CIK State Football Previews
(Catch it Kansas) - Note: All records from the KSHSAA site, which do include byes.
Class 6A: Blue Valley North (7-2) vs. Derby (8-2) at Olathe – Saturday 1 p.m.
Derby is 5-1 in state title games since 2013, including the last two championships. The Panthers won in ’13, ’15, ’16, ’18 and ’19 and finished runner-up in ’17. Derby defeated Blue Valley North, 24-16, in ’18 after a 49-42 BVN win the year prior. In both of those seasons, BVN featured Graham Mertz, a high school All-American and currently the starting quarterback for the University of Wisconsin. Henry Martin has taken over as the full-time starter the last two seasons and has cleared 5,000 passing yards. Mekhi Miller, with Division I offers, is a key offensive threat. He has been offered by Nebraska, among others.
Derby was 3-2 at one point, a schedule that included two canceled games and a 45-14 season-opening loss to Mill Valley, the Panthers’ worst defeat in 10 years. Since then, the Panthers have won five in a row and have averaged 52 points a contest in the run. The Panthers had just three home games versus seven road contests, including playoff wins the last two weeks at Lawrence and Junction City. Senior Lem Wash has passed for 1,074 yards with a 14/6 TD/INT ratio and has rushed for 1,182 yards and 17 scores.
Sophomore Dylan Edwards has 184 carries for 1,663 yards and 25 scores. Alex Key is by many considered the state’s best offensive linemen. As well, Jonas Vickers first started on the offensive line as a freshman. Senior linebacker Jack Hileman has led Derby in tackles the last two years. He leads a bevy of standout defensive players, including seniors Coleson Syring and Luke Stewart and defensive back Tanner Knox, who has returned after missing the first three contests.
Class 5A: Mill Valley (9-2) vs. Wichita Northwest (10-0) at Pittsburg State University – Saturday 1 p.m.
This is a rematch from last year that Mill Valley won, 40-31, with a pair of late scores. This matchup is expected to be close with many of the key players back. Northwest has seniors at quarterback, running back, its top receiver and six of its top-seven tacklers. Mill Valley’s quarterback, top-three rushers and top-10 tacklers are all seniors.
Mill Valley is 3-0 all-time in finals, Northwest 0-3. Both teams are stacked with many of the state’s best players at their respective positions. Mill Valley has faced a much more challenging schedule, though has not lost in a game where senior all-state quarterback Cooper Marsh has played a full contest. Northwest has played only one non-City League opponent and came back to beat conference rivals Kapaun Mt. Carmel and Bishop Carroll the last two weeks.
Marsh has passed for 1,342 yards with a 13/4 TD/INT ratio. Senior Quin Wittenauer has rushed for 1,173 yards with 14 scores. Senior Jacob Hartman is a dual threat with 16 offensive TDs.
Mill Valley senior Ethan Kremer has multiple school records, including career tackles for loss and sacks. He plays both ways.
For Northwest, senior Julius Bolden has 1,358 rushing yards and 23 scores. Junior Geremiah Moore has 855 rushing yards and 11 TDs and is a key player in special teams. Northwest has significant defensive talent, such as linemen Zac Daher, Nathan Hale and Nathan Carter, linebacker Jacob Younkman and defensive backs Todric McGee and Wetu Kalomo. Daher has committed to Army, and Kalomo to Northern Illinois.
Both squads have excellent kicking. Mill Valley’s Chris Tennant has committed to Kansas State, and Northwest’s Carson Arndt is the state’s all-time leader in kick points. Arndt has committed to Butler CC.
Class 4A: St. James Academy (7-4) vs. Arkansas City (6-6) at Hutchinson CC – Friday 1 p.m.
Preview ahead of Nov. 27 title game:
This contest marked the biggest upsets of any classification. St. James lost to rival Bishop Miege in the regular season and beat the Stags, 36-35, in the state semifinals in overtime. Arkansas City held off McPherson, 28-27, with a pair of late interceptions, including one in the final seconds. McPherson has lost four straight state semifinals, all by one score or less. St. James has its first-ever season in at least the semifinals. Arkansas City is into its first final since ’86.
Miege’s run of six straight state titles ended. The Stags were looking for their state record seventh consecutive state crown.
St. James has significantly improved its passing game and has easily broken the school record for passing yards. Senior Dakota Burritt has completed 176 of 295 passes for 2,613 yards for 26 scores against six interceptions. Senior La’James White, a first-year transfer from K.C. Piper, has again yielded a massive year. He blocked a Miege extra point in overtime. Overall, he has 1,937 all-purpose yards with 28 total scores.
SJA is a remarkable plus-23 in turnover margin, including three interceptions and five fumble recoveries. AC sophomore Gabe Welch has cleared 2,000 passing yards. Ark City has the most losses by any state title qualifier in state history, according to KSHSAA archives.
Class 3A: Perry-Lecompton (11-1) vs. Andale (11-0) at Hutchinson CC – Saturday 1 p.m.
This is a rematch from the ’19 title that Andale won 35-7. Andale has won 24 straight contests, the longest current run in Kansas. The Indians are certainly the favorite, but P-L has done a masterful job returning to the championship without first-team all-state quarterback Billy Welch. The Kaws lost Welch in early season and lost 10-0 to Topeka Hayden on Oct. 16. After Welch went out, P-L moved running back Thad Metcalfe to quarterback. The Kaws won at Hayden, 20-7, in the Round of 16.
In ’19, Welch threw for 2,316 yards, part of an offense that passed on 41 percent of snaps. This season, the Kaws have passed 30 percent of the time. Metcalfe has 1,251 passing yards with 11 scores and five interceptions. He has 194 carries for 1,213 yards and 24 rushing TDs. Junior Reichen Rush has 103 rushes for 933 yards and 11 scores. The top-four and nine of the top-10 tacklers are seniors. Senior Ryley Besler has 135 tackles, and senior Hayden Robb has 125 stops. Robb has surpassed 500 career tackles.
Andale has dominated opponents with its usual balanced team. The Indians have backs Eli Rowland and Noah Meyer and lineman Cayden Winter. Andale has outscored teams, 595-78. Last week, Andale beat Wichita Collegiate, 49-0.
Class 2A: Rossville (12-0) vs. Hoisington (12-0) at Salina District Stadium – Saturday 1 p.m.
Hoisington had its long-awaited first trip to the state championship game. Coach Zach Baird, a Cardinal alum, is 71-12 in his Hoisington career. The Cardinals have enjoyed a great mix of balance and controlling games. Hoisington has outscored teams, 110-14, in the first quarter. The Cardinals have allowed first quarter points and only trailed once, both versus Phillipsburg in Week 4. Hoisington has allowed just 11.6 points per game. The Cardinals won at Beloit, 26-0, last Friday and tied a school record for wins.
Overall, Hoisington’s defense has permitted just 4.4 yards per play, including 112 rushing yards and 3.8 yards per carry. Senior Mason Haxton, a four-year player, has passed for 778 yards with a 10/1 TD/INT ratio. Senior Holt Hanzlick, who was injured last season, has 140 carries for 1,044 yards and 14 TDs. He also leads the Cardinals with 72 tackles, 11 for loss. Hoisington has struggled with some injuries, including on the offensive line and senior Hunter Morris, a lockdown corner. Senior Josh Ball, the second-leading rusher, has moved to the line. Hoisington has averaged 7.2 yards per play and 33.4 points per game. The Cardinals have tied the school record for single season victories.
Rossville, long known for dual-threat quarterbacks, won state in ’14-15-16 with quarterback Tucker Horak, the state’s all-time leader in total offense. The Bulldawgs have been ranked No. 1 all season. Rossville has scored 682 points, 273 ahead of Silver Lake, the No. 2 offense in 2A. Rossville has averaged 52.5 points per game and has 9.3 yards per play.
Horak’s brother, junior Torrey, leads a high-profile attack with 1,352 passing yards, 1,460 rushing and 51 total scores. Senior Woodrow Rezac, among the state’s fastest players, has 873 rushing yards, 11.2 yards per carry and 12 rushing scores. He also has 17 catches for 300 yards and five TDs.
Class 1A: Olpe (12-0) vs. Oakley (10-2) at Fort Hays State University – Saturday 1 p.m.
Two teams that are built around defense and the running game. The winning team could very likely score under 20 points. In the last two weeks, Oakley has purposefully slowed the game down and milked the clock. The Plainsmen beat Smith Center (20-0) and Inman (9-0) in the last two weeks. Oakley lost to both squads in district play.
Oakley had never beaten Smith Center in school history. Oakley, the state’s biggest turnaround, had eight combined wins in the last four years. Coach Jeff Hennick, known for his charisma and energy, has led a seven-win improvement. Oakley is into the state title game for the first time. Olpe has allowed just 35 points and is the only 1A team with fewer than two losses. Oakley senior Ethan Abell has 256 carries for 1,979 yards and 26 scores. Oakley is plus-15 in turnover margin.
The Plainsmen were plus-3 in turnover margin versus Inman, ran 17 more plays and finished a combined 6 of 13 on third/fourth down – key factors that helped Oakley win. Inman was 1 of 10 on third/fourth down. Olpe defeated Lyndon, 14-12, its second one-scoring victory versus the Tigers this fall. Olpe is 1-3 all-time in state games with the lone title in ’08. Junior quarterback Damon Redeker and senior Kynden Robert lead the offense.
Eight-Man, Division I: Little River (10-2) vs. Leoti-Wichita County (12-0) at Newton’s Fischer Field – Saturday 3:30 p.m.
Wichita County is 28-5 with third-year coach Brant Douglas after it finished 3-6 the season before he came in the program. WC is into its first championship game in school history after it reached the semifinals last year. The Indians have dominated opponents with 11 straight wins by the 45-point margin. Wichita County is extremely senior-laden with multiple three- and four-year starters.
However, senior Manny Chavez, featured on Catch It Kansas in the regular season, transferred from back from nearby Tribune-Greeley County. He and senior RB/LB Jesse Gardner are the lone two-way starters. Chavez is the defensive leader with 18 tackles for loss. Senior Kayde Rietzke, widely considered eight-man’s best quarterback, has thrown for 1,655 yards with 33 scores against five interceptions. He has rushed for 1,270 yards and 23 TDs. WC has navigated a schedule that included two wins versus Hoxie (9-0 versus other opponents) and a district that had one collective non-district loss.
Little River coach Kevin Ayers has taken three teams to state titles and is 3-1 all-time in state championship games. Tom Young is the only coach to win championships at three separate schools, via KSHSAA archives. LR is into the first final since ’01. Little River has seniors Graham Stephens and Jayden Garrison. They have combined for 22 scores against three interceptions in their second year as dual quarterbacks. Garrison has 1,477 yards, 10.8 yards per carry and 33 rushing touchdowns. He also has seven receiving TDs and has scored 272 points. LR has battled some COVID-19 quarantine and injury issues but is expected to have everybody healthy for Saturday.
Eight-Man, Division II: Hanover (10-0) vs. St. Francis (11-0) at Newton’s Fischer Field – Saturday 11 a.m.
This is expected to be a titanic matchup. St. Francis has ranked No. 1, and Hanover second all season. SF has never won a state title game and lost in the Division I contest to Canton-Galva last fall. St. Francis returned all but two players and has built depth this year. SF has its great seniors of RB Shadyron Blanka, OL Colton Neitzel, RB Adam Krien and OL/FB Jesse Baxter. Krien and Baxter start at defensive end, while Neitzel and Blanka see time at multiple defensive positions. Blanka, with multiple collegiate offers, have 2,000-plus yards of total offense.
Last week, SF trailed Victoria, the first time St. Francis was behind this year. St. Francis came back to win 44-22. It marked the Indians’ first game closer than 45 points. Hanover has had one game under the 45-point margin, a 40-20 victory versus Clifton-Clyde in Week 6. Hanover has multiple offensive weapons, including 1,165 all-purpose yards from senior Colin Jueneman. Hanover is 5-3 in state games since ’08. St. Francis will have a significant size advantage, though Hanover is known for their athleticism.
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