Football in Kansas: Impressions from across the state in a wild Round of 16 playoff weekend

Hill City’s Conner Dinkel reached 400 career tackles, an elite milestone. Dinkel and Hill City DC Craig Amrein pictured here. The Ringnecks are back in the 8M1 state quarterfinals.


The Round of 16, like college football’s conference championship weekend and NFL Divisional Playoffs, is quite possibly the best weekend of the high school football season. Every conference and region had at least one team left in Kansas high school football. Several upsets occurred Thursday, and Friday yielded another round of close games, milestone victories and individual milestones.

Editor’s Note: Thursday’s results/top performances already reviewed on SIK.

Three defending state champions, 6A Blue Valley Northwest, 2ARossville and Six-Man Natoma, lost. Olathe North, which clinched the top seed in 6A East after Week 7, lost.

Meade, the defending Eight-Man, Division I state champions, scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass in the final minute and held off Quinter, 30-28. Meade came back from a 10-point comeback in the last seven minutes.

Five teams: 5A No. 3 5A Hays High, 4A Circle, 4A Wamego, 1A Wabaunsee and Six-Man Wetmore, have enjoyed historical success for their programs.

Hays High, behind another great defensive performance and a mammoth two-way game from senior Bryce Salmans, beat Valley Center, 28-6. Hays High moved to 9-1 and tied the school record for single season victories. Salmans was in on three tackles for loss, had two quarterback hurries and two rushing scores. He moved to running back when HHS missed its top-two running backs because of injury. (More on Hays High upcoming this week).

Wamego received 276 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Hayden Oviatt, an Army West Point commit and out with injury most of the year. Thomas McIntyre had 110 rushing and two touchdowns. Wamego is 10-0 for the first time since 1975. The Red Raiders continue to play outstanding defense after a 35-8 win against Rose Hill. Wamego has not allowed more than 16 points in any game this season.

Towanda-Circle defeated Coffeyville, 34-6. Circle reached eight wins for the second time in school history. The T-Birds also reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1980, the second occasion in school history.

Wabaunsee defeated Marion, 22-14, and is into the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1983. Wabaunsee is 9-1 and has won nine straight games.

Six-Man Wetmore is into the first quarterfinals in program history as its own school. (Wetmore had co-oped periodically with Centralia). Wetmore moved to 7-2 with a 63-7 victory against Burrton.

Dominance with ranked teams: The top-3 squads in 2A (Southeast of Saline, Nemaha Central and Kingman) and top-5 in Eight-Man, Division II (Axtell, Canton-Galva, Victoria, Thunder Ridge and Dighton) continue to dominate. The first matchup of these powers occurs Friday when Thunder Ridge (9-1) is at Victoria (10-0).

All eight teams won by at least 23 points.

Hill City senior linebacker Conner Dinkel cleared 400 career tackles. Dinkel is a four-year starter, three-time all-league player and returning first team all-state player. HC is 9-1 after a 58-12 win against WaKeeney-Trego. The Ringnecks have made the state quarterfinals in back-to-back years, the first time that has happened in school history. HC has not allowed more than 22 points in any game this season. Its two-front defense continues to be dominant. The Ringnecks have allowed 9.2 points a game. Hill City’s offense has found itself after some midseason injuries and scored 156 points in the last three games. Dinkel will be in strong consideration for Eight-Man, Division I Defensive Player of the Year. The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Dinkel has cleared 100 stops in each of the last three seasons.

Nice turnarounds for four far west Kansas teams:

Eight-Man, Division I Atwood-Rawlins County: Four wins each of the last two years, 8-2 this fall

Eight-Man, Division II Wallace County: 7-3, first winning season since 2016.

Six-Man Ingalls: winless in Eight-Man, Division II last year to 6-2 this year.

No. 3 Six-Man Bird City-Cheylin: 3-5 last year to 8-1 this season.

Class 6A

Class 6A will not have a repeat champion. Gardner-Edgerton defeated Blue Valley Northwest, 28-19. G-E is into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2018 and has a three-win improvement.

A question that SIK has posed since the summer: is Washburn Rural (8-2) this year’s Blue Valley Northwest? Last season, BVNW had the biggest one-season turnaround of any 6A state champion in state history. The Junior Blues defeated Garden City, 34-7.

Derby rolled over Lawrence, 76-28. Derby running back Dylan Edwards, a Notre Dame commit and consistent top-two recruit in Kansas, rushed 13 times for 206 yards and five scores. He had two catches for 87 yards and a TD, per Derby Sports.

Blue Valley West, a preseason top-5 6A squad, defeated Olathe North, 28-14. BVW went to the semifinals last year. 6A East is wide-open with all four teams in strong consideration to reach state.

East Final Four: No. 8 Blue Valley West (5-5) at No. 4 Gardner-Edgerton (7-3); No. 6 Olathe Northwest (7-3) at No. 2 Olathe West (8-2)

West Final Four: No. 4 Wichita Northwest (8-2) at No. 1 Manhattan (10-0); No. 6 Washburn Rural (8-2) at No. 2 Derby (8-2)

Class 5A

Three-time defending 5A state champion Mill Valley, ranked No. 2, shutout Shawnee Heights, 21-0, in the rain Friday. Mill Valley, the state’s top defense, has permitted 6.3 points a game in a 9-1 season.

No. 1 Maize continued to dominate behind 380 rushing yards from Kapaun Mt. Carmel in the pouring rain. Maize won 43-14 behind 19 carries for 175 yards and two scores from Daeshaun Carter. Maize’s offensive line opened holes for 54 plays for 428 yards.

Pittsburg opened 0-2 and is 7-1 since after a 28-0 win against KC Sumner.

Salina Central is into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013 with a 40-35 win against Great Bend. Per broadcaster Jackson Schneider, Salina Central’s Kenyon McMillian, with his sub-4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, had four rushing touchdowns.

East Final Four: No. 5 Pittsburg (7-3) at No. 1 Mill Valley (9-1); No. 11 Blue Valley Southwest (5-5) at No. 2 De Soto (9-1)

West Final Four: No. 4 Hutchinson (8-2) at No. 1 Maize (10-0); No. 3 Salina Central (8-2) at No. 2 Hays High (9-1)

Class 4A

Bishop Miege running back Octavius Lyles recorded 225 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Miege is 8-2 after the 33-26 win against Eudora.

In Thursday’s wild two-overtime 49-48 KC Piper win against Chanute, Zane Busick delivered a perfect onside kick.

East Final Four: No. 5 Bishop Miege (8-2) at No. 8 KC Piper (7-3); No. 10 St. James Academy (6-4) at No. 6 St. Thomas Aquinas (8-2)

West Final Four: No. 5 Andover Central (7-3) at No. 1 Wamego (10-0); No. 3 Circle (8-2) at No. 2 McPherson (9-1)

Class 3A

Girard moved to 10-0 for the second straight year. The Trojans, which won the CNC, defeated Frontenac, 36-0, and have back-to-back postseason shutouts.

In what considered a pick-‘em game, Cheney defeated Scott City, 28-27. Cheney sophomore quarterback Josh Burdick, on SIK’s All-Underrated Team, continued his breakout season with 243 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing score. Jackson Voth had eight catches for 102 yards and two scores. He became the first Cheney wide receiver to clear 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Voth had three first half touchdowns alone.

East Final Four: Topeka Hayden (9-1) at Columbus (5-5); Holton (9-1) at Girard (10-0)

West Final Four: Andale (10-0) at Rock Creek (9-1); Cheney (8-2) at Clay Center (7-3)

Class 2A

Nemaha Central defeated Rossville, 36-13. NC won the 2A state championship in 2019, while Rossville won the last two 2A crowns. The No. 2 Thunder continue to be the East favorite. Senior Cooper Hajek, a likely Top 11 player at this point, had 115 rushing yards and three scores. Freshman Carter Hajek had 142 rushing yards and a score.

In district play, Osage City defeated Humboldt, 42-34. Humboldt ran more than 30 plays and lost, a difference veteran OC coach Andrew Gantenbein said he had never seen. Humboldt flipped the result with a 26-21 victory.

Beloit is into the state quarterfinals for a fourth straight year. The Trojans have won eight straight and defeated Norton, 50-14.

Hoisington came back to defeat Russell, 28-22. Russell enjoyed its first winning season since ’03 and first playoff victory since ’79. Per Hoisington broadcaster Cole Reif, the Cardinal defense held up late in a great game. Hoisington was up six and came up with two stops inside their own 14-yard line on Russell’s final two drives. Hoisington recorded a fumble recovery at the five-yard line and had a fourth down stop from the 14 to preserve the win.

Sabetha held Riley County to 81 total yards. Collin Menold finished with 248 rushing yards and four touchdowns filling in for Josh Herrmann. Jonathan Reyner added 113 rushing yards and a score.

East Final Four: Caney Valley (8-2) at Sabetha (8-2); Nemaha Central (10-0) at Humboldt (8-2)

West Final Four: Hoisington (8-2) at Southeast of Saline (10-0); Kingman (10-0) at Beloit (8-2)

Class 1A

Smith Center, the preseason 1A West favorite, rolled over Sedgwick, 28-0. SC has improved on defense after a 2-2 start where it allowed 26.3 points a game. The Redmen, generally a top-5 defense under longtime coach Brock Hutchinson, has permitted 7.5 points a contest in the last six games. SC had its best shutout of the year against the Cardinals. Last year, Sedgwick defeated Smith Center, 49-48. Luke Franklin delivered 11 rushes for 114 yards with two touchdowns. Fullback Jake Sasse had 18 carries for 111 yards.

Inman rolled over Oakley, 47-0, with all but three points coming in the first three quarters. Tanner Heckel scored on runs of one and 11 yards, and found Harrison Brunk for a 27-yard passing touchdown. Sammy Shober delivered a 19-yard run in the second quarterback. After halftime, Heckel found Harrison Brunk for a 44-yard touchdown pass, and Shober scored on a 12-yard run. Heckel scored in the fourth on a six-yard TD run. Heckel accounted for 254 yards of total offense, while Shober rushed for 109 yards. Inman held Oakley to under 100 yards. Zachary Martisko delivered double-digit tackles.

St. Marys, the preseason No. 1 team, delivered another big win. Senior all-state quarterback Keller Hurla has 28 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns, along with three pass breakups on defense. No. 3 St. Marys defeated No. 5 Troy, 26-0.

All eight Class 1A teams have a strong chance to reach state, although Colgan is heavily banged up after multiple injuries this week.

East Final Four: St. Marys (8-2) at Pittsburg-Colgan (9-1); Olpe (8-2) at Centralia (10-0)

West Final Four: Wabaunsee (9-1) at Conway Springs (7-3); Smith Center (8-2) at Inman (9-1)

Eight-Man, Division I

District 2 has enjoyed its well-publicized success, and this is a major positive reason why four teams from each district should make the playoffs. Until a couple of years ago, just two teams from each district made the postseason. District 2 went 3-1 in Round of 16 contests and set up highly intriguing games. Lyndon defeated Burlingame, 60-59, in Week 8. Little River, preseason No. 1, has rolled to nine straight wins after first and state second place finishes the last two years. Chase County senior quarterback Mitch Budke has enjoyed a huge season with more than 2,000 rushing yards and 100 tackles.

Burlingame quarterback Colby Middleton finished with 21 carries for 221 yards and five touchdowns. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 94 yards and a score. Sophomore Dane Winters had seven carries for 56 yards and two scores, three catches for 75 yards, and a 40-yard punt return. Burlingame, the only team to beat Chase County, defeated Wichita Independent, 62-14.

East Final Four: Burlingame (9-1) at Lyndon (8-2); Little River (9-1) at Chase County (9-1)

West Final Four: Hill City (9-1) at Meade (9-1); Wichita County (10-0) at Atwood-Rawlins County (8-2)

Eight-Man, Division II

While so many has been written about the top-five teams, unranked Osborne and Lebo have continued to play well after big early season losses to Division I teams. Osborne has won eight in a row, including a quality home victory against senior-laden Colony Crest. Lebo opened 0-2 and has won eight in a row, including four shutouts. Osborne defeated Colony Crest, 34-18. Lebo beat Frankfort, 46-0.

East Final Four: Canton-Galva (10-0) at Lebo (8-2); Axtell (10-0) at Osborne (9-1)

West Final Four: Thunder Ridge (9-1) at Victoria (10-0); Dighton (10-0) at Sharon Springs (7-3)


Ingalls was a winless team in Eight-Man, Division II last year. Ingalls defeated Tribune-Greeley, 45-0. The Bulldogs improved to 6-2 and have enjoyed one of the best turnarounds in Kansas. Ingalls defeated Greeley County twice this season, after a 41-19 win in the season opener. Ingalls beat Deerfield, 100-87, two weeks ago.

Defending state runner-up Cunningham continues to win at a historically dominant rate. The Wildcats have allowed one touchdown in its last five on-field games. Cunningham is 9-0 and completely dominated last year’s state champion, Natoma, 65-0. Cunningham has allowed just 43 total points and scored 432.

East Final Four: Tescott (9-1) at Waverly (10-0); Wetmore (8-2) at Cunningham (10-0)

West Final Four: Northern Valley (8-2) at Ashland (8-1); Ingalls (7-2) at Cheylin (9-1)

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