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

Hoisington QB Tony Moore (11) runs earlier this season. (by Everett Royer,
By: Matt Gilmore & Conor Nicholl for
Nov 8, 2023

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Kpreps 2023 playoff coverage

Class 3A



Highlighted Game: (Gilmore)

D4-#1 Topeka Hayden (10-0) at D1-#2 Parsons (9-1) – Hayden  

The eastern half of Class 3A is represented by the champion and runners-up of District 1 and District 4. Topeka Hayden, unbeaten and ranked third, will travel south to Parsons in one quarterfinal. Hayden is the district champion from District 4, having defeated runner-up Holton 24-7, while Parsons is the runner-up from District 1. The Vikings lone loss of the season came on a late field goal, 10-8, to district-champion Frontenac.

Hayden has rolled to a 10-0 season behind an offense an explosive offense and a defense that has given up just 7.5 points per game. The Wildcat defense has posted four shutouts and held four other opponents to just a single score. Carter Charvat and Jude Konrade make up one of the better linebacker duos in the state. Hayden owns victories over traditional powers Olpe, Silver Lake, Rossville, and Holton.

Last week, Hayden eliminated Santa Fe Trail, 42-24. Kade Mitchell and Dom Ridley each rushed for two touchdowns and Jensen Schrickel added a score in the win. Sophomore Connor Hankia got the start in place of injured starter Jett Wahlmeier and tossed a touchdown pass to Schrickel.

The Wildcat backfield features balance with Mitchell leading the way with nearly 650 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Ridley has added more than 450 yards and nine scores. Broderick Desch has also surpassed 350 yards and eight scores.

Parsons features a standout back on its own in senior Jahmarion Washington. Washington has rushed for 1,423 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Tra Mack has provided balance in throwing for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. Seniors Landon Wheat and J.J. Kendrick have been Mack’s primary receiving targets. Wheat has a team-high 586 yards and four scores, while Kendrick has 39 receptions for 476 yards and four touchdowns.

In last week’s 50-22 win over Prairie View, Mack passed for 266 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with Wheat six times for 155 yards. Washington controlled the ground game with 223 yards and four scores on 21 carries.

Defensively, Parsons is led by linebacker Cade Brown who has 89 tackles, including 15 for loss. The Viking secondary has 13 interceptions led by Jason Smart with five and Makai Baugh with three.

Other Sectional game:

D1-#1 Frontenac (9-1) at D4-#2 Holton (6-4) – Holton


Highlighted Game: (Nicholl)

D5-#1 Clay Center (9-1) at D7-#1 Cheney (10-0) – Cheney

Both teams have been in the top-five in 3A throughout the fall. Clay Center lost to Andale in the state semifinals last season. Clay Center finished 8-4, the program’s most victories since a 10-win season in 1993. Cheney posted the third perfect regular season in the last four years and ended Andale’s winning streak with a big comeback earlier this season.

Cheney has a total margin of 445-71, while Clay Center is at 434-90. Cheney paces the classification in scoring defense. Both teams are top-six in scoring offense.

Clay Center is run-heavy and has 334 rushes against 103 passes. Junior Cole Pladson has completed 48 of 82 pass attempts for 969 yards and 16 scores against seven interceptions. Senior Brody Hayes has 77 carries for 718 yards and nine scores. Senior Carter Long has 82 carries for 600 yards and eight touchdowns. Clay Center has defeated Wamego, which could again represent 4A West in the state title game.

However, Cheney has its excellent 1-2 combination with quarterback Josh Burdick and WR/ATH Jackson Voth, a New Mexico State commit. Cheney also has outstanding defense with senior defensive end Kason Messenger (6-2, 220) and free safety Kolter McDaniel. Voth is in the conversation for Top 11 all-classes, and this could be the best Cheney team in history. The top-five in 3A has basically been the same all fall, though Cheney is favored to rematch Andale again next week.

Other Sectional game:

D6-#1 Wichita Collegiate (9-1) at D7-#2 Andale (9-1) – Andale


Class 2A



Highlighted Game: (Gilmore)

D2-#2 Humboldt (9-1) at D4-#2 Sabetha (9-1) – Sabetha

A pair of district runners-up will meet in one eastern quarterfinal, while the district champions will meet in the other. Humboldt will visit Sabetha in a meeting of one-loss teams. Humboldt’s lone loss of the season came to District 2 champion Osage City, 36-22, while Sabetha fell to District 4 champ and top-ranked Nemaha Central, 28-0.

Humboldt picked up a touch road-win over a solid Riverton team, 24-14, last week. The Cubs trailed 8-6 at halftime but took control with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Blake Ellis rushed 30 times for 165 yards and three scores in the win. Cole Mathes added 64 yards and the Cubs’ fourth score.

Ellis, a junior, has produced more than 2,500 yards of total offense this season. He has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,414 yards and 18 touchdowns, while adding a team-high 1,149 rushing yards and 13 scores. His classmate, Mathes, has added more than 750 yards and nine scores on the ground, while sophomore Mason Sterling has added eight rushing touchdowns. Senior Sam Hull is the Cubs’ leading receiver with 43 catches for 722 yards and nine scores.

Sabetha will counter with an experienced team that features 23 seniors. The Blue Jays have utilized their big offensive line to produce a dominant run game. In last week’s 45-34 win over Silver Lake, Sabetha rushed for 563 yards. Senior Colin Menold had a huge night with 370 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Fellow senior Chase Frey added 100 yards and two scores and Aiden Lang rushed for more than 60 yards and a touchdown.

For the season, Menold has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. He has scored seven times in the Blue Jays’ last two playoff games. Frey has added more than 600 yards and seven scores. Mitchell Kramer has returned from injury to take back over at quarterback. Kramer has passed for 279 yards and five scores, while Marcus Bauman has added five touchdown passes, but is also the team’s leading receiver.

Sabetha surrendered a season-high 34 points to the explosive Silver Lake offense last week, but forced six Eagle turnovers.  

Other Sectional game:

D2-#1 Osage City (9-1) at D4-#1 Nemaha Central (10-0) – Nemaha Central



Highlighted Game: (Nicholl)

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

One of the state’s premier games for all classes matches two undefeated squads. Mitch Gebhardt and Zach Baird have enjoyed great success and multiple double-digit winning seasons in long tenures at their respective schools.

Both teams have enjoyed highly dominant seasons and rank in both the top-five in 2A scoring offense and scoring defense. Hoisington paces the classification with 472 points, while Southeast of Saline is second with 92 points allowed. SE Saline has played statistically the more challenging schedule. However, Hoisington has continually rolled over opponents and does have wins against 3A’s Hesston and Pratt.

Senior Tony Moore is the top passing quarterback in the Baird era. He has completed 49 of 84 passes for 1,169 yards with 16 scores against two interceptions. Junior Teron Kraft has 99 carries for 955 yards and 10 scores. Moore has 54 carries for 539 yards and six scores. Senior Mason Alderdice has 30 carries for 10 scores. Moore has ran the ball much less than last fall when he delivered 89 carries, though has passed for 500-plus more yards compared to last fall. Hoisington has three non-offensive scores and has forced 21 turnovers, including six interceptions from junior Jason Robinson, who missed some of last fall with injury.

For Southeast of Saline, senior Daniel Kejr has 96 of 148 passing for 1,270 yards with 11 scores against six interceptions. Senior Nathan Friesen has 127 carries for 915 yards and 18 TDs. Kejr has 818 rushing yards and 12 scores. The Trojan’s defense has continually been among the state’s leaders in big defensive plays with 93 tackles for loss, 32 sacks and 27 turnovers. Sophomore Grady Gebhardt has 90 tackles, 11 for loss. Junior Deacon Baier has 13 tackles for loss. The main key is likely the dynamic Moore against SE Saline’s pass rush in what should be a close contest.

Other Sectional game:

D8-#1 Norton (10-0) at D5-#2 Ellsworth (9-1) – Ellsworth


Class 1A



Highlighted Game: (Nicholl)

D1-#1 St. Mary’s Colgan (10-0) at D3-#1 St. Marys (7-3) – Pittsburg Colgan

Pittsburg Colgan has been ranked No. 1 in the classification since Week 2. Saint Marys is the defending state champion, opened No. 1, dropped out of the rankings after three losses to larger classification teams, and has since won seven straight.

Colgan has enjoyed its dynamic 1-2 combination with seniors Tucker Harrell and Cooper Simmons. Harrell has completed 64 of 100 passes for 1,043 yards with 13 scores against three interceptions. He has rushed 54 times for 671 yards and 11 TDs. Simmons has 93 carries for 1,141 yards and 21 scores. Colgan defeated 3A quarterfinalist Frontenac in Week 1, a team that has not lost since. Senior Tristan Voss has 13 tackles for loss.

St. Marys’ seven straight victories include a 34-18 win at Jefferson County North in Week 6 and a 14-6 home win versus Jackson Heights last week. Jeff Co. North will face Olpe in the other 1A Eastern quarterfinal.

In last week’s Jackson Heights win, St. Marys trailed 6-0 after the first quarter and at halftime. Sophomore Korleone Holz had a 56-yard reception, while 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior Howard Rezac hauled in a 19-yard TD pass. Junior Alex Gallegos and senior Nate Hutley have been key offensive players, too. St. Mary has six interception returns for touchdowns. The Bears have just six seniors, including 6-2, 245-pound lineman Atticus Martin, one of 1A’s top players.

St. Marys has possibly more depth and skill players across the board, while no one has been able to match Harrell/Simmons this year. Colgan has not gone this far into a season without a loss since 2011 and hasn’t won a state title since 2003.

Other Sectional game:

D2-#1 Olpe (8-2) at D3-#2 Jefferson Co. North (9-1) – Jeff Co. North



Highlighted Game: (Nicholl)

D7-#1 Conway Springs (8-2) at D6-#2 Marion (9-1) – Conway Springs

Conway Springs opened the season 0-2 with a one-score loss to Garden Plain and a 21-point defeat to Kingman. Since then, the Cardinals have steadily climbed back in the rankings with a run-heavy attack and asserted themselves as the 1A West contender.

In the eight straight victories, Conway Springs has scored at least 37 points in each win. That included an impressive 52-22 home victory versus Sterling last week; the second time the Cardinals had defeated Sterling this fall. Conway Springs is a longtime state power, though has not won more than eight games since 2018. The Cardinals have not reached a semifinal in nine seasons. Brayden Kunz is one of Kansas’ best players for all classes and in the mix for 1A Player of the Year honors. He has 186 carries for 2,033 yards for 14 rushing touchdowns. Senior Nathan Bernsten has 87 carries for 548 yards. Conway Springs averages 8.3 yards per carry, 357 rushing yards a game and has run the ball on 91 percent of its snaps.

Marion has enjoyed a banner season with just a one-score loss to Sedgwick. The Warriors’ nine wins are their most wins in nine years.

Marion had an impressive 38-14 road win at Smith Center last week. Marion held Smith Center to 58 plays for 204 yards. Jack Lanning had 22 carries for 180 yards and two scores. Trevor Schafers delivered nine carries for 143 yards and three scores. Cole Smith finished with six tackles, two for loss and two sacks in the victory.

Two weeks ago, Lanning rushed for 197 yards and three scores, while Schafer had 138 rushing yards and two scores. Marion beat Sterling, 19-0, in early season. The Warriors’ run defense has been very stout and has permitted under three yards a carry since Week 1. This should be a close game, but Conway Springs’ rushing offense and Kunz is the slight difference.

Other Sectional game:

D7-#2 Medicine Lodge (8-2) at D5-#2 Valley Heights (8-2) – Valley Heights


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