The Pick List - Week 9

Peyton Newton of Santa Fe Trail has rushed for more than 1,500 yards this season (by Mike Beckman)
By: Conor Nicholl & Matt Gilmore for
Oct 26, 2016

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Each Thursday throughout the regular season, The Pick List will feature six of the best match-ups across the state, and make our predictions on a handful of other games.

Feature Games of the Week:

McPherson (6-2) at Abilene (7-1)

District 8 is one of the most intriguing in Class 4A, Division I after one-win Hays High knocked off previously undefeated Abilene last week, 23-12. Abilene entered with the weakest strength of schedule in 4A-I, while Hays had the strongest, according to Prep Power Index.

McPherson (6-2, 2-0) wins the district title with a victory against Abilene (7-1, 1-1). Hays High (2-6, 1-1) plays at Wamego (3-5, 0-2). McPherson has played the No. 23 SOS in the 32-team classification.

In Week 7, McPherson defeated Hays, 48-14. Second-year coach Jace Pavlovich, a former assistant under longtime coach Tom Young, has helped the Bullpups improve from a 5-4 year last season. McPherson’s defense is ranked No. 1 in scoring defense by a substantial margin. The Bullpups have permitted just 68 points, or 8.5 a game. Last year, McPherson was solid defensively with 18.9 allowed.

No other 4A-I squad is better than 11.9 points a game permitted. McPherson is 3-2 at home and 3-0 on the road having won six in a row after close season-opening losses to Buhler and Maize South. Three of the Bullpups’ victories have been shutouts.

McPherson has passed for 150 yards a contest and rushed for 179 a game. Senior Casen Hoover has completed 63 of 116 passes for 920 yards with 15 scores against two interceptions. Seniors Jeff Reed and Jack Reifschneider have combined for 50 catches, 15 for scores. Junior Kollin Goering leads the team with 53 tackles. Hoover is also one of the state’s best punters with a 41.1 average.

For Abilene, senior Parker O’Neal leads a defense that has allowed just 14.1 points per contest. The Cowboys picked off 11 passes in the first seven games, including at least one in each contest.

In a 50-14 Week 7 victory against Wamego, O’Neal also rushed 16 times for 155 yards and three scores. Quarterback Ryan Wilson was hurt against Wamego. O’Neal and Parker Base have combined for more than 1,000 rushing yards this season. O’Neal is a solid punter, too, averaging around 35 yards an attempt. Against Hays, Wilson didn’t play and starting center Jacob Shartz was hurt early in the contest. Junior Trevor Casteel has stepped in under center. Abilene had not trailed at halftime before the Hays High game.

Abilene won 26-17 last year, but lost the three previous meetings, the only four occasions between the schools in the last 11 years. The Cowboys are too banged up, and McPherson is rolling, especially defensively.

Our Pick: McPherson 27, Abilene 13 (Nicholl)

Holton (4-4) at Santa Fe Trail (7-1)

Two top 10 teams in Class 4A, Division II will battle for the final playoff spot in District 1.  Holton will travel to Santa Fe Trail in one of the premier games in the classification this week.

Last week, Holton built a 26-14 lead at halftime over Topeka Hayden before falling 47-32.  The Wildcats committed three turnovers in the third quarter that led to Hayden touchdowns. The loss snapped a four-game win streak for Holton which lost its first three games of the season by a combined 14 points.

The Wildcats average nearly 400 yards rushing per game led by Miles McClintock-Strozier who sits right at 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. Spencer Baum has added 900 yards and 11 scores.

Santa Fe Trail opened the season with seven consecutive wins before a 27-6 loss at home to Hayden.  The Chargers rebounded last week with a 39-14 victory at Jefferson West.

Like Holton, the Chargers get most of their offensive production on the ground.  Santa Fe Trail averages 344 yards per game on the ground.  Senior Peyton Newton leads the way with 1,518 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.  Newton averages 190 yards per game and 8.2 yards per carry.  In the loss to Hayden, Newton carried 22 times for 143 yards. 

The winner not only advances to the playoffs, but appears to get a favorable draw in the first round as District 2 features four teams that have combined for a total of five wins.

Our Pick: Holton 28, Santa Fe Trail 20 (Gilmore)

Conway Springs (7-1) at Chaparral (7-1)

Conway Springs is in control of District 10 after a Week 7 victory against rival Garden Plain and then a 34-12 win versus Cheney. This one of the state’s best districts for all classes with all four teams with winning records – no one had more than one loss entering district play.

The Cheney victory clinched the Central Prairie League title for the Cardinals, who are looking for their tenth straight playoff berth. Conway Springs, long known for its single-wing rushing offense, has passed more this season with Colton Terhune.

Last week, he left the game in the second quarter and didn’t return after he rushed for 105 yards. Trenton Jones tallied 132 rushing yards. Conway Springs defeated Garden Plain 21-20. The Cardinals’ defense held the Owls twice late, including 4th-and-2 from the 12-yard line.

Jacob Jenkins paces Chaparral. He is one of Class 3A’s top defensive players and tallied 201, 146 and 195 rushing yards in his last three games entering district play. In Week 7, he carried 29 times for 230 yards and two scores in the 27-6 win versus Cheney.

Last week, Garden Plain held on for another close victory, 22-14, at home versus Chaparral. Jenkins finished with 25 carries for 155 yards and a score. He has 126 carries for 1,102 yards and 16 rushing yards.

The Roadrunners have been a solid program under Justin Burke, especially in the last three seasons with 9-2, 6-3 and a 7-1 season this year. Conway Springs has a total margin of 311-152, while Chaparral is at 326-101. The Roadrunners have improved their defense from 18 points allowed per game last season to 11 this fall. Conway Springs has made a slight defensive improvement, going from 22.9 in 2015 to 19 this year.

A lot of this game depends on Terhune’s status. As well, Chaparral, the home team this week, lost to Garden Plain by a slightly larger margin but had a bigger yardage differential, often a key statistic for winning games. Garden Plain outgained Conway Springs, 319-314.

Chaparral ran 72 plays for 330 yards versus Garden Plain, while the Owls had 44 plays for 233 yards. Chaparral gets a close victory behind Jenkins.

Our Pick: Chaparral 24, Conway Springs 20 (Nicholl)

Sterling (6-2) at Halstead (7-1)

This contest will decide the two playoff berths out of Class 3A, District 11.

Sterling has enjoyed its most wins since a 7-3 year in 2011 and has quickly rebuilt under second-year coach Tyson Bauerle. He inherited a 0-9 team and went 4-5 last season before the 6-2 start this year. Joel White has led the running game and tallied more than 1,000 all-purpose yards in the first five contests. He returned three kicks for scores in the first five contests, too.

White has taken over offensively after senior Edward Weiner was out for the year with a knee injury in Week 2. It marks White’s second year clearing 1,000 all-purpose yards.

Seniors Brandon Frederick, Brett Oden and Ethan Proffitt are among the key linemen up front. Frederick, also a starting linebacker, is one of 3A’s top two-way players. Sterling has an average score of 45-21 and has tallied at least 34 points in all but one contest. It’s been a huge change from last season when the Black Bears averaged 20 a game and permitted 34.4. Sterling didn’t exceed 30 points until Week 9 last season.

Halstead has continued to play well after it graduated standout running back Blake Beckett and quarterback Eli McKee. Halstead went 12-1 last season after a 10-3 year in 2014. Last year, the Dragons finished No. 1 in Class 3A in scoring defense with just 8.5 points allowed.

This fall has yielded similar results. Halstead’s veer option has delivered 34.5 points and 321 rushing yards a contest. Three seniors have carried the offense. Layke Heimerman has 864 rushing yards and eight scores, Tony Morris has 99 carries for 801 yards and 11 touchdowns, and quarterback Chase Vansteenburg has tallied 99 carries for 717 yards and 14 TDs.

Halstead is plus-6 in turnover margin. Heimerman has led the defense with 108 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery touchdown. Halstead is seventh in scoring defense with 11 points per game, but most of that came in a 34-6 loss to Pratt.

Halstead has won six in a row in the series, including at least five of the wins by 29 points or more. Sterling has quietly enjoyed a very nice season, but Halstead has remained among 3A’s best squads. The Black Bears keep it closer than past seasons, though.

Our Pick: Halstead 40, Sterling 24 (Nicholl)

2-1A No. 5 Washington County (6-2) at Valley Heights (7-1)

The Class 2-1A District 2 championship is on the line this week when Washington County visits Valley Heights. 

Both the Tigers and Mustangs have already qualified for the 2-1A playoffs. The winner of this game gets to host a first-round game, while the loser will travel to No. 1 Troy to open the playoffs.

The winner also finishes in second place in the Twin Valley League standings.

Washington County has qualified for the state playoffs for a second consecutive season after a four year drought from 2011-2014.  Last season, the Tigers went 10-1 and eventually lost at Hoisington in the Class 3A second round. The Tigers also lost at Hoisington this regular season, 47-6 back in Week 4.

Washington County lost 20-6 to top-ranked Troy two weeks ago in a game where they played without standout running back Hunter Kier. Kier returned to rush for a pair of touchdowns in last week’s win over Wabaunsee.

Valley Heights has already realized a 5-win improvement from a year ago.  The Mustangs finished 5-5 in 2014 before falling back to 2-7 last year.  The 2014 team reached the playoffs ending a four-year drought for the Mustangs. 

Valley Heights has won seven consecutive games since a 58-27 loss to Troy to open the season. The Mustangs have relied upon their ground attack which has amassed more than 3,000 rushing yards and averaged 375 yards per game.

Hunter Stevenson leads the Valley Heights attack with 1,393 yards and 19 touchdowns.  Logan Woodyard has added 508 rush yards and 16 scores, while Trey Martin has 325 yards and three scores. 

Woodyard has attempted only 26 passes this season; completing 17 for 342 yards and six touchdowns.

Our Pick: Washington County 28, Valley Heights 26 (Gilmore)

Mankato-Rock Hills (7-1) at Beloit St. John’s-Tipton (6-2)

This game will decide the runner-up spot behind No. 2-ranked Pike Valley out of District 4. Beloit St. John’s-Tipton is 6-2, 3-1, while Rock Hills is 7-1, 3-1. In Week 6, Pike Valley defeated Rock Hills, 58-8. Last week, BSJT trailed 22-0 early but came back before falling 40-34 against Pike Valley.

This marks the first meeting between the two teams since 2011.

Both squads have very explosive offenses but very different paces. St. John’s-Tipton has played in just seven games because of a forfeit against Southern Cloud and averages 44.9 points per contest. Rock Hills is at 46.9 points a contest.

St. John’s-Tipton has permitted 23.1 points per game, while Rock Hills has allowed just 13.8, though against the No. 29 SOS, according to Prep Power Index. BSJT has played the No. 19 SOS.

Grizzly sophomore Zane Colson has 86 carries for 724 yards and 11 rushing yards. Senior Luke Broeckelman has completed 34 of 56 passing for 728 yards with 13 scores against two interceptions. Rock Hills’ offense averages just 31.4 plays per contest and often relies on the big play.

In the Pike Valley loss, the significantly bigger Panthers held a 59-44 edge in snaps and a 319-63 advantage in rushing yards. Rock Hills has four seniors on a 23-player roster, while St. John’s-Tipton has seven seniors with 16 players. BSJT senior standout quarterback Davis Dubbert is the team’s biggest player at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, while Rock Hills has five at least 215 pounds.

BSJT is a balanced offense with 170 passing and 176 rushing yards and averages 67 snaps a contest. Last week, BSJT ran 82 snaps, while Pike Valley had 59. The Blujays rushed for 93 yards and completed 24 of 42 passing for 343 yards and three scores. Dubbert has completed 99 of 169 passes for 1,339 yards with 15 scores against five interceptions. In his career, he has a 52/16 TD/INT ratio.

BSJT is 0-5 the last two seasons when it faces a team that finished with a winning record. Rock Hills has been very impressive and is the bigger team, but the Blujays have an accomplished senior class who has done well in all sports for several years. Beloit St. John’s-Tipton, on a streak of five straight winning seasons, earns its fourth playoff berth in that span.

Our Pick: St. John’s-Tipton 52, Rock Hills 40 (Nicholl)

The Pick List:

KC Piper (5-3) at Atchison (6-2) – KC Piper            

Louisburg (6-1) at Paola (4-4) – Louisburg

Clay Center (5-3) at Smoky Valley (6-2) – Clay Center

Hugoton (5-3) at 4A-II No. 3 Holcomb (7-1) – Holcomb

Garden Plain (7-1) at Cheney (5-3) – Garden Plain

Marion (7-1) at Hesston (5-3) – Hesston

Marysville (6-2) at Riley County (5-3) – Marysville

2-1A No. 4 Lyndon (8-0) at Olpe (4-4) – Lyndon

8M-I No. 3 Burlingame (8-0) at Herington (7-1) – Burlingame

Sedan (7-1) at St. Paul (8-0) – St. Paul

Solomon (6-2) at Victoria (4-4) – Solomon

South Central (7-1) at Argonia-Attica (7-1) – Argonia-Attica

Caldwell (7-1) at Hutchinson Central Christian (7-1) – Caldwell


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