third in Kansas with 653 receiving yards, and Luke Grace has 346 yards.

In the milestone Garden Plain victory, Voth passed for five touchdown passes as Cheney delivered 546 yards of total offense. Bartlett had three interceptions, five extra points, a field goal and three receiving scores in the win.

 Cheney is fifth in 3A in scoring offense with 229 points and tied for seventh with 40 points permitted. Holcomb has been less dominant with a 180-75 total margin. However, the Longhorns also have quality wins at Cimarron (29-19) and versus rival Scott City (30-13). Those teams a combined 6-2 against other opponents.

Holcomb went to the state semifinals in ’14 and ’16 and won championships in ’15 and ’17. The Longhorns took huge graduation losses and dropped to 4-5 in ‘18. Last year, Holcomb also went 4-5 and scored just 165 points. Holcomb has already eclipsed 2019’s point total behind junior quarterback Kaden Johnson. He has completed 51 of 81 passes for 694 yards with 11 scores against two interceptions. He is also easily the team’s leading rusher with 62 carries for 337 yards and seven TDs. Holcomb is plus-four in turnover margin. Senior Kai Johnson paces with five sacks. Junior Kolby Johnson leads with 38 tackles. Last year, Holcomb committed 20 turnovers and was minus-1 in turnover margin.

Credit to both teams, who have likely exceeded expectations through the first half of the year – especially Cheney, which was unranked in the preseason. Even with the long trip, the Cardinals have the edge in depth and offensive firepower.

Our Pick: Cheney 35, Holcomb 21 (Nicholl)

Wichita Collegiate (5-0) at Clearwater (5-0)

Top-ranked Andale, Collegiate and Clearwater are all 5-0, 2-0 in District 7. All three teams are also in Ark Valley Chisolm Trail Division IV. The two teams are very close – Collegiate has a total margin of 232-58, and Clearwater stands at 230-88. They rank third and fourth, respectively, in 3A in scoring offense.

Clearwater has achieved a nice turnaround with coach Jeremy Scheufler and quarterback Tanner Cash. Cash has offers from Hutchinson CC and Washburn, and already set multiple school records. He is among the state’s top-20 passers with 997 yards. He has rushed for 602 yards.

Clearwater went 1-8 in ’17 before Scheufler took over, installed a more passing offense with the spread, and posted marks of 4-5, 7-3 and 5-0 this year. Last year, Clearwater beat Collegiate, 35-14, its first victory in the series since ’11.

The 2019 season marked the most wins for Clearwater since an 8-2 mark in ’11 – and the second-most victories since ’83.

Collegiate, though, has been .500 or better every season since ’91. The Spartans went 6-4 last year for coach Troy Black. Twin seniors Nick and Jack Herrman played very well up front. Nick is the team’s strongest player with a 560-pound squat and 310-pound clean. Nick played last year with a hairline shin fracture. Junior Drew Charbonneau moved to offensive tackle and been solid. Collegiate is deep up front.

Wesley Fair stepped in at quarterback after former QB Nate Voegeli elected to not play this fall and his brother, Michael, moved from quarterback to receiver after injuries. Fair has delivered several big games, including 217 rushing yards in a 34-31 overtime victory against Rose Hill. He rushed for 150 yards and accounted for four scores in a win versus Hesston. Fair has cleared 600 rushing yards.

Cash is undeniably one of the state’s best players. However, Collegiate has had some nice surprises emerge in the position shifting and has the edge in what should be a very close game.

Our Pick: Collegiate 35, Clearwater 28 (Nicholl)

8M-II No. 5 Frankfort (4-1) at 8M-II No. 2 Hanover (4-0)

The Eight-Man, Division II, District 3 title will likely be on the line when Frankfort travels to Hanover. The two sets of Wildcats are also ranked in the 8M-II top five rankings.

Frankfort is coming off of its fourth straight victory – a 36-14 win over then No. 5 Axtell. The Wildcats rushed for 275 yards in the victory led by Ethan Armstrong’s 129 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Cavin Cornelison added 139 yards rushing and a score on 24 carries.

On the season, Armstrong has rushed for a team-high 573 yards and ten scores. Cornelison has rushed for 438 yards and six touchdowns while passing for 339 yards and nine more scores. When Cornelison looks to pass, it’s generally in the direction of Aiden Gerstner (151 yards, 4 TDs), Caden Dalinghaus (154 yards, TD), or Bryce Stowell (3 TDs).

Hanover is unbeaten on the season including a 62-12 win at Axtell two weeks ago. In that game, Colin Jueneman rushed for three touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass from Jacob Jueneman in the victory. Colin rushed for 180 yards and those three scores on 16 carries and also caught three passes for 68 yards. He remains a primary focus of the Hanover offense whether carrying the ball or being a target in the passing game.

Hanover’s defense may be the key in this one. The Wildcats held Axtell to just 143 yards in that meeting two weeks ago. Last week, the Wildcats shut down defending-champion Osborne in a 54-6 victory.

This is Frankfort’s final district game. The Wildcats have already wrapped up a playoff spot and can clinch the district title with a victory in this game.  Hanover has another week off on October 16th before closing out the regular season against Wetmore.

This should be another entertaining Twin Valley League matchup, but look for Jueneman and Jueneman to make enough big plays to propel Hanover to victory.

Our Pick: Hanover 52, Frankfort 28 (Gilmore)

The Pick List:

5A No. 3 Mill Valley (3-2) at Olathe West (2-2) – Mill Valley

4A No. 1 Bishop Miege (1-2) at Wamego (3-2) – Bishop Miege

KC Piper (3-2) at 4A No. 2 Paola (5-0) – Paola

Buhler (3-1) at 4A No. 4 McPherson (4-1) – McPherson

Burlington (4-1) at Girard (2-3) – Burlington

Halstead (2-3) at Hesston (3-2) – Halstead

Cimarron (3-2) at Lakin (3-2) – Cimarron

Garden Plain (4-1) at Kingman (4-1) – Garden Plain

1A No. 1 Olpe (5-0) at Jackson Heights (3-1) – Olpe

1A No. 3 Smith Center (4-1) at Plainville (2-3) – Smith Center

Chase County (4-1) at 8M-I No. 3 Madison (5-0) – Madison

Hill City (3-1) at Hoxie (3-1) – Hoxie

8M-I No. 2 Leoti-Wichita Co. (5-0) at Meade (2-1) – Wichita County

South Gray (5-0) at Spearville (4-1) – South Gray

Central Plains (2-1) at Sylvan-Lucas Unified (4-1) – Central Plains

8M-II No. 1 St. Francis (4-0) at Quinter (2-2) – St. Francis

Wheatland-Grinnell (4-1) at Logan-Palco (4-1) – Wheatland-Grinnell

Wilson (4-1) at 8M-II No. 3 Victoria (5-0) – Victoria


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