Playoff Preview: Class 3A & 2A (Sectionals)

Thomas More Prep quarterback Kade Harris. (by Everett Royer,
By: Conor Nicholl & Matt Gilmore for
Nov 11, 2021

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Class 3A

VIEW: 3A Bracket


D2-#2 Frontenac (8-2) at D4-#2 Rock Creek (7-3) – Rock Creek

A pair of district runners-up will have a chance to advance to the state semifinals as Frontenac will travel to Rock Creek. The Raiders and Mustangs dropped district contests to the two teams meeting in the other eastern 3A quarterfinal, Girard and Holton.

Frontenac has rebounded from that close 13-6 loss to Girard with consecutive wins over Columbus (26-6) and Galena (31-6). The Raiders’ other loss this season came back in Week 2 at Coweta, Oklahoma. The Coweta Tigers are currently 9-1 and playing in the second round of the Oklahoma Class 5A state playoffs.

Frontenac’s strength is up front with a big, experienced offensive and defensive line headlined by Oklahoma State commit Landon Dean (6-5, 245). The Raider OL will look to open holes for their athletic, dual-threat quarterback Collin McCartney.

The Raiders average more than 29 points per game, but have only scored 22 per contest the last four weeks. McCartney, Justice Compton, and Mario Menghini will look to control the ball on offense in order to keep Rock Creek’s offense off the field.  

Rock Creek enters Friday’s contest averaging 35 points per game and will face a stingy Frontenac defense that only allows 11 per contest. The Mustangs are led by senior quarterback Dalton Whitworth who has passed for 2,580 yards and 35 touchdowns this season. Whitworth has thrown the ball 300 times and has thrown 14 interceptions.

The Mustangs have a number of receiving options for Whitworth including Ethan Burgess, Daegen Vinduska, and Yanci Spiller. Burgess leads the team with 50 receptions for 909 yards and ten scores.  Spiller has added 43 catches for 479 yards and eight touchdowns, while Vinduska has 27 receptions for 587 yards and ten scores. Jaydon Winans leads the Rock Creek ground game with 638 yards and eight touchdowns.

The only other meeting came back in 2000 when Frontenac beat Rock Creek 40-14 in the 3A state semifinals.

D2-#1 Girard (10-0) at D4-#1 Holton (10-0) – Holton

Girard will travel to Holton in a contest featuring a pair of unbeaten teams in Class 3A. The Trojans enter this week ranked fifth, while Holton is No. 4.

For the Girard Trojans, success has come with a talented group of skill kids led by junior quarterback Luke Niggemann. Niggemann (6-3, 190) has passed for more than 1,000 yards on the season. The Trojan ground game is led by senior Ethan Merrell and junior Alex Coester who have each rushed for more than 600 yards.

Girard has been consistent on defense all season and is allowing only 9.5 points per game. They’ve been especially good the last five games in allowing a little more than 6 points per game. Last week against Parsons, the Trojan defense held the Vikings to 32 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Meanwhile, Girard rushed for 368 yards in the game.

Girard’s defense will need its best performance of the season against a powerful Holton rushing attack. The Wildcats are averaging 357 yards per game on the ground and feature a talented backfield that contains a lot of depth. Holton has had 20 different ball carriers this season and seven backs have more than 100 yards on the season.

Holton’s backfield is led by four juniors that each have rushed for more than 570 yards this season. Garyson Booth leads the team with 812 yards and nine touchdowns, while Jayden Fletcher gets leads the team in carries with 90 and has produced 736 yards and nine scores. Quarterback Matt Lierz has added 577 yards on the ground with 11 touchdowns and Jace Bosewell has rushed for 570 yards and six scores.

Lierz has passed for 276 yards and six scores, but the Wildcats have only attempted 29 passes all season and haven’t completed a pass in either of their past two games.

This is Girard’s best season since an 11-1 campaign back in 1999 in which the Trojans reached the state semifinals. That season ended with a 51-7 loss to Holton.


D7-#1 Andale (10-0) at D5-#3 Concordia (8-2) – Andale

Two-time defending state champion Andale has won 35 straight games, easily the longest current run in Kansas and a school record. The Indians have defeated every team by at least 23 points and have not permitted more than six points in any game.

Andale, with more than 80 players, have its terrific depth and loaded talent. Class 3A has a lot of quality, but Andale is the 3A favorite. Quarterback Wyatt Spexarth, Gage Prosser, Riley Marx, and Cody Parthemer are among the offensive playmakers. Andale’s defensive depth, which features defensive end Jonah Meyer and the secondary of Nathan Nemechek, Easton Landers, Parthemer and Chase Retter have controlled passing games.

Concordia is tied for the second-best showing in school history. The Panther won its lone state title in 1999. Concordia has not reached the semifinals or in any other season and have quarterfinal showings in ’78, ’14 and this year.

The Panthers have a three-win improvement from last fall. In 2020, Concordia averaged 29.8 points a game. This year, the Panthers opened with its 41-40 four-overtime win versus Wamego, the Red Raiders’ lone defeat. Concordia has upped to 40.5 points a game.

Senior Cav Carlgren, who recently picked up an Ottawa University offer, has completed 60 percent of his passes for 946 yards with 10 touchdowns against zero interceptions. Senior Keyan Miller has 182 carries for 1,683 yards and 23 scores. Concordia has enjoyed a great season, but Andale is again the 3A state favorite.

D6-#1 Southeast of Saline (10-0) at D8-#1 Cheney (10-0) – Southeast of Saline

One of the more highly anticipated matchups for two teams that have rarely been in this position. Cheney has its first 10-win season in school history. Southeast of Saline won its lone state title in ’05. Beyond that, the Trojans have made the quarterfinals four times, most recently in ’04 before this fall. Both teams are 19-1 since the start of 2020 with only a playoff loss to Wichita Collegiate last season.

SES has allowed just 25 points, best in Class 3A, 13 points better than Andale. Offensively, Andale (550 points) and SES (526) are easily the top-two 3A offenses. Cheney has a total score of 414-93 against a harder strength of schedule than the Trojans. Cheney is 28-3 in its last 31 games with two losses coming to Andale.

Cheney made the quarterfinals in ’17 and the semifinals in ’19. The only other trip that deep was a ’91 quarterfinal showing. Coach Shelby Wehrman, a former Derby assistant, has done terrific work building the Cheney program, mainly through a dynamic offense with great quarterbacks and skill players.

Southeast of Saline has longtime coach Mitch Gebhardt, who has cleared 100 career wins, the bulk coming in Gypsum. Junior Luke Gebhardt has stepped in as a first-year starter after he replaced his brother, Jaxon. Luke has completed 74 percent of passe for 2,112 yards with 27 scores against three interceptions. Senior Matthew Rodriguez has 101 carries for 573 yards and 18 scores. Defensively, he has recorded 71 tackles, including 21 for loss. Senior Dalton Bunch has 17 TFLs, while seniors Dawson Adams and Jasper McDowell both have 11. Southeast of Saline has plenty of speed, especially with senior Chase Poague (35 catches, 809 yards, 15 scores).

Southeast has routinely had several nice players, especially at quarterback, under coach Gebhardt. This year’s squad, though, has speed across the board and multiple players, such as McDowell, who was out last season with injury and have had a breakout year.

Cheney, which also owns a win versus Wichita Collegiate, has quarterback Harrison Voth, who has delivered more than 2,220 passing yards. Luke Grace, Dayton Higgs and Jack Voth have been key playmakers. No team has been able to solve Voth, though Wichita Collegiate slowed down Cheney’s passing attack in a 21-3 contest last week. Cheney rushed for just 20 yards, and Voth finished 13 of 25 passing for 202 yards with a score. Cheney had a key punt return for a touchdown.

Voth is among the best small-school quarterbacks in Kansas. This is likely coach Gebhardt’s best team he’s ever had at Southeast of Saline. The big matchup comes down to the Trojans’ DBs – which haven’t faced many passing attacks, and certainly not one like Cheney – versus Voth and his playmakers.


Class 2A

VIEW: 2A Bracket


D1-#1 Riverton (8-2) at D3-#1 Rossville (10-0) – Rossville

Top-ranked Rossville will play host to Riverton with a spot in the state semifinals on the line.

Riverton advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008 with a 28-22, overtime win over Osage City. In rainy conditions, the Rams trailed 14-0 at halftime before finally getting on the board in the second half on a Derek Larison touchdown run. Riverton then scored twice in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

Larison is back after missing several games with an injury. He helps pace the Rams ground-oriented offense under long-time high school and collegiate coach Johnny Mallet.  

Riverton was impressive on defense last week as well, limiting Osage City to 64 rush yards on 22 attempts.

Rossville will present a completely different challenge. The defending-champion Bulldawgs have won 23 consecutive games and have only played two games within 20 points this season. One of those contests came in last week’s 32-12 victory over Nemaha Central. Corey Catron passed for nearly 150 yards and a touchdown and rushed for more than 100 yards and three more scores in the victory.

Catron has played well at quarterback since all-state starter Torrey Horak went down with an injury in Rossville’s 24-19 win over Silver Lake back in Week 7. Catron has passed for more than 450 yards and six touchdowns and has added 893 rushing yards and 18 scores.

An encouraging sign for Rossville was Horak’s return to the field last week. He played some snaps on defense and even caught a pass from Catron.

Rossville has been the top-ranked team in Class 2A all season and even without Horak at full strength, their on-field performance has done little to remove their consideration as a favorite to win another state title.

D2-#1 Wellsville (10-0) at D3-#2 Silver Lake (8-2) – Silver Lake

Third-ranked Wellsville will travel to traditional power Silver Lake with a spot in the state semifinals on the line.

Wellsville has been somewhat of a surprise this season to many. The Eagles returned plenty of talent from last year’s playoff team, but not many would have predicted them to be unbeaten after 10 games.

Most of that success has fallen on the shoulders of a solid offensive line and a great season from junior running back Nash Money. The quick, shifty Money has rushed for 1,497 yards and 29 touchdowns this season.

Fellow junior Dylan McCarty has played well at quarterback in passing for 865 yards and 10 scores. David Signs leads the Eagles with more than 300 receiving yards and four scores.

On the defensive side of the ball, Wellsville is led by senior Dylan Schnoor’s 73 stops, including 10.5 for loss.  Kaleb Green and Jake Berg have spent a fair amount of time in the opponents’ backfield as well with 15 and 13 tackles for loss, respectively. Green has registered 11.5 sacks. The Eagle secondary have 15 interceptions with Dezmond Winton (6) and McCarty (4) combining for 10 of those.

That secondary will be tested by a Silver Lake offense that likes to throw the ball with senior quarterback Daigen Kruger. Kruger has completed more than 60 percent of his passes this season for 1,750 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s also the team’s leading rusher with more than 500 yards and seven scores.

Brogan Renfro has contributed 720 yards of total offense and 13 total scores. Kruger also has a solid group of receivers in Gannon Remer, Troy Heiman, and Kamryn Kaniper. Remer leads the team with 512 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, while Heiman and Kaniper have combined for 12 touchdown receptions.

The key to this one may be Wellsville’s ability to pressure Kruger with their standout defensive front. While Silver Lake has surrendered nearly 19 points per game this season, their explosive offense has typically been the difference in their victories.  


D5-#1 Hillsboro (9-1) at D8-#2 Beloit (7-3) – Hillsboro

Hillsboro has enjoyed its best season since a state semifinal run in 2006. Beloit had its surprise semifinal finish as a sub-.500 team last fall.

Beloit was ranked in the preseason top-5 in 2A, though fell out after a pair of early season losses to Southeast of Saline (36-6) and Concordia (33-14), a pair of Class 3A quarterfinal squads that have combined for two losses. Since then, Beloit has permitted just 32 points, including a 7-6 loss to Hoisington for the district title.

Beloit has faced the No. 3 SOS in 2A with a combined score of 302-113, per Prep Power Index. Hillsboro has a 447-110 margin against the No. 43 SOS.

Beloit is powered by its veteran offensive line, led by Grady Seyfert and Brennan Walker, along with returners at quarterback (Owen Eilert) and running back (Benson Berndt). Last week, Beloit cruised to a 51-6 win versus Cimarron, a game that yielded 212 rushing yards and five scores from Berndt. Beloit led 35-0 at halftime. Two weeks ago, Berndt rushed for 213 yards and four TDs in a big win versus Lakin.

Hillsboro eliminated surprising Chaparral, 41-14, last week in a game that the Trojans led 33-0.

Senior quarterback Matthew Potucek delivered 355 yards of total offense and four TDs in the win. Overall, Potucek has 1,562 passing yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 906 more yards and 18 scores. For his career, Potucek has produced nearly 7,300 yards of total offense (4,623 passing | 2,604 rushing) and 92 touchdowns (61 passing | 31 rushing).

Jamari Harris has added 1,005 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns for the Trojans.  Duncan Duell has 459 receiving yards to lead the team, while Frank Wichert (344 yards), Nicholas Smith (284 yards), Jaxxon Hanschu (178 yards), and Tyson Plenert (170 yards) are all viable threats catching the ball. Wichert paces the group with six touchdown receptions.

Beloit has grinded teams down in recent weeks, but will face its best offense since early season. Class 2A West has been wide-open all year, and this should be another close game. Hillsboro’s dynamic offense gets the slight edge.

D6-#1 Kingman (9-1) at D7-#2 Thomas More Prep-Marian (8-2) – Kingman

Two teams have historic years for its programs meet up at Fort Hays State University’s Lewis Field Stadium in what should be a close, low-scoring game.

Kingman has already tied the second-best season in school history after a quarterfinal showing in 1999 and a state runner-up in ’72. TMP has won its first playoff games since ’02, when it made the state semifinals for the best season in the last 51 years. This is the fourth occasion TMP has made at least the state quarterfinals. The Monarchs have lost in triple overtime to Russell in Week 2 and by three on a late field goal to Cimarron. TMP is undefeated at home in 2021. Kingman has won nine in a row after it led a chunk of the contest versus undefeated Cheney, currently ranked No. 2 in 3A.

Both squads rank in the top-five in scoring defense and have experienced quarterbacks with Kingman’s Nolan Freund and TMP’s Kade Harris, both juniors. Kingman coach Tanner Hageman has posted 3-6, 6-3 and 9-1 records. He is a former FHSU wide receiver. The Eagles have limited size, and Freund weighs more than three offensive linemen. However, Kingman has plenty of athletes; the coaching staff has significantly stressed multi-sport players.

Senior Colby Schreiner, a two-time top-three finisher at state wrestling, and junior middle linebacker Ty Birkenbaugh have paced the defense. Both players were hurt an ample part of 2020. Schreiner is a two-time team captain. They led defensive coordinator Dustin Beam’s Havoc 3-3 stack defense. Last year, Kingman finished sixth in 2A in scoring defense with 13.4 points allowed a contest.

This year, the duo paces Kingman’s Havoc unit that tracks and assigns point values to a variety of statistics, including tackles, turnovers, pass breakups, re-routes and double teams. Either one has been the team defensive MVP in seven of the ten contests. Senior Aaron Seimans has played well up front, along with Jake Fischer, a transfer from nearby six-man Cunningham. Seimans is the team’s biggest key player at around 200-205 pounds.

Freund has completed 121 of 214 passes for 1,977 yards with 17 touchdowns against three interceptions. Geoff Holloway has rushed for 466 yards, and Freund has 433. Junior Avrey Albright is the top receiver with 34 catches for 750 yards and six scores. Freund, with the primary kicker, is 31 of 38 on extra points and 3 of 6 on field goals.

TMP has featured its own standout defense that delivered four straight shutouts in midseason, the best in more than 50 years. In addition to Harris, TMP has its veteran group with RB Bryce Seib, WR/K Jace Wentling, junior Michael Hale and its sophomore defensive linemen with Kendall Walker and Kolton Hagans. Harris has rebounded from an ankle injury with 862 passing and 1,091 rushing yards. TMP has completely shaped its two playoff wins with key non-offensive plays. Two weeks ago, the Monarchs opened the win versus Minneapolis with a pair of pick-sixes. Versus Hoisington last week, TMP played an exceptional first half, including a Harris kick return. Wentling kicked a 37-yard field goal late.

Expect this one to be low-scoring where special teams and field position will likely prove pivotal. Teams have played very similar schedules. This is one of the closest games of all classes on paper, but on a per-play basis, Kingman has been slightly better statistically.



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