By CONOR NICHOLL
A major preseason trend involved the 51 teams that dropped down a classification. This helped bump Class 1A to 42 squads. KSHSAA sanctioned six-man football for the first time, and the class has 26 teams.
Five squads immediately moved into the preseason rankings: 4A St. Thomas Aquinas, 2A Southeast of Saline, 1A St. Marys, 1A Pittsburg St. Mary’s-Colgan and six-man Peabody-Burns. Aquinas was third in 4A. SES is ranked No. 1 in 2A. St. Marys is first in 1A, Colgan fifth in 1A and P-B fifth in six man.
Multiple others vaulted into state contender status in a respective class, including Council Grove, Riley County and Sabetha in 2A, Marion and Sterling in 1A, Ell-Saline, Elkhart and Lyndon in Division I, and Hodgeman County, Kinsley and Marmaton Valley in Division II. Six-man has a variety of contenders from the new teams, including Waverly and Tescott.
All five ranked teams faced another big test in Week 1. Aquinas, Southeast of Saline and St. Marys beat ranked teams. St. Marys ended Rossville’s 26-game winning streak. Peabody-Burns lost to Tescott.
In 1A, Colgan solidified its preseason ranking with a key 14-12 win at Frontenac in the longtime CNC rivalry. The Panthers had lost three in a row to Frontenac since 2018. Colgan had lost three consecutive Week 1 games.
Colgan is at Girard (1-0) on Friday in another big contest. The Panthers have lost two in a row to Girard. Frontenac is the reigning 3A state runner-up. Colgan finished No. 20 in 48-team 2A with 22.7 points allowed a contest. Junior Tucker Harrell put up highly impressive weight room numbers. He moved from wide receiver to quarterback. Harrell completed five of 11 passes for 33 yards. He rushed 16 times for 74 yards and two scores.
Junior Cooper Simmons had 19 carries for 92 yards. Colgan ran 48 plays for 215 yards. Last season, Colgan lost, 46-12, to Frontenac. The Panthers had 44 plays for 137 yards.
Junior Connor Vanbecelaere and senior Colin Hite played well, too. Harrell delivered 13 tackles, while Vanbecelaere delivered 11 stops. Hite and junior Kysen Bennett each picked off a pass.
Last season, Harrell had spot time at quarterback and went 5 of 7 passing for 117 yards with a score against no interceptions. As a sophomore, Simmons delivered 69 carries for 563 yards and nine TDs. Harrell caught 33 passes for 486 yards and six scores. The top-four tacklers are back, including 94 from Simmons and 74 by Harrell.