By CONOR NICHOLL
Big wins by Manhattan, Lawrence Free State, Russell, South Sumner Co. and Dighton formed Week 8, the last week of the regular season.
No. 1 Manhattan stamped itself as 6A’s best team – and likely the state’s best overall squad. Manhattan rolled over Wichita Northwest, 56-28. Northwest was No. 6 in 6A. The Indians completed a remarkable resume with wins against current 6A No. 2 Derby, 5A No. 3 Hays High, Washburn Rural (6-2), rival Junction City (6-2) and Northwest. Those five teams have a combined three losses when not playing Manhattan.
Olathe East junior wide receiver/defensive back Gerard Reed was a key playmaker on both sides of the ball. He had 10 offensive touches for 168 yards and a score. Defensively, Reed had an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery, along with a blocked extra point attempt which ultimately won the game. East won, 34-33, at Shawnee Mission Northwest and ended a five-game losing streak.
Lawrence Free State earned a 31-19 upset win against 6A No. 3 Olathe North. However, ON had already won the Sunflower League and clinched the 6A No. 1 East seed. Class 6A East is close, especially with the Sunflower League, and Olathe North is a slight favorite. On the West, can Manhattan and Derby have a rematch in the state semifinals? Manhattan delivered its season-opening marquee 26-23 overtime win at Derby in Week 1.
Blue Valley Northwest finished as Eastern Kansas League runner-up after a 28-21 win against 4A No. 1 Bishop Miege. Northwest, the defending 6A state champions, went 5-3.
Undefeated Teams: No. 1 Manhattan (8-0)
Highland Park’s Tre Richardson, a FBS Division I recruit, continued his huge career. He accounted for seven touchdowns: one kick return, one passing, one receiving and four rushing. Richardson also threw a two-point conversion. Richardson has accounted for 47 touchdowns. He is one kickoff return touchdown from tying the Kansas career record, two away from tying the Kansas kickoff season record and one away from tying the return touchdown season record. HP won, 62-48, at KC Washington. HP went 6-2.
Leavenworth quarterback Eddie McLaughlin has accounted for 340 total yards with 176 passing and 164 rushing with three rushing touchdowns in a 24-19 win against Shawnee Heights. Leavenworth finished 3-5.
Great Bend continued its big turnaround after two straight winless seasons and a 0-2 start. GB defeated Garden City, 35-28, and has won six straight games. Cayden Scheuerman went 18 of 32 passing for 233 yards and two scores. He delivered 15 rushes for 115 yards and two scores.
ACTVL Division II can make a case for the state’s closest conference. Salina Central, Valley Center and Andover Central all went 4-2 in league play. This season, VC won games by four, one, two, seven, seven in overtime and 10 points.
There were five 6-2 squads in 5A West and VC is the No. 7 seed. Maize (8-0) and Hays High (7-1) headline 5A West.
In 5A East, rivals Mill Valley and De Soto both finished 7-1 and are seeded 1-2 respectively in the East. No. 2 Mill Valley is the three-time defending 5A champion. De Soto defeated Basehor-Linwood to win the United Kansas Conference. Highland Park (6-2), Sumner Academy (6-2) and Pittsburg (5-3) are the next three teams. It’s historically great records for Highland Park and Sumner, though the strength of schedule is not high.
Mill Valley is considered a step above on the East, with De Soto likely occupying the next tier. Brian King has seven straight winning seasons under coach Brian King, who has done a great job sustaining success with the Wildcats. De Soto lost to Mill Valley in the ’19 and ’20 playoffs.
On the West, defending runner-up Maize continue to roll behind quarterback Avery Johnson, the state’s best player. However, Maize has a likely Round of 16 playoff game against dangerous Kapaun Mt. Carmel (4-4). KMC has three losses by 10 points or fewer – and all wins by at least 29 points. The Crusaders feature its well-known trio of QB Dylan Hamilton, RB Omari Elias and WR Will Anciaux, a Kansas State commit.
Undefeated Teams: No. 1 Maize (8-0)
No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas won the Eastern Kansas League, the state’s best conference, with a 6-1 record. Aquinas earned wins against Blue Valley Northwest (28-13) and a big 20-point road comeback win against Bishop Miege (29-26). Aquinas’ only Kansas loss came against St. James Academy, 24-20.
Aquinas completed the regular season with a 62-23 win against Blue Valley Southwest. BVSW has a solid chance to finish as at least a 5A quarterfinalist.
No. 5 Wamego atop closely packed 4A West. Wamego has standout QB Hayden Oviatt and a much improved defense. The Red Raiders (8-0) completed their first undefeated regular season since 1975. Colin Donahue finished with 202 passing yards and two scores. Wamego has three shutouts. The Red Raiders permitted just 41 points in the regular season.
Wamego allowed 41 points in the first game of last season en route to a 9-2 year. Wamego’s defensive line was a highlighted group on SIK’s All-Underrated Team two weeks ago. Wamego has played the majority of the season without QB Hayden Oviatt, an Army West Point recruit and top-15 all classes player.
Towanda-Circle’s Ty Smith had two receiving touchdowns, a punt return for a score and nearly a touchdown off an interception. Circle won, 40-14, at Mulvane. The T-Birds finished a 6-2 regular season.
Eudora defeated rival Paola, 35-0 and finished 7-1.
Tonganoxie’s Isaiah Holthaus had six catches for 201 yards and three scores. Quarterback Talon Langford finished with 123 rushing yards and two rushing scores, along with 314 passing yards and four passing TDs. Tonganoxie finished 4-4 in the first year under coach Preston Troyer, the former offensive coordinator.
McPherson quietly posted another impressive regular season with a 7-1 season. The Bullpups only have a 30-15 loss against Junction City, a 6-2 squad. McPherson opened the season with a 44-27 win against Great Bend; GB finished 5-2.
Louisburg’s Layne Ryals delivered a 43-yard field goal, a 71-yard kickoff, a squib kick that LHS recovered, a 27-yard field goal and two extra points. Ryals’ kicking significantly helped in a 20-17 win against Spring Hill. LHS went 7-1 with just an out-of-state loss in Week 1.
Undefeated Teams: No. 5 Chanute (8-0), Atchison (8-0), No. 4 Wamego (8-0)
Galena won District 1 with a 6-2, 4-0 mark with a 14-13 road win against Frontenac. Galena defeated Parsons in Week 6 and Frontenac by the same score.
Russell was a preseason KPreps Potential Breakout Team and was projected to have its first winning season since 2003. Russell delivered a 42-19 road win against Norton. Russell (5-3) has allowed 15.5 points per game. Russell can win its first playoff game since 1979 next week. Head coach Christien Ozores has delivered an impressive turnaround.
Trinity Academy’s Harley Zimmerman finished 20 of 29 for 434 yards with five touchdowns. Donald Collier delivered 14 catches for 303 yards and five scores. Trinity earned its first win with a 41-36 win against Baxter Springs.
Chapman’s Aiden Whitley rushed 38 times for 227 yards and four scores. Chapman won, 40-37, at Clearwater. The Irish finished 3-5 in the regular season.
Girard finished a perfect 8-0 regular season and is 18-1 in last two seasons, the second-best 3A record behind Andale.
No. 1 Andale has won 46 straight games, four away from the fifth team in Kansas history to win 50 consecutive contests. The Indians are the clear 3A favorite with Holton the Eastern favorite.
District champions: Galena, Girard, Wellsville, Holton, Rock Creek, Wichita Collegiate, Andale, Scott City
Undefeated Teams: No. 5 Girard (8-0), Wellsville (8-0), No. 1 Andale (8-0)
No. 1 Southeast Saline won its highly anticipated matchup, 46-7, against No. 5 Ellsworth. SES went 8-0 and has been No. 1 all season. SES’ Luke Gebhardt completed 17 of 23 passes for 276 yards with four touchdowns. Gebhardt had 10 carries for 40 yards and a score and converted four two-point conversions. All of the yards came in the first half. SES led 46-0 at halftime after 30 second quarter points.
Ellsworth had the best start since 1984 and rose to No. 5 in the rankings. The Bearcats had allowed 40 total points in the first seven weeks. However, SES quickly showed the gap between the top-3 and the rest of the classification. SES has a 38-26 win against 3A No. 3 Rock Creek. The Trojans have outscored opponents, 393-76.
No. 2 Nemaha Central won the Big 7 title with a 24-7 win against No. 4 Sabetha. NC outscored teams, 411-81, including a 35-28 win against 3A No. 2 Holton.
No. 3 Kingman won District 6 and captured the Central Plains League. Kingman delivered a 40-7 win against Garden Plain. The Eagles outscored opponents, 336-41.
Osage City (7-1, 4-0) won tightly contested District 2 with a 56-29 win against Council Grove. Landon Boss delivered nearly 500 yards of total offense. He finished with 281 passing and four scores, along with 202 rushing and a touchdown. Kason Parsons delivered two rushing scores, and Cooper Parson finished with a rushing TD. Three players caught a receiving score.
This is still an historic season for 6-2 Council Grove, which has a five-win improvement from last fall and has played all season without two key seniors, including lineman Jaxon Buchman. CG will host the first home playoff game in school history next week.
Rossville head coach Derick Hammes picked up his 100th win as a Dawg with a 50-6 victory against Maur Hill. Hammes is 100-19 with five state championships and five league titles with the Bulldawgs.
Minneapolis earned a quality 21-6 win against Riley County. Minneapolis went 5-3, 2-2 in District 4 play. After four straight four-win seasons, the Lions had their first winning season since 2014.
Southeast of Saline, Nemaha Central and Kingman are the clear front runners in the classification.
For the third straight season, Beloit started slowly and become a dominant team. Beloit, a state semifinal and state runner-up the last seasons, opened 0-2 and won six in a row. Beloit defeated Thomas More Prep-Marian, 22-0.
District champions: Caney Valley, Osage City, Silver Lake, Nemaha Central, Southeast of Saline, Kingman, Hoisington, Beloit
Undefeated Teams: No. 1 Southeast of Saline (8-0), No. 2 Nemaha Central (8-0), No. 3 Kingman (8-0)
Centralia has a couple of last-second wins and is the lone undefeated squad in 1A. Maverick Becker delivered three interceptions with 100-plus rushing yards and a touchdown in a 59-16 win against Pleasant Ridge. Centralia went 8-0 and won District 4.
Conway Springs’ Brayden Kunz continued his dominating season with 25 carries for 199 yards and four scores and delivered a pick-six. In Week 7, Kunz led Conway Springs to a win against then-No. 1 Inman. Conway Springs finished 5-3, 5-0 in district play.
Sedgwick completed a remarkable comeback against a quality Marion squad. The Cardinals won District 6 with a 35-32 victory. Sedgwick trailed 32-21 with three minutes left. Sedgwick got a big defensive stop, scored, recovered the onside kick and scored again. Sedgwick, which finished with a team record-best state semifinal squad last year, is 4-4, 4-0 in district play.
Troy’s Reagan Hartman finished with five touchdown passes and a touchdown run. He was successful on seven of seven extra points in the first half. Troy earned a 65-0 win against Riverside. Troy finished 7-1 with just a one-point loss to Centralia.
Two-time defending champion Olpe lost close contests and allowed just 37 total points in 3A losses. Olpe has five on-field victories and has permitted 25 total points in those wins. Class 1A is highly intriguing with multiple teams in the mix. Three 1A squads have been ranked No. 1 this fall: St. Marys, Inman and Centralia.
Preseason No. 1 St. Marys opened 1-2 and has been utterly dominant with five straight victories: 64-0, 65-14, 45-0, 56-0 and 58-6.
District Champions: Pittsburg Colgan, Olpe, St. Marys, Centralia, Wabaunsee, Sedgwick, Conway Springs, Oakley
Undefeated Teams: No. 1 Centralia (8-0)
Eight-Man, Division I
Since the summer, Eight-Man, Division I was considered the state’s deepest class. What a wild regular season for the classification. Five squads – Wichita County, Clifton-Clyde, Chase County, Hill City and Burlingame – have been ranked No. 2 in the classification. It’s likely Little River will take over the No. 2 spot next week. Two teams have been ranked No. 1: Little River and Leoti-Wichita County.
Chase County completed a 7-1 regular season and will likely move back into the top-5 rankings. CC senior standout Mitch Budke had 11 rushes for 166 yards with four touchdowns. He delivered nine tackles and a defensive touchdown in a 64-0 halftime win against Madison. Budke reached 100 career touchdowns.
Chase County and Burlingame both went 7-1, 4-1 in District 2. Burlingame defeated Chase County, 26-24, in Week 5. Burlingame had clinched the district title after a 44-28 win against Madison in Week 7. In Week 8, Lyndon defeated Burlingame, 60-59. Burlingame did not have a turnover until Week 8.
Clifton-Clyde completed a 7-1 regular season and won the District 5 title. In districts, the Eagles allowed 6.4 points per game and held opponents to 50.8 rushing yards a contest. C-C did not permit a rushing touchdown in district play. C-C was 6 of 11 passing for 112 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles finished with 19 rushes for 255 yards and five touchdowns. Junior all-purpose threat Trent Long had 11 carries and 168 yards with three touchdowns. Long is 2 of 4 passing with a touchdown, along with two receptions for 50 yards and a TD reception.
No. 4 South Sumner Co. completed an 8-0 regular season in the first year of the high school football co-operative agreement between Caldwell and South Haven. SSC defeated Central Burden, 52-20, which marked the team’s closest game of the year. All-state QB Keiondre Smith, RB Alex Smith (named to SIK’s All-Underrated Team) and Jackson Risley has led an Outlaw squad has outscored teams, 468-76.
Could the playoffs yield a rematch of the 2020 state championship game when Little River defeated Wichita County, 70-58, in the highest scoring state championship game in Kansas history? This is a really close class, especially on the East with five-plus teams in the mix. The West has a likely clearer pecking order with Wichita County having wins against Hoxie and Meade; and Hoxie defeated Hill City. Both Hoxie and Hill City have battled injuries to key skill players.
District Winners: West Elk, Chase County, South Sumner Co., Little River, Clifton-Clyde, Hill City, Macksville, Leoti-Wichita County
Undefeated Teams: West Elk (8-0), South Sumner Co. (8-0), Macksville (8-0), No. 1 Leoti-Wichita County (8-0)
Eight-Man, Division II
No. 1 Axtell ran its winning streak to 21 games. The Eagles ran 15 plays and scored nine touchdowns. Seven different players scored. The defense forced two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a punt block. Axtell won, 68-0, at Doniphan West. Axtell and Canton-Galva continue historically great seasons. Axtell outscored teams, 504-78.
No. 2 Canton-Galva completed an 8-0 regular season and senior RB/WR/DB Jett Vincent set multiple state interception records. C-G delivered five shutouts and has permitted just 54 total points. Thirty-six came in Week 1 against Little River, which is currently 7-1 and ranked in the top-three in Division I. C-G has a total score of 438-54.
No. 4 Thunder Ridge defeated much improved Sharon Springs, 42-6, and won the district title. SS finished 5-3 in the regular season, its first winning record since 2016.
No. 5 Dighton earned an impressive 46-0 home win against Minneola. Both teams entered 7-0. The game was called at halftime. Coach Ken Simon has done another impressive job. He made a key switch a couple of weeks ago when he moved Carson Shimer to quarterback and switched former QB Max Neeley to running back. Dighton held Minneola to 15 of 33 passing for 105 yards with two interceptions. Wide receiver Daniel Cramer continually found open spots in the defense and had several key touchdowns/2-point conversions.
Marmaton Valley sophomore quarterback Brayden Lawson delivered 43 carries for 338 yards and eight touchdowns, along with 5 of 9 passing for 58 yards. MV delivered a 64-56 road win versus St. Paul and finished 4-4.
Stafford held off Kinsley, 38-34, in a road game to win District 7. Stafford has wins by six, four, 12 and four points. First-year coach Mitchell Engelken, a former first team all-state Baileyville B&B player and Osborne assistant coach, has done great work with the Trojans.
Axtell and Canton-Galva continue to be on a collision course to meet in the East semifinals.
Victoria, Thunder Ridge and Dighton headline a closely packed Eight-Man, Division II West favorites.
District Champions: Lebo, Canton-Galva, Axtell, Osborne, Victoria, Thunder Ridge, Stafford, Dighton
Undefeated Teams: No. 2 Canton-Galva (8-0), No. 1 Axtell (8-0), No. 3 Victoria (8-0), Stafford (8-0), No. 5 Dighton (8-0)
Tribune-Greeley County sophomore quarterback Lincoln Shafer, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer to capture a state basketball championship last March, has played well as the Jackrabbits’ quarterback. On Friday, Shafer had seven rushes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Shafer completed five of eight passes for 105 yards and two scores. Shafer delivered six tackles and a fumble recovery.
Two months ago, Ingalls was projected to have a nice improvement after a winless eight-man season last year. Ingalls beat Deerfield, 100-87, to finish as the District 3 runner-up. Ingalls’ Langston Nothern finished with 552 rushing yards and 13 scores.
No. 5 Northern Valley ran a trick play for an extra point when 6-foot-3, 352-pound senior Deacon Schemper caught a trick play called the “bouquet toss” for the extra point. NV has a pair of one-point losses to Cheylin and Tescott.
Defending state champion Natoma took a 52-32 upset loss to Pawnee Heights and finished 4-4 in the regular season.
Cunningham, which defeated Ashland by one score in Week 1, and AHS are the favorites. The next tier is close with Cheylin, Tescott, Northern Valley and Waverly. That quartet is clearly in front of the rest of the pack. A trend with the first year of sanctioned six-man football is the high number of teams that had a turnaround after years of struggle. That’s been well-publicized with Tescott. Several others enjoyed nice seasons for their programs:
Wetmore (6-2) – Wetmore had a five-win improvement from last season. Wetmore had six total wins in the last four years. Wetmore had the best record since the program resumed after a long absence in 2015.
Peabody-Burns (5-3) – P-B has won more than five games since 2014.
Burrton (5-3) – Burrton has its first winning season since 2002.
Deerfield (4-3) – Deerfield has not had a winning season since 2010.
Tribune-Greeley County (4-4) – GC has not had a winning record since 2010, per Kansas Football History.
District Winners: Waverly, Cunningham, Ashland, Bird City-Cheylin
Undefeated Teams: Waverly (8-0), No. 1 Cunningham (8-0)