Playoff Preview: 8M-I, 8M-II & 6-Man (Sectionals)

Northern Valley's Jeremiah Hansen (21) runs against Deerfield last week. (by Scott Sansom)
By: Matt Gilmore & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 8, 2023

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Kpreps 2023 playoff coverage

Class 8-Man, Division I

VIEW: 8M-I Bracket


Highlighted Game:

D1-#1 West Elk (9-1) at D2-#1 Lyndon (10-0) – Lyndon

Lyndon will host West Elk in one quarterfinal on the east side of the bracket. The Tigers have been ranked No. 2 all season and remain unbeaten. West Elk enters with a 9-1 record having won seven consecutive game since their lone loss, 48-28, to Central Burden.

Both teams enter with explosive offenses. West Elk has averaged 58.7 points per game, while Lyndon scores 57.1 points per contest. Each are led by dynamic players. West Elk features junior back Cyro Koop who has 1,485 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns. Lyndon quarterback Tanner Heckel has put up incredible numbers in his first season of eight-man football. Heckel has rushed for 1,698 yards and 39 touchdowns, while passing for 879 yards and 16 more scores.

Lyndon also features senior Jalen Massey who has added 1,087 yards rushing and 15 scores and is the team’s leading receiver with 351 yards and six scores. Lyndon also features D1-commit Kaedin Massey on the offensive line. Sophomore James Marcotte leads the Tiger defense with 79 tackles.

West Elk has shown balance with junior quarterback Trent Haag. Haag has passed for more than 700 yards and 11 touchdowns. While Koop is also the Patriots’ leading receiver, Maddex Moreno has added more than 500 yards of total offense and eight total touchdowns. Haag haas also added nine rushing scores.

West Elk’s challenge will be slowing down Heckel and the Lyndon offense. The Tigers have played a tougher schedule, and are more diverse on offense.

Other Sectional game:

D2-#2 Cair Paravel (8-2) at D2-#3 Chase County (7-3) – Cair Paravel


Highlighted Game:

D6-#1 Hoxie (9-1) at D5-#1 Ell-Saline (9-1) – Hoxie

One of the state’s closest quarterfinal matchups on paper has Hoxie travelling 167 miles one way to Brookville to take on the Ell-Saline Cardinals. Hoxie has won seven in a row and has a total margin of 462-110. The Indians rank third in the classification in defense for coach Lance Baar, who cleared 100 career wins at Hoxie earlier this fall. Ell-Saline has a margin of 443-156 and is sixth in defense in the classification.

Hoxie has quietly enjoyed a great season with just a competitive loss to No. 1 Leoti-Wichita County. Ell-Saline has won nine straight and was impressive in a win versus Meade last week.

Junior Duncan Bell has enjoyed a huge year with Hoxie with 81 of 127 passing for 1,133 yards with 18 scores against no interceptions. Hoxie has just three turnovers and is plus-14 in turnover margin. Bell has four interceptions on defense. Junior Brayden Scheetz and Bell have combined for 24 rushing touchdowns. Junior Easton Nickelson has 82 tackles, while junior Trent Fenner had 13 TFLs for a balanced defense that has enjoyed nice seasons from Sam Watkins and Jonathan Mader.

Ell-Saline rolled over Meade, 68-20. Kas Kramer had a key pick-six, while Ryder Dent paced the running attack and quarterback Marshall Johnson had another big game. Ell-Saline also forced a Meade safety and scored on a long reception after the safety free kick. Dent has 22 rushing scores, per KSAL radio. This should be a very close game, but Bell and Hoxie’s passing game has quietly enjoyed a big performance and could be the difference.

Other Sectional game:

D8-#1 Leoti-Wichita Co. (10-0) at D6-#2 Atwood-Rawlins Co. (9-1) – Wichita County


Class 8-Man, Division II

VIEW: 8M-II Bracket


Highlighted Game:

D4-#1 Osborne (9-1) at D3-#1 Axtell (10-0) Axtell

Osborne will meet with defending-champion Axtell for a second straight year in the quarterfinal round. Axtell won this contest 52-6 last season on its way to a second straight state championship. The Eagles have won 36 consecutive games since a 2020 playoff loss to Hanover.

Axtell scored 36 points in the first quarter last week in rolling past Hutchinson Central Christian. Standout athlete Brandon Schmelzle passed for a touchdown, rushed for a score, and intercepted three Cougar passes on defense. Axtell picked off five passes in the game.

The Eagles have plenty of weapons around Schmelzle on offense. Wyatt Detweiler rushed for a pair of touchdowns last week, and Eli Broxterman added a short touchdown run along with four catches for 77 yards. Landon Schmitz hauled in the touchdown pass from Schmelzle.

Osborne began the season ranked second behind Axtell. The Bulldogs then suffered a 28-26 loss to Hanover in Week 3 and dropped from the poll. The Bulldogs have since won seven straight while scoring nearly 65 points per game.

Osborne relies on their balanced rushing attack which includes three players with more than 500 yards rushing. Junior Dawson Lantz has rushed for 739 yards and 13 scores, while classmate Dalton Garman has added 680 yards and 14 touchdowns. Kaiden Schultze has added 508 yards and eight scores, while Hunter Howell has six rushing touchdowns. Doak Guttery and Garman have each played quarter back and have combined for 11 touchdown passes. Nate Goheen leads the Bulldogs with more than 330 yards and five scores.

Other Sectional game:

D3-#2 Frankfort (8-2) at D3-#3 Hanover (6-4) – Frankfort



Highlighted Game:

D8-#1 Minneola (10-0) at D7-#1 South Central (7-3) South Central

Minneola has consistently enjoyed playoff seasons, though this is the first 10-win mark in at least 20 years. Minneola has averaged a classification 57.7 points per game. Senior Eli Lang has completed 69 of 104 passes for 1,457 yards with 20 scores against two interceptions. Lang has 97 carries for 1,280 yards and 26 scores. Senior James Littlewood has enjoyed a breakout year with 80 rushes for 929 yards and 16 TDs. Minneola has 11.2 yards per carry. The Wildcats have enjoyed a big increase after 8.8 yards a rush last fall.

South Central was expected to be much improved this fall and stands at 7-3. The Timberwolves opened 0-2 with a pair of one-score losses. However, they have since won five in a row, including 44-14 versus Kinsley (then ranked No. 2) and beat Central Plains, 58-12, last week. South Central had averaged 9.5 yards per play, including 1,203 rushing yards by junior dual-threat quarterback JT Prusa. South Central has run the ball on 79 percent of plays and has nine scores against one interception. South Central has played a stronger strength of schedule and Minneola is facing some steep history. No southwest Kansas team has made an Eight-Man, Division II final four in at least 13 seasons. Minneola, though, has a slight edge with its running game.

Other Sectional game:

D5-#1 Victoria (8-1) at D8-#3 Dighton (6-3) – Victoria


Class 6-Man

VIEW: 6-Man Bracket

6-Man EAST

Highlighted Game:

D2-#2 Tescott (6-2) at D1-#1 Waverly (8-0) Waverly

Tescott and Waverly will meet in the state quarterfinal (Sectional) round for the second consecutive season. Waverly won last year’s meeting, 46-12.

Waverly advanced to this round with a 60-13 win over a depleted Altoona-Midway team that was missing three key players who were representing the school at the National FFA Convention. Waverly quarterback Ben Meehan tossed five touchdown passes in the win. The Bulldogs defeated Altoona-Midway 45-0 earlier this season.

Tescott showed no signs of rust in a 69-19 win over Peabody-Burns. It was the Trojans’ first game since October 6th – a four-week layoff due to an open date, a forfeit victory, and a first-round playoff bye. The Trojans are led by Carter Peters rushed for more than 400 yards and ten scores through their first six games. Last fall, Peters rushed for 915 yards and 16 scores.

In last year’s meeting, Waverly slowed the Trojan rushing attack to 63 yards on 25 attempts. Waverly scored in each quarter to pull away. The Bulldogs have an experienced quarterback in Meehan and are the favorite at home.

Other Sectional game:

D2-#3 Pawnee Heights (6-4) at D2-#1 Cunningham (8-1) – Cunningham


6-Man WEST

Highlighted Game:

D4-#2 Northern Valley (8-1) at D3-#1 Ashland (8-1) Ashland

Two teams that have stayed in the top-five all year match up again in the postseason. In 2021, Ashland defeated Northern Valley, 39-38, in the Wild West Bowl third-place game. Last year, Ashland beat a depleted Husky team, 68-20. Ashland went onto a state runner-up showing to Cunningham.

This season, both teams lost to Cheylin. Ashland fell, 62-32, in Week 3. Cheylin defeated Northern Valley, 54-6, in Week 4. Ashland has averaged 56.3 points per game, while Northern Valley has scored 48 points a game.

Both teams are highly senior-laden. Northern Valley has enjoyed great seasons from multiple players, including Jeremiah Hansen, who has cleared 2,500 rushing yards. Kenton and Gavin Thalheim, Jason Cox and Nolan Kinderknecht are among those with strong seasons. Ashland senior Britt Grigsby had 595 passing yards with 13 scores against three interceptions. Ashland has 9.8 yards per pass and 23 touchdowns against four interceptions. The Bluejays have eight yards per carry behind Grigsby, senior Landen McPhail and senior Kale Harris. Health will play a key role in a contest of two evenly matched teams. This should be similar to the 2021 matchup and could go either way, but Ashland gets a slight edge with its passing game and overall explosiveness.

Other Sectional game:

D3-#2 Ingalls (7-2) at D4-#1 Cheylin (9-0) – Cheylin


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