District Preview: Class 3A

Hesston's Reese Nebel catches a TD pass earlier this season. (Everett Royer, KSportsImages.com)
By: Mark Schremmer, Conor Nicholl, Matt Gilmore for Kpreps.com
Oct 10, 2017

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Shelby Wehrman played linebacker on Derby’s 1994 state championship team, earned four letters with the Kansas State football program, and served as a longtime assistant at his alma mater under coach Brandon Clark.

In the last seven to eight years, Wehrman estimated he had applied at more than 10 head coaching positions. He was turned down each time, including the Hesston job this offseason.

Wehrman, who lived in Rose Hill, has six children with wife Melanie, ranging from seventh and eighth grade to four years old. The middle schoolers had decided not to attend Derby for high school.

“I was really just about ready to give up on it, because I thought well maybe that’s just not in my deck of cards, maybe that’s not what I am supposed to do,” Wehrman said. “So I thought that I ought to kind of re-align and kind of focus on my kids at home more and maybe be there more for them.”

Wehrman had applied for a Rose Hill teaching position but wasn’t offered that job either.

“I was really quite distraught over that, just confused,” he said.

Cheney activities director Todd Hague reached out to Wehrman in late May. Wehrman, also Derby’s head track coach, interviewed for the Cheney head football coaching position on Memorial Day.

Cheney offered Wehrman the job the following morning.

“I hardly even filled out an application or anything else,” Wehrman said.

Wehrman labeled the moment “pretty exciting.” He said “all the pieces” came together at Cheney, both family and football-wise.

“Something that God had His hand in to me,” Wehrman said. “Just very thankful for the opportunity.”

Wehrman has led the Cardinals to a dominant 6-0 start and into the mix in Class 3A, District 10 play that starts Friday. The district features fourth-ranked Conway Springs (6-0), fifth-ranked Garden Plain (6-0) and reigning district champion Chaparral (5-1).

The district headlines a deep 3A that has unbeatens Sabetha and Nemaha Central in District 1, and rivals Norton (5-1) and Phillipsburg (6-0) in District 14.

“I am just trying to get the boys to believe,” Wehrman said. “And I think they are buying in that ‘Hey, we are right up there with the other three teams,’ and if you don’t thrive on competition, then this district isn’t for you.”

Last year, Cheney was 5-1 entering the district, though lost the three games by at least 21 points. The Cardinals held a team meeting after a recent practice. Wehrman said the squad believed “this is our time.” The Cardinals have four playoff appearances in school history with ’06 and ’15 the most recent.

“We don’t want to go 0-3 again in districts, so I think they are going to be battling it out,” he said.

Cheney has tallied 370 points, one behind Conway Springs for the best in the 64-team classification. Last year, the Cardinals tallied just 301 points.

The Cardinals have permitted just 112 points. CS has allowed 66. Garden Plain has a total margin of 280-112. Chaparral has a 320-108 margin but lost to Wichita Trinity.

All four teams have played similar schedules. The other three teams have easily defeated Trinity, a 3-3 team, by big margins.

“I have been preaching a more physical ball game with our kids,” Wehrman said. “And we have been making a little better progress in that area, and I think that a lot of it started from our offensive line up front. We’ve been attacking more off the ball.”

The offensive line has kept the same five starters all year with junior Landon Gegen and senior Tyler White at tackle. Juniors Coy Lampe and Ben Klinkerman are at guard. Senior Shane Gleeson starts at center.

“The kids have just worked really well together,” he said. “I think the whole offensive line talks about who they have every play.”

Cheney sometimes didn’t use a tight end in the past, but Wehrman has incorporated one or two tight ends on every play with juniors Trey Patterson and Jeff Thisius.

“Adding a tight end in there really helps to open up the run game,” Wehrman said.

Senior quarterback Micah Grover, a three-year starter, and sophomore running back Riley Petz have delivered big numbers behind the line. Grover has completed 65 of 91 passes for 127 yards with 18 scores. He has rushed 47 times for 363 yards and 10 TDs. Petz has 80 carries for 902 yards and 12 scores.

“A lot more emphasis on the run game and the offensive line,” Wehrman said.

Senior Trent Scheer has 22 catches for 425 yards and six scores. Senior Hunter Adolph has tallied 18 catches for 334 yards and four TDs. Cheney has already scored its most points in any season since 378 in a 9-2 finish in ’06.

“The boys have been pretty receptive,” Wehrman said.


District 1   (Schremmer)

  • Nemaha Central (6-0) – Ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, the Thunder have mostly cruised through their first six games. Their resume includes solid victories over the likes of Holton, Centralia, and Perry-Lecompton. Nemaha Central has enjoyed this success despite battling injuries to such key players as wide receiver Luke Haverkamp. However, still have offensive firepower with such players as Mitchell Henry. The Thunder are averaging 40.3 points per game.
  • Sabetha (6-0) – Like Nemaha Central, the BlueJays boast quality wins over such opponents as Centralia, Holton, and Perry-Lecompton. Running a splitback veer offense, Sabetha averages 285.2 rushing yards per game. Junior Joe Gruber leads the team with 525 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on only 70 carries. Junior Mason Engelken has rushed for 455 yards and five touchdowns on only 46 attempts.
  • Hiawatha (2-4) – The Redhawks dropped their first three games but are 2-1 in their last three. Two of Hiawatha’s losses were by seven points or fewer. The Redhawks are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
  • Riverside (1-5) – The Cyclones have scored 14 points or fewer in all five losses. Riverside will try to win its first district game since 2015 when it advanced to the playoffs.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Sabetha at Nemaha Central will likely decide both playoff spots

Winner: Nemaha Central
Runner-up: Sabetha

District 2    (Schremmer)

  • Maur Hill-Mount Academy (4-2) – The Ravens are 4-2, and their two losses are to teams (Jefferson Co. North and Jackson Heights) with undefeated records. Sophomore quarterback Jack Caudle has completed 55 of 101 passes for 954 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.
  • Pleasant Ridge (2-4) – The Rams enter districts after beating Oskaloosa 22-16 last week. The offense is led by senior quarterback Breydon Baragary and junior tight end Clayton Richter.
  • Maranatha Academy (1-5) – The Eagles have allowed at least 50 points in four out of six games. Maranatha’s only win was a 40-14 victory over winless McLouth. Sophomore quarterback Nate Burdette has passed for nearly 1,100 yards. Sophomore Andrew Fortin has 22 catches for 299 yards.
  • Atchison County (0-6) – The Tigers are on a 16-game losing streak. This season, they have been outscored by a combined score of 279-88.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Pleasant Ridge at Maur Hill; (Wk 9) Maranatha Academy at Pleasant Ridge

Winner: Maur Hill-Mount Academy
Runner-up: Pleasant Ridge

District 3    (Schremmer)

  • Silver Lake (6-0) – The Eagles are enjoying another successful season under the direction of legendary coach C.J. Hamilton. Silver Lake is ranked third in the state and boasts a 5-0 record in the Mid-East League. Junior quarterback Mason Griffin has passed for more than 700 yards.
  • Perry-Lecompton (4-2) – The Kaws opened the season 4-0 but have lost the past two weeks to a pair of undefeated teams in Sabetha and Nemaha Central. Quarterback Dalton Kellum has passed for 550 yards and rushed for more than 750. The Kaws scored no fewer than 56 points during any of their four victories.
  • Oskaloosa (3-3) – The Bears’ three victories are against teams with a combined record of 3-15. Oskaloosa will try to win its first district game since 2014.
  • Royal Valley (3-3) – The Panthers are 3-3, but the three losses were to Nemaha Central, Sabetha and Holton. Royal Valley has already matched its win total from last season. The Panthers hope to make the playoffs for the first time since Jake Lott became the head coach in 2014.

Key Games: (Wk 8) Silver Lake at Perry-Lecompton

Winner: Silver Lake
Runner-up: Perry-Lecompton

District 4     (Schremmer)

  • Council Grove (4-2) – The Braves’ two losses are to teams with a combined record of 11-1. However, Council Grove has made a habit of entering district play with a winning record and then not making the playoffs. The past four seasons, the Braves started with a 5-1 record but then finished 1-2 in the districts.
  • Mission Valley (4-2) – Like Council Grove, the Vikings’ two losses came to 6-0 Lyndon and 5-1 Osage City. Last week, the Vikings defeated Northern Heights 46-6. Blake Roberts led Mission Valley with 200 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries.
  • St. Marys (3-3) – The Bears are only .500, but they’ve played a difficult schedule. They opened the season with a 34-6 win over a good Olpe team, but then lost three straight to Centralia, Silver Lake and Riley County. Senior quarterback Mitchel Flanagan has passed for more than 650 yards.
  • Rossville (2-4) – The three-time defending state champions have struggled this season after graduating most of their key players from last season. Rossville entered the year with only one starter on offense and three on defense. The good news is that the young Rossville squad appears to be improving, winning two of its past three games. The loss was 14-0 to undefeated Silver Lake. Senior quarterback Sheldon Hulbert has passed for nearly 1,100 yards.

Key Games: All games are key in what should be a competitive district.

Winner: Rossville
Runner-up: St. Marys

District 5    (Gilmore)

  • Osage City (5-1) – Osage City suffered its first loss of the season last week, 30-17, to unbeaten Lyndon. Quarterback Tucker Kimball has passed for 1,473 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, while adding 314 rushing yards and seven scores. Three receivers, Krimzyn Clark, Peyton Pearson, and Trenton Plinsky, have each hauled in more than 300 receiving yards.
  • Wellsville (5-1) – Wellsville has won five straight games since a 40-20 loss to Burlington in the season-opener. Since given up 40 to the Wildcats, the Eagle defense has clamped down in surrendering only 11 points per game during the five-game win streak. Junior quarterback Zach Vance leads the Wellsville offense with more than 1,200 total yards and 18 combined touchdowns.
  • West Franklin (2-4) – Mike Einspahr’s Falcons have won two consecutive games since an 0-4 start.  Juniors Brayden Singer and Clayton Noyons have led the Falcon offense with 766 and 662 rushing yards, respectively. Singer has nine rushing touchdowns, while Noyons has contributed seven. Both Singer and Noyons have each rushed for more than 300 yards in West Franklin’s wins the past two weeks.
  • Central Heights (0-6) – The Vikings have dropped 13 consecutive games since a 47-6 victory over Eureka last season. That victory ended a 12-game losing streak.  This week’s home game against West Franklin may be Central Heights’ best chance for a victory, but the Viking defense has to improve upon allowing nearly 44 points per game.  

Key Games: (Wk 7) Osage City at Wellsville will decide both playoff spots.

Winner: Wellsville
Runner-up: Osage City

District 6  (Gilmore)

  • Humboldt (5-1) – After rushing for 1,120 yards last season, Jacob Barker is actually 33 yards ahead of his 2016 total this fall. The senior back has 685 yards and six touchdowns to pace a Cub offense that averages 250 yards per game on the ground. Junior quarterback Kyler Allen has complimented the rushing attack with 356 passing yards and four touchdowns. Behind Barker, Hesston Murrow has added 354 yards on the ground and six touchdowns. Humboldt’s lone loss came 20-8 to Caney Valley in Week 4.
  • Jayhawk-Linn (5-1) – The Jayhawks suffered their first loss of the season last week, 22-20, to Drexel (Mo.). The Jayhawks completed an unbeaten regular season last fall before falling 20-14 to Osage City in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. Jayhawk-Linn can wrap up the Three Rivers League title with a win over Northeast-Arma this week. The Jayhawks haven’t lost a TRL game since 2014.
  • Erie (1-5) – Like last season, Erie enters district play coming off of its only win of the season over Eureka. The Red Devils have lost their first five games in each of the past two seasons. Erie is giving up 33 points per game and scoring just below 12 per game.
  • Northeast-Arma (0-6) – The Vikings have dropped 18 consecutive games dating back to the 2015 season. After scoring just 12 points all of last season, Northeast has lost three games by single digits this fall. All three close losses came to Three Rivers League opponents in Yates Center (20-14), Uniontown (38-30, 2OT), and Oswego (34-28). Freshman quarterback Karter Dugan has passed for nearly 500 yards and two scores and has a team-high four rushing touchdowns.

Key Games: (Wk 8) Jayhawk-Linn at Humboldt

Winner: Humboldt
Runner-up: Jayhawk-Linn

District 7   (Gilmore)

  • Galena (6-0) – Galena has the talent to challenge on the eastern side of Class 3A. The Bulldogs returned ten starters on both sides of the ball; graduating only QB/S P.J. Sarwinski – a Shrine Bowl selection. Galena is battle tested having posted wins over Colgan (16-0), Frontenac (28-21), Baxter Springs (41-6), and Columbus (33-29). Last week’s victory over Columbus knocked the Titans from the top spot in the 4A-II rankings. Galena has a big, experienced offensive line led by Trevor Little, and a stable of backs including Joseph and Michael Helton. Quarterback JC Shelton has played well and is a dual threat, while Garrett Hall is a tall receiver that can go up and get the ball.
  • Cherryvale (5-1) – Like Galena, Cherryvale is also coming off of its biggest victory of the season. The Chargers defeated traditional Tri-Valley League power Caney Valley, 22-16, last week to remain tied atop the league standings with Humboldt. Cherryvale’s lone loss came to the Cubs, 22-8, back in Week 2. Trevor Raida leads the Charger offense with 532 rushing yards and six scores while averaging 10.4 yards per carry. Cade Addis provides the balance with 765 pass yards and 12 scores. Four different players have between 208 and 130 receiving yards for Cherryvale. The Chargers missed the playoffs last season after being upset by Riverton in district play.
  • Southeast-Cherokee (0-4) – The Lancers have lost 25 consecutive games dating back to the 2014 season. The Lancers have only played four games this season after removing Frontenac and Columbus from their schedule this summer as Southeast transitions from the CNC League to the Three Rivers League. A bright spot has been the play and leadership of Austin Hunt. Hunt, the team’s lone senior, would be an asset to most teams in the state. He leads the team in rushing, receptions, and has forced five turnovers (3 INT & 2 forced fumbles) in the Lancer’s four games. Southeast’s roster of 23 consists of 19 freshmen and sophomores.
  • Riverton (0-6) – Veteran coach Johnny Mallatt returned to the Riverton sidelines this season and is trying to rebuild a struggling program with a young roster. The winless Rams have been shut out in four of their six games. The Rams will host winless Southeast this week before traveling to Cherryvale and Galena. Riverton entered district play 0-6 last season and used a win over Southeast and a 17-14 upset of Cherryvale to advance to the playoffs.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Cherryvale at Galena; (Wk 8) Riverton at Cherryvale

Winner: Galena
Runner-up: Cherryvale

District 8    (Gilmore)

  • Caney Valley (4-2) – Caney Valley is coming off a 22-16 loss at Cherryvale on Friday night. The Bullpups other loss came 20-7 to Olpe back in Week 2. The typically ground-oriented Bullpups have shown balance with quarterback Carter Brown. Brown passed for nearly 200 yards in the last week’s loss to Cherryvale. Grant Richey remains a go-to player for the Caney offense. Caney held a decisive advantage in total yards over the Chargers, but three turnovers and a goal line stand hurt the Bullpups’ chances. Caney Valley has reached the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons.
  • Fredonia (3-3) – After a nine-year absence from the playoffs, the Yellow Jackets reached the postseason last year under first-year coach Marc Svaty. Fredonia dropped its playoff opener at Galena and to qualify again this season the Jackets will likely have to upset Caney or beat rival Neodesha. Fredonia is 3-3 on the season having picked up wins over Douglass, Erie, and Leon-Bluestem; teams that are a combined 3-15 on the season.   
  • Neodesha (3-3) – Neodesha has alternated wins and losses this season. The Bluestreaks’ losses have come to teams that are a combined 15-3. Senior quarterback Michael Shinkle hasn’t played since a Week 4 victory over Erie. The Streaks have relied on a consistent running game that averages nearly 220 yards per game. Senior Dominic Skinner leads Neodesha with 390 yards and three scores, while junior Randall McKinnis has added 355 yards and four scores.  
  • Eureka (2-4) – The season had a promising start for Eureka as the Tornados beat Chase County and Central Heights. Since, Eureka has dropped four consecutive games to Cherryvale, Bluestem, Humboldt, and Erie. Eureka has reached the playoffs only twice in the past 12 seasons with the Tornado’s last appearance coming in 2013.  

Key Games: (Wk 7) Fredonia at Neodesha; (Wk 8) Neodesha at Caney Valley; (Wk 9) Caney Valley at Fredonia

Winner: Caney Valley
Runner-up: Neodesha


District 9    (Nicholl)

  • Leon-Bluestem (2-4) – Opponents have outscored Bluestem, 286-142. The Lions won 33-30 at Erie in Week 2, and won at Eureka, 42-36, in Week 4. In Week 5, Bluestem fell at home to Fredonia, 55-49, in double overtime. Bluestem went 1-8 and 2-7 in the previous two seasons. Bluestem is 0-2 all-time in the playoffs with trips coming in 2011 and ’14.
  • Belle Plaine (1-5) – Opponents have outscored Belle Plaine, 376-191. The Dragons’ lone victory came in a 68-0 home win versus Northeast-Arma in Week 4. Belle Plaine has permitted the most points in Class 3A. The Dragons have not made the playoffs since 1996.
  • Douglass (0-6) – Douglass was a playoff participant last season, its first trip since 2013. Douglass has not advanced to the Round of 16 or better since 1993. The Bulldogs lost 27-20 to Medicine Lodge and 34-28 at Fredonia to open the year. Douglass lost to Garden Plain 38-16 last week.
  • Wichita Independent (0-6) – Independent is 1-5 all-time in the playoffs, all since 2010. Independent won a playoff game in 2015 and played Garden Plain close in the first round last year in an eventual 12-7 loss. Opponents have outscored Independent 323-35, but Independent has played the hardest schedule in Class 3A, according to Prep Power Index. Independent has not scored in three contests.

Key Games: This is a district of four struggling teams that have played virtually the same schedule, especially in the Central Plains League. All the teams are close, but Bluestem and Douglass emerge.

Winner: Bluestem
Runner-up: Douglass

District 10    (Nicholl)

  • Cheney (6-0) – Former Derby assistant Shelby Wehrman has led the Cardinals to a big improvement, especially offensively. Last year, Cheney went 5-1 in non-district and then finished 0-3 in district play. Cheney had a total margin of 301-220. This season, the Cardinals have already tallied 370 points, a point behind Conway Springs for the best in 3A, and permitted just 112. Micah Grover has led the offense with 65 of 91 passing for 1,232 yards and 18 scores.
  • Conway Springs (6-0) – Conway Springs, with its senior backfield trio of quarterback Colton Terhune and running backs Trenton Jones and Riley Akiu, has rolled through its schedule. The Cardinals have outscored teams, 371-66. Conway Springs, which missed the playoffs with a 7-2 mark last year, is 0-2 in the playoffs since 2013.
  • Garden Plain (6-0) – Garden Plain has outscored teams, 280-122. Similar to last year, Garden Plain has delivered several close wins against quality teams. The Owls won at Hesston, 28-24, to open the year, and then won at Kearney (Neb.) Catholic, 39-33, in Week 3. Garden Plain opened with three straight road games and has had just two home contests.
  • Chaparral (5-1) – The Roadrunners have again been dominant behind coach Justin Burke and outscored teams 320-108 for an average of 53.3 points per contest. From ’11-16, Chaparral averaged 38 points a contest. Three quarterbacks have seen playing time and completed 58 percent of passes for 962 yards with an 11/5 TD/INT ratio. Chaparral lost at Wichita Trinity, 29-28, in Week 4. Trinity, a 3-3 team, lost to Cheney, Garden Plain,  and Conway Springs by 29, 28 and 27 points.

Key Games: This is again easily the best district in the classification and should again come down to points. Last year, Chaparral, Garden Plain and Conway Springs all finished 2-1. Chaparral was plus-34, Garden Plain plus-28 and Conway Springs plus-1. CS’ and Cheney’s offense prove the difference.

Winner: Conway Springs
Runner-up: Cheney

District 11   (Nicholl)

  • Sterling (4-1) – Sterling, a 6-4 team last season, has continued success under first-year coach Derek Schneider. The Black Bears had a chance to earn a share of the Heart of America league title last week but had its game with Ell-Saline declared a no contest. Sterling trailed 14-6 in the second quarter when it postponed because of weather. The Black Bears wanted to continue Saturday, but Ell-Saline refused, according to Twitter accounts. Sterling has outscored teams, 152-71, though has played the fourth-easiest schedule in 3A.
  • Hutchinson Trinity (4-2) – Hutchinson Trinity has outscored teams 150-80 after a 5-4 season last year. Junior Kaleb Hammeke has been excellent with more than 900 total yards of offense and 12 touchdowns accounted for in the season’s first five games. Trinity opened 4-0 and then lost 14-6 versus Ell-Saline and Marion in the last two weeks.
  • Halstead (2-4) – Halstead, playing in the tough Central Kansas League, opened 2-4. Coach Jason Grider was 31-6 in his first three seasons. The Dragons lost at Smoky Valley and Hesston in the first two weeks by two and 15 points and lost to Larned and Pratt by nine points each. Halstead has a total margin of 204-159 with the No. 12 SOS in the classification. Senior quarterback Dalton Kraus has completed 69 percent of his passes for 730 yards with a 10/0 TD/INT ratio. Halstead has averaged 245 rushing yards a game with 6.4 yards a carry. Kraus leads the team with 397 rushing yards and has tied for with five rushing scores.
  • Haven (2-4) – Since a 5-5 season in 2012, Haven has posted seasons of 2-7, 2-8, 1-8, 1-8, and now a 2-4 record. Haven opened 0-4 before a 48-30 win against Lyons and a 14-13 victory against Hillsboro.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Sterling at Hutch Trinity; (Wk 8) Hutch Trinity at Halstead; (Wk 9) Halstead at Sterling

Winner: Halstead
Runner-up: Hutch Trinity

District 12    (Nicholl)

  • Marion (5-1) – Last year, Marion went 7-2 and narrowly missed the playoffs after losses to SES and Hesston. The Warriors have clinched their fifth straight winning season and have just one losing record since 2006 under 30th-year coach Grant Thierolf. Since ’04, Marion is 0-5 against Hesston and 1-6 versus Southeast of Saline. Marion has outscored opponents 190-97 but has played the No. 60 SOS out of 64 teams.
  • Hesston (3-3) – Coach Tyson Bauerle, in his first season since he came over from Sterling, has continued the Swathers’ high-octane attack. Last year, Hesston opened 1-3 before winning nine straight contests. Hesston averaged 31.3 points a contest and has permitted 32.5 behind quarterback Cameron Cox and running back Parker Roth. In the first six games of last year, Hesston averaged 31.5 points per game but permitted 17.5. Hesston has played the No. 7 SOS in 3A, mainly against strong Central Kansas League teams.
  • Southeast of Saline (3-3) – SES has posted four straight 7-3 seasons. This year, SES opened 1-2 with losses against Chapman and Russell by a combined nine points. In Week 4, the Trojans held off rival Sacred Heart in a 44-41 victory. In Week 6, SES lost 35-14 to Beloit. SES has a total margin of 214-157 versus the No. 50 SOS. Senior Hunter White is one of the state’s top dual threat quarterbacks with 55 of 131 passing for 820 yards with a 6/4 TD/INT ratio. He has rushed 154 times for 930 yards and 20 scores.
  • Hillsboro (1-5) – Since a 10-1 season in 2012, Hillsboro has struggled with 4-5, 2-7, 0-9, 3-6 and now a 1-5 start. The Trojans’ lone victory came in a season-opening 32-0 road win versus Lyons.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Marion at SE Saline; (Wk 8) SE Saline at Hesston; (Wk 9) Hesston at Marion

Winner: Hesston
Runner-up: Southeast of Saline

District 13   (Nicholl)

  • Beloit (5-1) – Beloit has played well under first-year coach Brad Gober and has an average score of 35-14. Gober, formerly a defensive coach at Augusta, has improved a Trojan defense that had an average score of 42-34 in a 6-3 season last year. Beloit opened the season with a 13-6 win versus Concordia that came to the game’s final play, and then lost 28-22 in overtime at Ellsworth in Week 2 before reeling off four wins by at least 21 points. Beloit has averaged 270 rushing yards a game behind juniors Tate Ahlvers (632 rushing, three scores) and Zach Meier (618 rushing, eight TDs). Sophomore quarterback Hudson Gray has a 14/1 TD/INT ratio.
  • Marysville (5-1) – Marysville, which won this district last season, earned the No. 5 ranking in Class 3A earlier this year after a big Week 1 victory versus Rossville. The Bulldogs’ offense has been prolific with 43.8 points a contest. Senior quarterback Jack Blumer has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,356 yards with a 17/2 TD/INT ratio. Marysville lost at Concordia, 22-16, in a Week 4 North Central Kansas League matchup.
  • Riley County (5-1) – Riley County opened 5-0 and lost the Mid-East League crown to Silver Lake with a 41-14 defeat. Riley County has dropped 21 in a row to the Eagles. Riley County went 5-5 last season with an average score of 32-22. This year, the Falcons have an average margin of 39-16. Senior dual threat quarterback Tyler Halstead has more than 630 yards rushing and 180 yards passing.
  • Minneapolis (2-4) – After a surprise quarterfinal run in 2014, Minneapolis went a combined 1-17 the last two seasons. The Lions have tallied 148 points and scored 149. Minneapolis won at Republic County, 54-6, in Week 2 and at Lyons, 35-0, in Week 3. Losses to Russell and Ellsworth are by a combined 23 points.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Marysville at Beloit; (Wk 8) Beloit at Riley County; (Wk 9) Riley County at Marysville

Winner: Marysville
Runner-up: Riley County

District 14  (Nicholl)

  • Phillipsburg (6-0) – Phillipsburg has rolled through its schedule and been ranked as a top-three team all season. Possibly the deepest team in coach J.B. Covington’s 15 seasons, the Panthers have outscored teams 289-33 and easily lead the classification in scoring defense. Phillipsburg is the lone team to beat Smith Center, ranked first in 2-1A. The 23-0 road victory is the Panthers’ closest score. Phillipsburg has rushed for 266 yards a game behind its bevy of weapons. Senior running back Kirk Coomes (548 rush, eight scores) and junior quarterback Trey Sides (358 passing, 4/1 TD/INT ratio) have paced the offense.
  • Norton (5-1) – The Bluejays have flew under the radar some after ranking parts of the last two seasons in Class 3A. Norton does have a 43-0 loss to Smith Center but owns wins against 4A-II Goodland and Colby and a big victory versus a solid Plainville team. Senior quarterback Jace Ruder, a North Carolina commit, has statistically produced his best season and led an offense that has produced 243 rushing and 127 passing yards a contest. Ruder has seven passing scores and he and senior Tevin Petrie have tallied 10 rushing touchdowns apiece. Norton is plus-20 in turnover margin, led by five interceptions from sophomore Kade Melvin.
  • Russell (4-2) – Russell has shown great improvement this year with wins against Sacred Heart and Southeast of Saline. The Broncos ended a four-game losing streak versus Sacred Heart and nine-contest run versus SES. Russell has doubled its win total from last season. Russell is a victory away from its first winning season since 2003. Junior quarterback Austin Price has led the offense and helped a defense score multiple times off pick-sixes and fumble recoveries.
  • Thomas More Prep (2-4) – TMP earned attention in a 32-27 season-opening loss at Abilene when David McFarland threw for a state record 648 yards. The Monarchs are a win away from its fourth straight victory improvement in a season after 0-9, 1-8 and 2-7 the past three falls. TMP has not won more than two games in a year since 2011. The Monarchs have already tallied 177 points after scoring just 166 all last year.

Key Games: Russell and TMP have shown major improvement, but Phillipsburg and Norton are still at the head of the class; (Wk 8) Norton at Phillipsburg should decide both spots.

Winner: Phillipsburg
Runner-up: Norton

District 15     (Nicholl)

  • Ellsworth (5-1) – Josh Homolka has led the Bearcats to a first-ever NCAA crown with 5-0 record in his first season. Ellsworth has an average score of 28-17. Last fall, the Bearcats went 5-4 with an average score of 38-27. Ellsworth has rushed for 198 yards and passed for 108 yards a contest. Senior quarterback Zac Schneider has rushed 162 times for 798 yards with 10 scores. He has passed for 610 yards with a 6/7 TD/INT ratio. Defensively, he has 40 stops, second to junior Grant Gwinner’s 52. Ellsworth does have 13 turnovers and is minus-2 in turnover margin.
  • Hoisington (4-2) – The Cardinals, a sub-state semifinalist last season, have again posted a strong year in the Central Kansas League. Hoisington has outscored squads 141-115 and owns a Week 6 victory at Nickerson, then ranked in 4A-II. Hoisington has averaged 229 rushing yards a contest behind 576 yards and eight scores from senior Sean Urban. The Cardinals will play both Ellsworth and Larned at home. Hoisington is 21-1 in its last 22 home games.
  • Larned (2-4) – Last season, the Indians entered district play 0-6 and pulled off upsets against Ellsworth in districts and Cimarron in the first round of the playoffs. The Indians won and hosted their first playoff game since 1985. This year, Larned has played the No. 2 SOS in the classification. Last year, opponents averaged 32 points a game, and Larned tallied just 21 a contest. This fall, Larned has averaged 26 a contest and permitted 35.5.
  • Lyons (0-6) – Lyons has lost 17 straight contests after a 0-9 season last year. The Lions have tallied just 57 points.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Ellsworth at Hoisington; (Wk 8) Larned at Hoisington; (Wk 9) Ellsworth at Larned

Winner: Hoisington
Runner-up: Larned

District 16    (Nicholl)

  • Lakin (5-1) – Lakin opened up 5-0 and has already matched last year’s win total under third-year coach Chris Bamberger. The Broncs have won some wild games, including a 28-20 three-overtime game at Hugoton to start the year and a 30-28 big comeback win versus Meade in Week 3. Lakin has rushed for 207 yards and passed for 59 yards a contest. The Broncs have picked off 14 passes and are plus-12 in turnover margin. Five players have between 110 and 375 yards, led by senior Clay Michel.
  • Cimarron (4-2) – Cimarron, under first-year coach Greg Koenig, formerly at Beloit, have outscored teams 190-90 against the No. 13 SOS in the classification. Senior Josh Seabolt has 162 carries for 1,039 yards and nine scores. Senior Jaylen Pickle has 48 carries for 204 yards and nine TDs. Seabolt also leads with 68 tackles, six for loss.
  • Southwestern Heights (2-4) – Southwestern Heights owns victories against Sublette (42-6) and Stanton County (28-6). The four losses have all come by at least 26 points. SWH’s only playoff appearance since ’07 came in ’13.
  • Syracuse (2-4) – Syracuse has wins against Beaver (Okla.) (32-6) and Sublette (35-0). The other four losses have come by six, six, 48 and 20 points.

Key Games: (Wk 7) Lakin at Cimarron will decide both playoffs spots and the Hi-Plains League title.

Winner: Cimarron
Runner-up: Lakin


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