The Pick List - Week 8

Free State's Dash Cleveland (2) & Jet Dineen (12). (by Lori Wood Habiger)
By: Conor Nicholl, Matt Gilmore, & Mark Schremmer for
Oct 20, 2021

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

Feature Games of the Week:

6A No. 4 Lawrence Free State (6-1) at Lawrence (5-2)

It obviously a big rivalry game, but this week’s Free State versus Lawrence High football game also carries a lot of weight in both the Sunflower League and the 6A West standings.

Free State (6-1) is currently tied atop the Sunflower League standings with Mill Valley (6-1). Of course, the Firebirds handed Mill Valley its only loss to-date with a 41-20 decision back in Week 5. Lawrence sits right behind the Firebirds and Jaguars in a four-way tie for third with Olathe North, Olathe Northwest, and Olathe West.

In the 6A west standings, Free State enters the week in a four-way tie for second place, while Lawrence is tied with Dodge City (5-2) for sixth. The top eight teams secure a first-round playoff game and higher seeds host throughout the postseason.

So, there is plenty at stake, including bragging rights around Lawrence.

Last season, Lawrence snapped a four-game losing streak in the series with a 49-20 win over the Firebirds. Lawrence finished the 2020 season 9-1, while Free State struggled to an 0-6 campaign that was riddled with injury and misfortune.

Free State has responded with a strong 2021 led by senior Jet Dineen. Dineen has passed for 893 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while rushing for a team-high 935 yards and 12 mores scores. Dash Cleveland is second on the team with 626 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Dineen has plenty of capable receiving targets when he decides to throw. Senior Jordan Brown has enjoyed a strong season with 24 catches for 361 yards and four scores. Brown was a Kpreps all-state selection at Basehor-Linwood last fall when he hauled in 73 catches for 1,048 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Jerred Willits and Jake Patchen each have 220 receiving yards for free state with a combined seven scores.

Lawrence has won two straight games since consecutive losses to Mill Valley (21-14) and Shawnee Mission Northwest (41-24). The Chesty Lions picked up their biggest win of the season last week with a 17-14 decision over then No. 4 Olathe North.

Grant Glasglow kicked a 27-yard field goal on the final play to lift the Lions to the win over the Eagles.

Quarterback Truman Juelsgaard rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown and passed for 52 yards and another score. Juelsgaard has passed for more than 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.

Lawrence’s success will depend on its defense and their ability to slow down Dineen. In the Lions’ five wins, Lawrence has allowed less than 9 points per game. The Firebirds have averaged 33 points per game.

Our Pick: Free State 27, Lawrence 24 (Gilmore)

Hays (6-1) at Wichita Northwest (5-2)

This game features a pair of teams just outside the top-five in the 5A rankings. Class 5A West has extreme parity with three 6-1 squads and six 5-2 teams.

Hays High joins Kapaun Mt. Carmel and Bishop Carroll as the lone 6-1 teams in 5A West. Northwest, which has only lost to rivals Carroll and Kapaun, is 5-2. The Grizzlies opened the year ranked No. 1 in Class 5A before the pair of early losses.

Hays High bounced back from its 27-21 home loss to Garden City with a 64-7 win versus struggling Abilene, and then back-to-back marquee wins: 39-17 at Dodge City and 47-43 at home versus Maize South last week. Dodge City and Maize South are both 5-2. Hays High held Maize South at the goal line on the game’s final play.

Northwest, long known for its historic offense, has outscored teams, 347-167. Northwest paces 5A in scoring offense again. Hays High has outscored teams, 315-114. Both squads have its bevy of standouts.

Hays High has averaged 330 rushing yards and 446 total yards a contest. The Indians have permitted just 241 yards per game.

Senior Jaren Kanak, a Clemson commit, the state’s No. 1 recruit and first-year starting quarterback, paces the conference with 957 yards and 14 scores. Senior running back Roy Moroni, who missed time early, has 714 rushing yards and 13 TDs. The win versus Maize South was a milestone victory for the program and fourth-year coach Tony Crough.

This is the best Hays High team in at least seven years. Senior Gavin Meyers, who has multiple Power 5 offers and is Hays High’s all-time leading tackler, easily paces the conference with 77 stops. Surprise defensive lineman Iden Baalman paces the conference with nine TFLs, two more than Meyers, per HHS broadcaster/WAC statistician Dustin Armbruster. Key safety Remy Stull was ejected last game because of a targeting call, though is expected to play Friday.

Northwest has averaged 555 yards per game, which is close to its all-time single season state record. Senior Geremiah Moore has passed for 727 yards with nine scores against one interception. He has 85 carries for 800 yards and 13 scores. Sophomore Cencere Thompson has 84 carries for 735 yards and five scores. Junior L.J. Phillips has enjoyed a breakout year with 101 carries for 1,509 yards and 21 scores. Northwest has struggled some with turnovers and allowing big plays, both this season and in the last three state title games.

The Grizzlies outgained Mill Valley in the last two 5A state games. However, Northwest is a collective minus-7 in the three state title losses. NW has seven total turnovers this year and is plus-10 in turnover margin.

The Grizzlies turned the ball over four times versus Carroll and twice versus KMC. Northwest allowed 458 yards to Kapaun, including 243 to sophomore Omari Elias. The Grizzlies permitted 484 yards to Wichita Heights. Even last week, Northwest allowed Wichita South to move the ball. Defensive coordinator Marc Marinelli has always stressed big defensive plays, such as tackles for loss. Northwest has averaged nearly nine TFLs a game. Senior Zach Morford has 42 tackles, 10.5 for loss. Junior Dontrell Harris has picked off four passes.

It’s been highly challenging for any team to match Northwest’s offense for years. Hays High permitted more than 500 yards of offense against Maize South last week. HHS will likely need to win this one in a shootout, but Northwest might have too firepower with its backfield and talented defensive line.

Our Pick: Northwest 50, Hays 35  (Nicholl)

3A No. 2 Wichita Collegiate (7-0) at 3A No. 1 Andale (7-0)

These two teams have been No. 1 and No. 2 in Class 3A all season. Just like last year, this will decide the District 7 and Ark Valley Chisholm Trail Division IV title.

Last year, Collegiate went 10-2 and advanced to the state semifinals. Both losses came to Andale, 43-14 in districts and 49-0 in the playoffs. This Friday could be the first of two meetings. Andale fifth-year coach Dylan Schmidt has still never lost a regular season game.

Andale has continued to dominate with its incredible depth and has won back-to-back 3A state titles. The Indians again have more than 80 players on the roster. Andale has won 32 straight games, the longest current run in Kansas and a current school record. The Indians have outscored teams, 417-30, and by far pace 3A in scoring offense. Andale is second in scoring defense. Collegiate has a 308-92 total. 

Andale and Collegiate are two of the final seven undefeated teams left in 3A.

Andale has won six in a row versus Collegiate, dating back 2016. This season, both teams earned a win against 4A No. 5 Mulvane, the only two losses for the Wildcats this year.

Andale has its waves of depth, including junior quarterback Wyatt Spexarth, senior Logan Spexarth, and its talented senior class that includes Clay Glasscock, Beau Kerschen (6-4, 225) and left tackle Garrett McCaskill (6-6, 285).

The Indians have enjoyed several big wins, including 32-6 at Mulvane in Week 2, and 61-6 at Wellington in Week 3, and 58-0 versus Halstead in Week 4. Thirteen different players touched the ball versus Wellington, including big games from Logan Spexarth, junior Jonah Meyer, and 6-1, 210-junior Riley Marx.

Against Halstead, Andale led 52-0 at halftime versus Halstead. Junior Cody Parthemer and the Spexarths all scored rushing TDs.

The Indians led Mulvane 16-0 at halftime. Andale limited Mulvane to 3.6 yards per play. Collegiate led Mulvane, 10-7, at halftime. The Spartans held Mulvane to five yards a play.

Last week, Collegiate rolled over Halstead, 82-16, with 580 total yards. Standout quarterback Wesley Fair completed 4 of 4 passes for 186 yards and three scores. He also had five carries for 112 yards and three TDs. Drew Charbonneau and Sam Agustin have paced the defense.

Fair is one of Kansas’ most premier players. However, Andale’s waves of depth gives the Indians the edge.

Our Pick: Andale 30, Collegiate 12 (Nicholl)

Frontenac (6-1) at Girard (7-0)

The two Class 3A schools will battle for a district title on Friday.

The Frontenac Raiders are on a five-game winning streak after falling 42-6 to Oklahoma’s Class 5A Coweta (6-1) in the second week of the season. Other than the loss to Coweta, the Raiders have boasted a stingy defense. In the six victories, Frontenac has pitched two shutouts and hasn’t allowed more than two touchdowns in a game.

Frontenac senior defensive end and tight end Landon Dean (6-4, 230) is one of the top recruits in the state and has already committed to play at Oklahoma State.

The Girard Trojans are undefeated and have displayed a bit more offensive firepower, averaging 38.7 points per game.

Junior quarterback Luke Niggemann (6-4, 190) assumed leadership of the team after taking over starting duties late in the 2020 season. Girard is enjoying its most successful season in recent years after posting a 4-6 record in 2020 and a 4-5 record in 2019. The Trojans won seven games for the first time since 2012.

The Trojans have not defeated the Raiders since a 7-6 win in 2012.

The two coaches -- Frontenac’s Mark Smith and Girard’s Neal Philpot -- were both All-American quarterbacks at NCAA Division II’s Pittsburg State.

Our Pick: Frontenac 28, Girard 26 (Schremmer)

2A No. 4 Chaparral (7-0) at Kingman (6-1)

Undefeated Chaparral will travel to Kingman in a game that will decide the Class 2A, District 6 championship.

Both teams are 4-0 in district play having picked up key district victories over perennial contender Garden Plain. Chaparral defeated the Owls 41-21 back on October 1st, while Kingman edged Garden Plain 10-7 the following week.

Chaparral has been one of the state’s biggest surprises under first-year head coach J.C. Zahradnik. The Roadrunners were 2-6 last season and were outscored 160-2 in the final four games of 2020.

Zahradnik took over the program from Jordan Moshier who left after two seasons to take the head coaching position at Goodland.

Since then, the Roadrunners haven’t lost. They’ve outscored opponents by an average of 37.8 to 8.8.

The offense is led by senior, first-year starter Wyatt Drouhard who is playing football for the first time since the eighth grade. Drouhard has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards and 25 touchdowns against only three interceptions.

Drouhard has a capable group of receivers led by seniors Kaden Harding and Alec Pfaff and juniors Jack Francis and Jackson Swartz. Swartz leads the team with 696 receiving yards on 225 receptions. He and Harding each have seven touchdown receptions. Harding has 376 receiving yards, while Pfaff has 215 yards and six touchdown catches.

Austin Clark leads the ‘Runner ground game with 377 yards and five scores, while Aiden Guy has contributed 285 yards and three touchdowns.

As much as the offense has been talked about, the Chaparral defense has allowed 62 total points this season and registered three shutouts.

On the other sideline, Kingman has own six consecutive games since a 34-14 season-opening loss to Cheney. The Cardinals are still unbeaten and currently the No. 3 ranked team in Class 3A.

Kingman has been equally impressive on defense having allowed 68 total points, but only 14 over the last five games – all victories. The Eagles have also posted three shutouts.

Junior quarterback Nolan Freund leads the Eagle offense. Freund has completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,205 yards and 12 touchdowns with only one interception.

Avery Albright, Carter Helm, and Geoff Holloway are all capable options out of the back field for the Eagles.

Kingman has won two of the last three in this series including last year’s 42-2 decision.

Our Pick: Kingman 26, Chaparral 21 (Nicholl)


1A No. 2 Inman (7-0) at 1A No. 3 Smith Center (7-0)

This has been a high-profile matchup for several weeks as both teams have delivered quality wins and put up excellent defensive numbers. Last year, Smith Center won at Inman, 29-22, in a game that the Redmen had a bigger lead for most of the contest.

Inman has been one of the best stories of 2021. The Teutons went 9-3 and advanced to the 1A state semifinals last year. Inman returned a high number of key players, including four-year starting quarterback Jace Doerksen, running backs Kendyn Blank and Kyler Konrade, along with receivers Harrison Brunk and Tanner Heckel.

Plus, Inman has significant experience up front, including athletic senior Dawson Mannebach, who has continued to wreak havoc across the board. Inman has outscored teams a remarkable 414-3. The Teutons pace Kansas in scoring defense. Inman has scored more points off safeties (four) than it has permitted points all season.

In Week 5, Inman won at Plainville, 48-3, the only points it has permitted this year. The following week, Plainville challenged rival Smith Center with a 28-25 defeat. Overall, Smith Center has outscored teams, 288-52, against a very similar schedule to Inman.

The Redmen are third in 1A in scoring defense. Smith Center is one of the state’s long-time premier programs. Head coach Darren Sasse and key assistants Mike Rogers and Brock Hutchinson (defensive coordinator) are all SC graduates and have all spent more than 20 years in the program at some level.

Smith Center, which took a 20-0 playoff home loss to Oakley last season, loses very few games – and even less at historic Hubbard Stadium.

Doerksen has completed 42 of 59 passes for 993 yards with 14 touchdowns against one interception. Inman has not allowed a sack. The Teutons have averaged 12.8 yards per play. Blank has 42 carries for 685 yards and 15 scores. Heckel has been a key multi-purpose player with 30 carries for 464 yards and six TDs. Konrade is at 28 carries for 321 yards and seven scores.

Brunk has 11 catches for 380 yards and six scores. Heckel has delivered 10 catches for 212 yards and three TDs. Konrade has 77 tackles, while Mannebach has 47 stops, eight TFLs and five sacks.

Smith Center senior quarterback Nathan Jaeger has completed 9 of 21 passes for 171 yards with two scores against no interceptions. Smith Center has averaged 334 rushing yards and 8.2 yards per rush, though has not matched the offensive output of Inman.

Four players have between eight and 10 rushing scores: Jaeger, senior Jake Kirchhoff, sophomore Luke Franklin, and junior Bentley Montgomery. Kirchhoff leads with 752 yards. Smith Center has multiple returning linemen. Montgomery has 62 tackles, and Franklin has 45 tackles, 10 for loss. Smith Center has not lost a district contest at home since a 14-7 loss to Phillipsburg in Week 9 of the 2015 season. Overall, SC enters on a 23-game district winning streak. Smith Center has not lost to a non-Phillipsburg team at home in more than eight years.

Inman is akin to Phillipsburg in several ways: four-year starting quarterback, loads of experience and big, athletic lineman. Smith Center struggled with Phillipsburg’s athleticism and passing game. Smith Center’s defense is always elite with Hutchinson, but the key is SC’s defensive backs versus Inman’s wideouts. Smith Center should have some clock-controlling drives, but Inman might have too much firepower.

Our Pick: Inman 28, Smith Center 14 (Nicholl)


1A No. 4 Sedgwick (7-0) at Conway Springs (6-1)

For the second straight season, Sedgwick and Conway Springs will play for the District 4 title. Just like last season, Sedgwick enters undefeated, and Conway Springs is a one-loss team with a close, low-scoring Week 1 defeat to rival Garden Plain.

Last year, Conway Springs jumped out to a big lead and held on to a 41-35 victory. The game is expected to feature Conway Springs’ running game against Sedgwick’s passing attack.

Conway Springs had 531 yards, all on the ground. Sedgwick delivered 395 yards, including 257 passing. Conway Springs graduated Jonathan Wright, who rushed 20 times for 295 yards and three scores versus Sedgwick and earned conference Most Valuable Player.

Like Sedgwick, Conway Springs has rolled through its district, including three straight sizable blowouts. Conway Springs beat Whitewater-Remington, 40-28, in Week 2. Sedgwick won at Remington, 56-14, two weeks ago.

Conway Springs’ Izic Billups has taken over as the main offensive player. He has completed 28 of 53 passes for 582 yards with seven touchdowns against one interception. He has 71 carries for 552 yards and 10 scores. Defensively, he has 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Brayden Kunz has 50 carries for 564 yards and 12 scores. Logan Warren has 34.5 tackles. Senior lineman Patrick Friess is Conway Springs’ lone first team all-league returning. Defensively, Friess has 8.5 tackles for loss.

Lance Hoffsommer is another in a long line of superb Sedgwick quarterbacks. Hoffsommer has completed 101 of 220 passes for 2,051 yards with 29 touchdowns against one interception. For his career, Hoffsommer is 425 of 627 for 7,353 yards with 90 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

Soon, Hoffsommer is expected to move past former Cardinal quarterback Hooper Schroeder as Sedgwick’s all-time passing yards. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Hoffsommer is not used as a runner as much as the past to keep him healthy. However, Sedgwick is also using him on defense some at cornerback, which is atypical for a Cardinal signal caller.

Ryan Stucky has enjoyed a big year at receiver with 33 catches for 901 yards and 14 scores. Sedgwick has nine different players with a receiving touchdown. Seniors Jordan Hansen and Blake Huebert are also key pass catchers. Coach Jeff Werner believes two of Sedgwick’s strengths are its wide receivers and big offensive line. Plays are called to get the ball to the open player, not a specific player.

Senior kicker Connor Tillman has 265 kick-scoring points. Werner has 42 tackles and 21 assists. This is one of Sedgwick’s biggest offensive lines in the last couple of years. Standout senior lineman Sam Culp (6-5, 245) is out for the season following an injury in an Oct 4. District win to Ell-Saline.

Sophomore Koen Werner (6-2, 225) is the starting middle linebacker and had only been playing defense. He was Culp’s backup and took over offensively when Culp was hurt. Werner and Tillman (6-2, 218) are the tackles. Junior Jace Helstrom (6-1, 240) is the center. The guards are freshman Peyton Reed and senior Austin Harjo (6-3, 265).

Last year, Conay led 21-14 after the first quarter and 35-14 at halftime. Conway led 41-21 with 9:08 left in the game before Sedgwick scored a pair of late touchdowns. Sedgwick is a combined 1-7 against Conway Springs and the Mid-Continent League, including Smith Center’s run-heavy Barta Bone offense, since 2014.

In the past, Sedgwick had a weakness going against the power run teams with its smaller offensive linemen. This year, coach Werner said the biggest difference is Sedgwick’s increased size up front and overall line play. Werner has also set a goal to control the clock better when Sedgwick gets a lead in a big game. Sedgwick certainly is more experienced – and likely has more talent – across the board. That tilts the game to Sedgwick, who is favored to get a big win for its program.

Our Pick: Sedgwick 42, Conway Springs 30 (Nicholl)

The Pick List:

Blue Valley West (4-3) at 6A No. 3 Blue Valley Northwest (6-1) – Blue Valley Northwest

6A No. 1 Derby (6-0) at Maize South (5-2) – Derby

Olathe North (5-2) at Olathe Northwest (5-2) – Olathe North

Topeka Seaman (5-2) at 6A No. 5 Washburn Rural (6-1) – Washburn Rural

Wichita East (4-3) at 5A No. 1 Bishop Carroll (6-1) Bishop Carroll

4A No. 1 Basehor-Linwood (7-0) at Pittsburg (5-2) – Basehor-Linwood

Hutchinson (4-3) at 5A No. 4 Maize (5-2) – Maize

Wichita Heights (5-2) at 5A No. 3 Kapaun Mt. Carmel (6-1) – Kapaun Mt. Carmel

McPherson (5-2) at Augusta (5-2) – McPherson

Towanda-Circle (5-2) at 4A No. 4 Buhler (6-1) – Buhler

Bishop Ward (4-3) at Topeka Hayden (6-1) – Hayden

Concordia (6-1) at Chapman (5-2) – Chapman

Atchison County (6-1) at St. Marys (3-3) – St. Marys

2A No. 5 Hoisington (6-1) at Beloit (5-2) – Beloit

Osage City (6-1) at Humboldt (5-2) Osage City

1A No. 5 Centralia (6-1) at Wabaunsee (5-2) Centralia

8M-I No. 2 Madison (7-0) at Central Burden (5-2)Madison

Medicine Lodge (6-1) at Goessel (5-2)Goessel

Solomon (5-2) at 8M-I No. 1 Little River (7-0)Little River

South Gray (4-2) at Leoti-Wichita Co. (5-2)Wichita County

Yates Center (6-1) at West Elk (6-1)West Elk

8M-II No. 1 Axtell (7-0) at Onaga (4-3)Axtell

Marais des Cygnes Valley (4-2) at Lebo (6-1)Lebo


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