The Pick List - Week 5

Centralia's Mavryk Becker goes up for a ball against Christ Prep. (photo by Holly Haufler)
By: Conor Nicholl & Matt Gilmore for
Sep 27, 2023

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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. 2 Olathe North (4-0) at 6A No. 1 Gardner-Edgerton (4-0)

For the second consecutive week we have a marquee game featuring the top-ranked team in Class 6A. After handling Class 5A No. 1 Mill Valley last week, 6A No. 1 Gardner-Edgerton will host 6A’s No. 2 team, Olathe North this week.

The Trailblazers went through the same gauntlet of a schedule last season, losing both of these matchups – 35-14 to Mill Valley and 13-2 to Olathe North. Coach Jesse Owens’ team then rebounded to win six of its next seven games before falling 21-20 in overtime to Manhattan in the Class 6A state championship game.

So far this season, last week’s 49-10 win over Mill Valley is among the closest of the Blazers’ four victories. Gardner-Edgerton opened with a 42-7 win over Shawnee Mission East before shutting out Shawnee Mission South (58-0) and Olathe West (42-0) in consecutive weeks.

Against Mill Valley, Gardner-Edgerton’s offense showed incredible balance in rushing for 259 yards and passing for 211 yards. Quarterback Bravin Powell completed 7 of his 9 pass attempts for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Standout athlete Randy Singleton caught three passes for 136 yards – all of which he simply outran the Mill Valley defense to the end zone.

Powell was equally effective in the ground game adding 74 yards including a 51-yard touchdown sprint. Sophomore Syre Padilla led the team with 75 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts.

On the season, Powell has passed for 591 yards and nine touchdowns. Singleton has nine catches for 301 yards and six touchdowns, while Colton Hawkinson has 159 receiving yards and two scores.

Powell also leads the team with 322 yards rushing and six scores. Padilla has added 231 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while Dylan Butash has rushed for 207 yards. Last year’s leading rusher Dawson Kindler, who rushed for 1,500 yards and 30 touchdowns, moved to linebacker this season.

Olathe North enters undefeated and scoring 48 points per game. The Eagles have posted victories over Olathe East (42-14), Shawnee Mission Northwest (35-23), Shawnee Mission North (61-28), and Shawnee Mission South (54-31).

As usual, the Eagles are getting things done on the ground to the tune of nearly 270 yards per game. Senior T.J. Porter leads the team with 483 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Along with Porter, quarterback Jamison Sarver, Miller Jones, and Aiden Bruce are each averaging more than 8.0 yards per carry. Sarver has 175 yards and a touchdown, while Jones has added 174 yards and two scores. Bruce has six rushing touchdowns to go along with his 145 rush yards. He is also the team’s leading receiver with 18 catches for 248 yards and two scores.

Sarver has passed for 533 yards and four scores while completing nearly 80 percent of his passes.

Defensively, Xzavier Woods leads a balanced group with 26 tackles. The Eagles have surrendered some points this season, allowing 24 per contest. They will likely need to play their best game against the Trailblazers this week.

Coach Jesse Owen is trying to beat his alma-mater for the first time at Gardner-Edgerton. Olathe North has won the last three in the series with the Trailblazers last victory against the Eagles coming back in 2013.

Our Pick: Gardner-Edgerton 35, Olathe North 24 (Gilmore)

6A No. 3 Washburn Rural (4-0) at Junction City (3-1)

Another week, another key Centennial League showdown. This time it is third-ranked Washburn Rural traveling to Junction City.

Washburn Rural is coming off of last week’s impressive 35-28 over defending 6A champion Manhattan. Tied at 28-28, Washburn Rural quarterback Branton DeWeese hit Blake Recinos on a touchdown pass in the final 25 seconds to pull off the victory and snap the Indians’ 16-game winning streak. Manhattan had won five of the previous six meetings in the series.

DeWeese threw four touchdown passes in the game and has now passed for nearly 550 yards this season.  Junior Lafayette Thompson and sophomore T.J. Minikwu each have rushed for more than 200 yards this season. Titan Osburn remains a top receiving target for DeWeese.

The Junior Blues were good defensively in last week’s win – forcing three turnovers, including a pick-6 by Wilson Miller.

Washburn Rural has built a strong resume thus far this season. The Junior Blues season-opening win over Wichita East (26-25) looks even better after the Blue Aces upset Wichita Northwest last week. Rural then defeated De Soto (28-14) and Piper (51-15) before last week’s win over Manhattan.  

Junction City has won three consecutive games after a season-opening 20-14 overtime loss at Hays High. The Blue Jays picked up road wins at Dodge City (52-35) and McPherson (27-2) before last week’s 41-7 home win over Bishop Carroll.

The Blue Jays dominated Bishop Carroll last week, leading 41-0 through three quarters and completely shutting down the Golden Eagle offense. Junction City held Carroll to 139 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers. Carroll rushed for 36 yards on 17 attempts.

Offensively, Junction City has been led by quarterback Brock Bazan. Bazan threw three touchdown passes in the win over Carroll and has now passed for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns. MC Taylor is the Blue Jays’ leading rusher with more than 320 yards and six touchdowns. He had 140 yards and three scores last week.

Junction City has won four straight in this series with Rural’s last victory coming 34-24 back in 2018.

Our Pick: Washburn Rural 21, Junction City 17 (Gilmore)

Scott City (3-1) at Hugoton (4-0)

The winner of this contest will have major ramifications in District 8 and the GWAC. Scott City has won 11 straight in this series with the last loss coming in 2005. However, Hugoton lost, 27-21, in an overtime contest last year.

Jay Witt, a longtime Texas coach, has quickly elevated Hugoton. The Eagles are 4-5, 6-3 and 4-0 in Witt’s three seasons as coach. Hugoton had not won more than six games since 2009. Hugoton is 4-0 for the first time since ’09. The Eagles have played three road games. Hugoton won Southwestern Heights (52-0), won at Ulysses (55-13), versus Guymon (Okla.), 55-13 and at Colby, 27-6.

Against Colby, Hugoton posted 54 plays for 286 yards, including 275 on the ground. Colby took a 6-0 lead on a 60-yard pass in the first quarter before Hugoton scored on a 61-yard run. In the second quarter, Hugoton had a two-yard scoring run, and added TD runs of 15 and 10 yards in the third.

Scott City is 3-1 with the only loss to Millwood (Okla.) in a 6-0 defeat. The Beavers are eighth in 3A defense with 10.3 points per game allowed, while Hugoton is ninth at 11.3. Hugoton is seventh in 3A offense with 44.8 points per game, while Scott City has delivered 33.5 points a contest.

Last week, Scott City led 14-0 after three quarters and pulled away in the fourth for a 30-0 home win versus Thomas More Prep-Marian. TMP was undefeated, though is highly depleted with multiple starters hurt, including at quarterback. Scott City held the Monarchs to 52 plays for 92 yards, along with 2 of 15 on third/fourth down. Scott City ran 48 plays for 278 yards. Scott City outgained Millwood, 335-97, and allowed just a fourth quarter touchdown. In Week 2, Scott City beat a solid Wray (Colo.) squad, 54-22. The Beavers had 280 passing and 213 rushing yards.

Avry Noll blocked a punt versus TMP, while Collin McDaniel has served as a primary ball carrier. Camden Vulgamore has been solid at quarterback.

Griffin Heger has been Hugoton’s standout with 30 carries for 298 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2. Overall, he has 101 carries for 844 yards. Sebastian Gonzalez is solid up front for Hugoton.

Both teams have strong kickers: Christian Zizumbo for Hugoton, and Jackson Rumford for Scott City. Witt has done excellent work with Hugoton and Heger might be the best player on the field, though Scott City might have more all-around depth and a stronger defense.

Our Pick: Scott City 21, Hugoton 14 (Nicholl)

2A No. 4 Southeast of Saline (4-0) at 3A No. 5 Clay Center (4-0)

Possibly the state’s marquee game for all classes, the North Central Activities Association’s Southeast of Saline meets North Central Kansas League’s Clay Center. This is the only third all-time matchup between the schools. SE Saline won, 45-8, in the 2020 playoffs.

Southeast of Saline won, 26-14, in this contest last season, shortly before Clay Center started a surprising run that eventually ended in the 3A state semifinals. SE Saline went 11-1 and lost to Kingman in double overtime in the 2A semifinals. The Trojans have not lost in the regular season since Week 7 of 2019. This fall, Clay Center owns a Week 1 victory versus Wamego, currently fifth in Class 4A. Clay Center is tied for third in 3A in scoring defense with 8.3 points per game and fifth with 45.3 points a contest.

SE Saline has been equally as dominant in 2A. The Trojans are tied for second in 2A offense with 40.5 points a game and third in 2A defense with 4.8 points allowed a contest. Southeast of Saline moved into the rankings in Week 3. Clay Center has remained fifth in 3A in every poll.

SE Saline is at 6.8 yards per play behind the emergence of senior quarterback Daniel Kejr for longtime coach Mitch Gebhardt. Kejr has completed an impressive 73 percent (50 of 69) for 628 yards with five scores against two interceptions. He has 67 carries for 365 yards and eight scores. Senior Nathan Friesen, a key returning player, has 50 carries for 286 yards and three TDs. Junior Tucker Thaxton has 20 catches for 378 yards with five touchdowns.

Coach Gebhardt told Kpreps last year that he believed the Class of 2026 (current sophomores) was highly impressive. Three of the top-four and five of the leading nine tacklers are sophomores. Sophomore Grady Gebhardt has 42 tackles, five for loss. Kejr was a backup running back, and Thaxton was the No. 4 receiver in ’22 before both moved into leading roles.

Outside of quarterback Mark Hoffman, Clay Center returned basically its entire starting skill players from an 8-4 squad. The Tigers have been highly explosive with 9.5 yards per play. Senior Brody Hayes has continued his huge career with 35 carries for 321 yards and three scores. Senior Carter Long has 30 rushes for 268 yards with two touchdowns. Junior Cole Pladson has stepped up with 28 of 40 passing for 506 yards with 11 scores versus two interceptions.

SE Saline has done well with replacing a lot of key players from last year, though Clay Center has a great chance to break the Trojans’ long regular season winning streak.

Our Pick: Clay Center 24, SE Saline 21 (Nicholl)


Jackson Heights (4-0) at 1A No. 2 Centralia (4-0)

There are only six unbeaten teams remaining in Class 1A football and two of them will meet in Centralia on Friday night. Jackson Heights will visit the host Panthers in a game that will likely decide the Class 1A, District 4 championship.

Jackson Heights has rolled to an unbeaten start behind an offense that has average 41.5 points per game and a defense that is only allowing 8.3 points per contest.

Offensively, the Cobras want to run the ball and have done so to the tune of 252 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Drake Mellies leads the ground game with 577 yards and ten touchdowns. Junior Kade Holliday has added 352 yards and two scores while averaging 9.5 yards per carry.

Mellies has provided some balance in the passing game by passing for 432 yards and two touchdowns, though he has been intercepted six times. Weston Shultejans is the team’s leading receiver along with Joshua Smith. The duo has combined for 18 of the teams 27 receptions.

Defensively, Shultejans leads the team with 16 tackles, while Mellies has paced the secondary with three interceptions.

Centralia will pose the biggest test thus far for Jackson Heights whose first four opponent have combined for a 3-13 record.

The Panthers opened the season with an 18-16 battle over a very solid Valley Heights team that currently sits at 3-1. Centralia then outscored Christ Prep Academy 44-32 before returning to the Twin Valley League to pick up consecutive big victories over Onaga and Troy.

Centralia is led by Maveryk Becker who had a pair of touchdowns on the ground in last week’s win over Troy. The Panthers churned out 327 yards on the ground against Troy. Becker also returned an interception for a touchdown – his second pick-six of the season. Jacob Flentie added a short touchdown run and freshman Quentin Alderfer also scored.

Becker is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield from Flentie. He had 115 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the win over Christ Prep, while also rushing for more than 100 yards and a score.

In the win over Valley Heights, senior Brody Grossnickle rushed for a pair of scores and Flentie tossed a touchdown pass.

Last season, Centralia won at Jackson Heights, 28-6, and has won five straight meetings in the series.

Our Pick: Centralia 26, Jackson Heights 14 (Gilmore)

8M-I No. 4 Moundridge (4-0) at Little River (3-1)

Two coaches who know each other very well match up Friday in a key Eight-Man, Division I game that should decide District 4. Little River coach Kevin Ayers in Kansas’ only eight-man coach to win state titles at three different schools: Jetmore, Wallace County and Little River.

In ’07, he led Wallace County to a 13-0 record with Tyler O’Connor as a standout player. O’Connor served as Canton-Galva’s defensive coordinator the last few years and faced Ayers and Little River in several epic matchups, including a sub-state championship game. Little River has finished first, second and second in the last three years in Eight-Man, Division I.

The Redskins are 46-8 under Ayers and have never lost a home game. Little River has captured 27 straight home wins, the second-longest current run behind Andale. In Week 1, Little River held off Canton-Galva, 42-40, at home. Canton-Galva is currently ranked fourth in Eight-Man, Division II. Little River lost, 24-14, at Ell-Saline in Week 3.

Moundridge was a preseason Kpreps Potential Breakout Team and has enjoyed a great start under O’Connor. Moundridge won, 32-6, at Ell-Saline in Week 1, and then cruised the last three weeks against struggling teams.

In Week 4, Moundridge defeated Pretty Prairie, 48-0, and allowed seven total yards of offense. Moundridge is first in Eight-Man, Division I in scoring defense with three points allowed a contest. Last season, Moundridge was No. 19 with 33.3 points permitted a game.

Moundridge picked up McPherson transfers Kreighton and Kaizer Kanitz, and has multiple key athletes back from the 2A state basketball team. Junior Bear Moddelmog and sophomore Layton Schmidt are at the ends. Senior Joaquin Huff is among the key Moundridge defensive players. Junior Henry Hecox is a third-year starting quarterback.

Little River graduated a host of standouts, including Shrine Bowler Braxton Lafferty. Senior Andrew Smith has moved into the starting role with 216 passing, 741 rushing and 14 TDs accounted for. Little River has committed six turnovers and is minus-2 in turnover margin. Smith is a terrific player, though Moundridge likely has more offensive depth and has a strong chance to end Little River’s home winning streak.

Our Pick: Moundridge 34, Little River 24 (Nicholl)

The Pick List:

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

Blue Valley Northwest (2-2) at Blue Valley West (2-2) – Blue Valley West

Liberal (4-0) at Garden City (3-1) – Garden City

5A No. 2 Mill Valley (3-1) at Olathe South (3-1) – Mill Valley

Andover Central (3-1) at Goddard (3-1) – Goddard

Maize South (3-1) at Maize (2-2) – Maize South

Ottawa (2-2) at Spring Hill (3-1) – Spring Hill

Shawnee Heights (3-1) at 5A No. 5 De Soto (3-1) – De Soto

Eudora (2-2) at 4A No. 3 Louisburg (4-0) – Louisburg

4A No. 5 Wamego (3-1) at Coffeyville (3-1) – Wamego

Hesston (2-2) at Kingman (3-1) – Kingman

2A No. 3 Hoisington (4-0) at Pratt (2-2) – Hoisington

Haven (3-1) at Garden Plain (3-1) – Garden Plain

Osage City (4-0) at Sedgwick (3-1) – Osage City

Riley County (2-2) at 2A No. 2 Sabetha (4-0) – Sabetha

Silver Lake (3-1) at Rossville (2-2) – Rossville

Burlingame (3-1) at Cair Parvel (2-2) – Cair Paravel

Hill City (2-2) at Quinter (4-0) – Quinter

Madison (4-0) at 8M-I No. 2 Lyndon (4-0) – Lyndon

South Sumner Co. (4-0) at Oxford (3-1) – South Sumner Co.


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