Playoff Preview: Class 3A, 2A & 1A (Sectionals)

Humboldt defeated Caney Valley 24-0 in Week 2 - both are in 2A quarterfinals. (by Sheri Montgomery)
By: Matt Gilmore & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 9, 2022

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Class 3A

VIEW: 3A Bracket


Highlighted Game:

D4-#1 Holton (9-1) at D2-#1 Girard (10-0) – Holton

Holton and Girard will square off in the quarterfinal (Sectional) round for a second consecutive season. This time, the No. 2 ranked Wildcats will make the trip down to Girard to take on the fifth-ranked Trojans.

Last season, Holton dominated Girard 36-0 on a cold, windy night in Holton. Both teams entered the contest unbeaten, but the Wildcats quickly took control by forcing five Trojan turnovers and building a 29-0 lead by halftime. Matt Lierz led the Wildcats with 110 yards rushing and a touchdown. Garyson Booth added 79 yards and two scores and Jayden Fletcher rushed for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Holton’s defense limited Girard to 123 yards of total offense.

All of those key players return in what is a loaded and experienced backfield for Holton. The Wildcats average 376 yards per game on the ground, let by Booth who has rushed for 1,180 yards and 17 scores this season. Jace Boswell ha added 726 yards and 12 scores, while Lierz (478 yards) and Fletcher (460 yards) have combined for nine rushing touchdowns.

Lierz, a three-year starter, has only completed 11 passes this season, but nine of them have gone for touchdowns.

Girard also has an experienced and deep roster that has put together an impressive unbeaten season. The Trojans average 38 points per game while only allowing 8 points per contest.

The Girard offense is directed by senior Luke Niggemann (6-3, 190). Like Holton, Girard has several different impact players out of the backfield including Alex Coester, Adam Shireman, Ethan Davidson, and Beau Harris.

The Trojans advanced to this Sectional round by shutting out Frontenac for a second time this season.  Coester and Shireman each rushed for a pair of scores and Davidson added a touchdown as the Trojans won 36-0 after beating Frontenac 35-0 during the regular season.

This game will likely come down which team can avoid costly turnovers given each team’s ball-control offenses.

Other Sectional game:

D4-#2 Topeka Hayden (9-1) at D1-#3 Columbus (5-5) – Hayden


Highlighted Game:

D7-#1 Andale (10-0) at D5-#1 Rock Creek (9-1) – Andale

A high-profile matchup features Andale on its 48-game winning streak, against Rock Creek, the state’s best passing offense the last two seasons. Last year, Andale set school records with 53.4 points scored and 5.2 points allowed a game. This season, the Indians have an average score of 58-7.

Andale is known for its running game, though experienced quarterback Wyatt Spexarth finished seven of seven passing for 218 yards and three scores in the 45-6 win against Pratt. Andale has remarkable depth and continues its historical run. The Indians are two wins away from the fifth Kansas program to reach 50 straight victories. Andale is also in the running for statistically the greatest 3A single season ever.

Andale has its well-known group of seniors including Spexarth, RB Riley Marx and Cody Parthemer, OL/DL Jack Kraus, Kelby Eck, and Jonah Meyer. Andale opened last week’s win against Pratt with a long drive that yielded a touchdown and led by a couple scores midway through the second quarter.

The Indians are certainly the favorite, but Rock Creek poses a different challenge than what Andale has faced all season.  The Mustangs have an average score of 47-23. Quarterback Dalton Whitworth easily paces Kansas with 3,182 passing yards. Jayden Winans has 1,293 rushing yards. Ethan Burgess is second with 1,499 receiving yards. Yanci Spiller is a great two-way player at WR/CB with 458 receiving yards.

Rock Creek has won nine straight and scored at least 41 points in every contest until last week’s 21-11 win against Hesston.

The major question is, can Rock Creek create enough stops against Andale’s attack? Rock Creek has the ability to move the ball, but can the Mustangs consistently sustain drives and complete big plays?

Other Sectional game:

D7-#2 Cheney (8-2) at D5-#2 Clay Center (7-3) – Cheney


Class 2A

VIEW: 2A Bracket


Highlighted Game:

D4-#1 Nemaha Central (10-0) at D2-#3 Humboldt (8-2) – Nemaha Central

Second-ranked Nemaha Central will travel to Humboldt to take on the Cubs in one 2A quarterfinal. The Thunder and Cubs last met in the 2019 quarterfinals with Nemaha Central advancing with a 44-28 victory on their way to claiming the Class 2A state title a couple of weeks later.

The Thunder have been dominant all season in averaging more than 52 points per game while only allowing 10 per contest. The Thunder hold impressive victories over 3A quarterfinalist Holton (35-28) and fellow 2A quarterfinalist Sabetha (24-7). Last week, the Thunder eliminated two-time defending champion Rossville 36-13 behind their dominant offensive line and physical running game. Cooper Hajek rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns, while his brother Carter, a freshman, added 142 yards and a score.

For the season, Cooper Hajek has rushed for 1,663 yards and 34 touchdowns, while Carter has added more than 360 yards and four scores. Quarterback Brayden Uphaus has five rushing scores and has passed for around 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Thunder will face a Humboldt team that reversed a regular-season, district loss to Osage City (42-34) with last week’s 26-21 quarterfinal win. Humboldt has battled injuries and suffered a pair of district losses led the Cubs to a third place finish out of District 2.

In last week’s win at Osage City, Trey Sommer rushed for two touchdowns and tossed a touchdown pass as the Cubs built a 20-0 lead and held on to defeat the Indians. Cole Mathes added a touchdown run as Humboldt led 26-7 at halftime.

Sommer has had an outstanding year in rushing for 1,762 yards and 29 touchdowns, while also passing for nearly 400 yards and six scores. Sophomore quarterback Blake Ellis has thrown for 582 yards and seven touchdowns, but did not play last week. Mathes, also a sophomore, has added 548 yards on the ground and three scores.

Other Sectional game:

D1-#1 Caney Valley (8-2) at D4-#2 Sabetha (7-2) – Sabetha



Highlighted Game:

D6-#1 Kingman (10-0) at D8-#1 Beloit (8-2) – Kingman

This is a rematch from the 2A state semifinals last season. Beloit won, 22-19, and took state runner-up to Rossville. Kingman had its first semifinal appearance since 1972. This year, Kingman has been ranked No. 3 in 2A throughout the fall. Beloit, for the third straight season, started slowly. The Trojans opened 0-2 and have won eight in a row. Beloit have an average score of 34-13.

Beloit has received a huge breakout performance from Logan Arasmith. He has rushed for 1,923 yards, tops in the classification, and fifth-best in Kansas. Beloit has its well-known line, paced by senior Grady Seyfert, the reigning 2A Defensive Player of the Year.

Kingman is highly experienced with quarterback Nolan Freund, all-purpose threat Avrey Albright, linebacker Ty Birkenbaugh, and lineman Jake Fischer. Kingman runs its 3-3 Havoc defense. The Eagles were third in 2A with 10.3 points allowed last year.

This season, Kingman has improved even more on defense. The Eagles have the No. 1 scoring defense for all 72 remaining teams in nine classes with 5.4 points allowed. Kingman is third among 2A quarterfinal teams with 41.8 points scored a contest.

Last season, Kingman outgained Beloit, 233-210. All the Trojans’ yards come on the ground. Kingman was plus-3 in turnover margin. Beloit led 20-7 in the third quarter. Kingman scored in the third for a 20-13 margin, and then scored again in the fourth. This should be a close game, but Kingman is more experienced than last season and gets the slight edge.

Other Sectional game:

D7-#1 Hoisington (8-2) at D5-#1 Southeast of Saline (10-0) – SE Saline


Class 1A

VIEW: 1A Bracket


Highlighted Game:

D2-#1 Olpe (8-2) at D4-#1 Centralia (10-0) – Centralia

Two-time defending champion Olpe will visit Centralia in another installment of what has become a great playoff rivalry among the small-school powers. The two schools have combined for seven of the last 15 state championships in the state’s smallest 11-man classification. Olpe is vying for its third consecutive state title while also having claimed the 2014 crown. Centralia has won state titles in 2019, 2013, 2011, and 2009.

Centralia enters ranked No. 1 in the latest Kpreps poll, while Olpe is No. 2.

Centralia remains the only unbeaten team in Class 1A. Long-time defensive coordinator Roger Holthaus took over the Panther program in the off season after the retirement of head coach Larry Glatczak. The Panthers have several options out of their single-wing offense including quarterback Trenton Talley, Drew Gibbs, Brock Reinecke and Maveryck Becker.

Last week, Centralia scored 22 points in the second half to pull away from Jefferson Co. North, 34-8. Talley rushed for 170 yards and two scores in the win. Maveryk Becker and Drew Gibbs also added touchdowns in the first half.

Despite having graduated several key members from back-to-back state championship squads, Olpe finds itself a couple of wins away from playing in another title game. The Eagles have been known for their standout defense the past few seasons and posted another shutout last week, 14-0, over Pleasanton. It was Olpe’s second shut out of the Blu-Jays this season, having won the regular-season affair 27-0 on the strength of three interception returns for touchdowns.

In the rain last Friday, Blake Redeker rushed for 152 yards and both Eagle touchdowns. Redeker also picked off a Pleasanton pass late in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

These two schools have met six times in the playoffs since 2010 – each winning three. Like this year, all but one of those meetings have come in the state quarterfinals. Last season was the exception with Olpe beating the Panthers 28-6 in the sub-state semifinal. In three of those six meetings, the winner has gone on to claim the state title. This should be another outstanding contest in this series.

Other Sectional game:

D3-#1 St. Marys (8-2) at D1-#1 St. Mary’s Colgan (9-1) – St. Marys



Highlighted Games:

D5-#2 Smith Center (8-2) at D7-#2 Inman (9-1) – Inman

At various times this season, both Smith Center and Inman have been the 1A West favorite. Smith Center opened No. 2 in the classification, though took early season losses to Norton and Wabaunsee. The latter came in district play after Wabaunsee enjoyed a big comeback. Inman was ranked first in 1A for several weeks before a loss to Conway Springs and its standout back Brayden Kunz.

All four 1A West teams (Wabaunsee and Conway Springs in the second matchup) are relatively equal with different strengths and could reach the state championship game.

This is the healthiest Inman has been all season. Tanner Heckel (QB/ATH), Josiah Buller (QB/WR/CB) and Dawson McConnell (TE/DL) are all back to playing both sides.

These two teams have similar profiles, and this marks the third straight season the teams have met. Smith Center has an average score of 39-15. Inman has an average score of 40-10. In 2020, Smith Center defeated Inman, 29-22, in districts. Last year, Inman and Smith Center met at Hubbard Stadium for the district title. Both teams were undefeated. Inman led by one score entering the fourth quarter. The Teutons won 38-15 and eventually finished 11-1 and 1A state runner-up to Olpe.

In both games, Inman has outgained the Redmen: 310-213 in ’20 and 343-233 last season. The Redmen did not complete a pass in either game.

This season, Smith Center has won six in a row. The Redmen have averaged 316 rushing yards and 6.3 yards a contest. Three players, junior Luke Franklin, senior Bentley Montgomery and senior Jake Sasse, have between 846 and 974 yards.

Sasse, who has a couple of KCAC offers, enjoyed a big sophomore year, did not play last season after injury, and suffered injury in the summer. All three players have at between 10 and 16 rushing touchdowns.

Smith Center has completed nine of 32 passes for 266 yards with three scores against four interceptions. Smith Center has averaged 53 plays a game and averaged 6.5 yards per play. Last year, the Redmen had 7.8 yards per play. The top-four tacklers have between 51 and 55 tackles.

In the Week 2 Norton loss, Smith Center ran 58 plays, 17 more than Norton. Against Wabaunsee in Week 4, Smith Center led 26-6 at halftime. The Redmen outgained the Chargers, 370-316, though struggled against Wabaunsee’s passing game.

Inman has averaged 6.8 yards per play, permitted 3.2 yards per play and 3.1 yards a rush. Conway Springs rushed for 347 yards and all its yards came on the ground. Inman has battled through some injuries. Heckel missed several games, and Buller, who had never played under center before, stepped in at quarterback. Conway Springs is the lone game Inman has allowed more than 280 yards.

Inman has featured its outstanding cousin duo of Harrison (WR/CB) and Eli Brunk (WR/LB). Those two and Heckel helped Inman to a third-place state team finish in 2A last spring. Last year, Inman’s speed posed problems for Smith Center. The Redmen will move the ball and keep this a low-scoring game, but Inman at full strength might have the edge.

Other Sectional game:

D5-#1 Wabaunsee (9-1) at D7-#1 Conway Springs (6-3) – Conway Springs


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