By CONOR NICHOLL
On a night where temperatures dipped below freezing throughout Kansas, the state quarterfinals yielded 36 winners. That included several that have enjoyed landmark victories for their programs.
SIK’s Bethany Bowman was at Andover Central/Wamego with online interviews, and Conor Nicholl at Salina Central/Hays High. Check out plenty of football coverage of the quarterfinals and semifinals on SIK platforms throughout the week.
Defending state champions that lost:
4A: St. Thomas Aquinas 28, St. James Academy 13 – SJA had won the last two 4A state titles and defeated the Saints 24-20 in Week 4. Aquinas running back Sean Carroll, who signed with Northern Illinois wrestling last week, again cleared 200 rushing yards.
1A: Centralia 8, Olpe 7 – Olpe had won the last two 1A crowns. Centralia (11-0) remains the only 1A undefeated champion and has continued a remarkable season of last-second wins. The Panthers have three victories by a combined eight points, including two one-point wins.
8M1: Hill City 68, Meade 50 – HC had lost to Meade in the state semifinals last season. The Ringnecks have increased its scoring offense in each of the last five on-field games.
Defending champions still alive:
5A Mill Valley: 3-time defending champions. Mill Valley cruised over Pittsburg, 49-0, and had its third straight shutout. MV leads 5A in scoring defense.
3A Andale: 3-time defending champions, on 49-game winning streak, fifth-longest in Kansas history and second-best currently nationally
8M2 Axtell: on current 24-game winning streak
Next week’s semifinals can be nearly divided into two groupings:
1-Collision course games that have discussed since the summer:
No. 2 Canton-Galva (11-0) at No. 1 Axtell (11-0) in Eight-Man, Division II. These teams have enjoyed historically dominant seasons. Both have set at least one state record.
No. 1 Southeast of Saline (11-0) at No. 3 Kingman (11-0) in 2A West. Both have been top-three all season. Kingman has the state’s best scoring defense among the remaining teams for all classes.
No. 1 Leoti-Wichita County (11-0) at No. 5 Hill City (10-1) in Eight-Man, Division I West. WC has averaged 60 points a game. HC has likely Division I’s best backfield with QB Aiden Amrein, RB Jayden Nuss and ATH Kaleb Atkins. WC has its experience and the electrifying Hermosillo brothers (QB Erhik and RB Khris).
2-Semifinal matchups that are rematches from earlier this season:
Class 6A: Derby/Manhattan (Manhattan won 26-23 in overtime in Week 1; that ended Derby’s 46-game home winning streak; Derby has made the last seven state title games)
Class 4A: Bishop Miege/St. Thomas Aquinas (Aquinas, down 20-0, came back to win 29-26 at Miege earlier this season)
Class 3A: Holton/Hayden (Holton won 37-13 in district play; first time teams have faced in the playoffs since 2016)
Class 2A: Sabetha/Nemaha Central (NC won 24-7 in the Big 7 matchup this year)
Class 1A: Conway Springs/Inman (CS won 35-14 in districts when Inman was ranked No. 1 in 1A)
Six-Man: Ashland/Cheylin (Ashland won 50-28; Cheylin has five turnovers all season and is plus-19 in turnover margin; the Cougars were minus-2 against Ashland)
Teams that enjoyed historic success with a win Friday:
Class 6A: Olathe Northwest 35, Olathe West 33: Northwest continues the best season in school history. NW is into the state semifinals for the first time. In the last two weeks, the Ravens have defeated teams they lost to earlier in the year.
Class 5A: Hays High 49, Salina Central 12: During the postgame on-field celebration with players and fans, HHS longtime PA announcer Dan Balman called out “We have made history.” Hays High accomplished the first 10-win season in school annals and tied the furthest playoff advancement in Indian history. HHS’ two semifinal appearances came in 1984 and ’93. Junior running back Malik Bah returned after he suffered a serious elbow injury on the first play of Week 9. Bah had specifically fitted brace that came in from California.
Bah rushed for 222 yards, Kyreese Groen went over 100, and the Indians rolled again. SC standout running back Kenyon McMillian was hurt in the game’s first couple of plays. HHS four-year starting defensive tackle Carson Spray also left with injury. Hays High senior linebacker Evan Lind continued his huge year. He recorded a pick-six, a key fourth-down sack, a TD-saving tackle and a forced fumble. Lind has three defensive touchdowns and is in strong consideration for 5A Defensive Player of the Year.
Class 5A: Blue Valley Southwest earned 69-35 win against De Soto and moved to 6-5. SW, in existence since 2010, tied the school mark for single season victories. SW reached the first semifinals in school history. The T-Wolves went 1-5 in the Eastern Kansas League. Three Eastern Kansas League squads are left: St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Miege and BVSW. Junior quarterback Dylan Dunn was 22 of 29 for 583 yards with eight touchdowns. Tate Everard, Alex Parks, Emmitt Peters and Sam Swickard all scored at least twice. BVSW finished with 711 total yards.
Class 4A: Wamego defeated Andover Central, 42-7. Wamego is 11-0 with a complete team, including a much improved defense from a 9-2 squad last season. Wamego is into the semifinals for the first time since 1975.
Class 3A: Clay Center 24, Cheney 6: CC continued its remarkable season with its fourth straight win. Clay Center (8-3) has doubled its win total from last year. The Tigers have matched the 1983 semifinal season for the best in school history.
Eight-Man, Division I: Burlingame 39, Lyndon 16 – Burlingame avenged a 60-59 loss to Lyndon in the regular season. The Bearcats, which were outside the top-five in the preseason, have heavily relied on seniors and sophomores. Burlingame moved to 10-1 and tied the best playoff finish in school annals since 1972. The Bearcats reached the semifinals in ’15-17. Jeff Slater with another great coaching job with Burlingame.
Class 6A East continues to be wild. Olathe Northwest defeated Olathe West, 35-33, and Gardner-Edgerton beat Blue Valley West, 21-14. G-E won four games last season. ONW has defeated Olathe South (35-21) and West in the last two weeks. Northwest had lost to both teams earlier this season. Northwest has won seven straight contests. G-E was state runner-up in ’09 and semifinalist in ’08, ’10 and ’11.
Olathe Northwest (8-3) at Gardner Edgerton (8-3)
Derby (9-2) at Manhattan (11-0)
Hays High defeated Salina Central, 49-12. The Indians held SC nearly 30 points below its season average. HHS rushed for 433 yards. Maize, behind a big defensive effort, held off upset-minded Hutchinson. The Salthawks ran 80 plays for 297 yards, while Maize had 35 plays for 283 yards. Avery Johnson was 6 of 17 for 191 yards and three TDs, easily his lowest completion percentage this year. Johnson has 28 TDs against no interceptions. McKinley Joynes and Christofer Felder both picked off a pass.
Blue Valley Southwest (6-5) at Mill Valley (10-1)
Hays High (10-1) at Maize (11-0)
Wamego is 11-0 and is into the state semifinals for the first time since 1975. Last season, Wamego lost, 48-0, to Andover Central. This time, the Red Raiders won, 42-7. Online interviews available on SIK platforms.
St. Thomas Aquinas’ senior running back Sean Carroll delivered 218 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Aquinas defeated rival St. James Academy, 28-13. SJA won the last two 4A state championships.
St. Thomas Aquinas (9-2) at Bishop Miege (9-2)
McPherson (10-1) at Wamego (11-0)
Andale continued its run as statistically possibly the best 3A team all-time. The Indians rolled over Rock Creek, 48-0. Rock Creek was the No. 1 passing offense this season and was averaging 46.3 points a game. Andale picked off seven passes and forced eight turnovers. AHS has won 49 straight, which is currently the nation’s second-longest winning streak.
Holton’s Garyson Booth led the Wildcats to a 47-27 win against Girard. Booth cleared 350 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Holton’s five offensive linemen are: Cooper Baxter (6-0, 230); Trevor Barnett (5-11, 265); Dalton Roush (5-11, 255); Tyler Phillips (6-0, 200); Abbott Hundley (6-2, 230). Holton gets a rematch with Topeka Hayden in the state semifinals. The two longtime eastern powers met earlier this season, and Holton won in district play. Hayden delivered Columbus, 39-19.
Topeka Hayden (10-1) at Holton (10-1)
Clay Center (8-3) at Andale (11-0)
Kingman entered the quarterfinals as the state’s best scoring defense among the 72 remaining teams. The Eagles had another huge performance in a win against Beloit in a 35-6 win. The 3-3 Havoc defense has been elite for several years. Last fall, Kingman lost to Beloit in the state semifinals.
Southeast’s Michael Murray, one of the state’s fastest players, had 129 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He scored twice on direct snap two-point conversions. Plus, Murray recorded 20 rushing yards on a jet sweep. Teams have avoided kicking to Murray this year. SES won, 44-21, against Hoisington.
Nemaha Central (11-0) at Sabetha (9-2)
Southeast of Saline (11-0) at Kingman (11-0)
Conway Springs is into the semifinals for the first time since its last championship in 2011. CS defeated Wabaunsee, 39-14. In 10 on-field games, Brayden Kunz has rushed for 2,149 yards with 27 total touchdowns. Kunz rushed for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Kunz is starting to get significant college interest and has been to K-State and South Dakota State in recent weeks.
Centralia (11-0) at St. Marys (9-2)
Inman (10-1) at Conway Springs (8-3)
Eight-Man, Division I
Little River has won 10 in a row after the season-opening loss to Canton-Galva. LR is first and second the last two years at state and opened preseason No. 1 in the classification.
Little River (10-1) at Burlingame (10-1)
Leoti-Wichita County (11-0) at Hill City (10-1)
Eight-Man, Division II
Axtell and Canton-Galva have been on a collision course the entire season in Eight-Man, Division II East. Both are 11-0 and will meet Friday in Axtell. Axtell, the defending state champion, has won 24 straight games. Both teams have set state records this season. Axtell senior quarterback Isaac Detweiler is the reigning Division II Offensive Player of the Year, and C-G’s Jett Vincent is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year (at Wheatland-Grinnell).
Detweiler is closing in on 200 career TDs responsible for, which is believed to be a state record. Detweiler is also on pace to set the eight-man career completion percentage record. C-G has set a variety of interception records, including Vincent, the state’s all-time leader in INTs.
Canton-Galva forced four turnovers against Lebo. Both Axtell and C-G won 52-6.
Thunder Ridge’s Dylan Bice exceeded 4,000 career rushing yards in a wild 62-46 win against Victoria. Bice led TR to a wild quarterfinal playoff win at Victoria. The Knights had reached the state semifinals each of the last two seasons. TR was an East team last season and reached the semifinals. Bice ran for more than 200 yards. Victoria stayed within one score the majority of the contest.
Canton-Galva (11-0) at Axtell (11-0)
Dighton (11-0) at Thunder Ridge (10-1)
Waverly, in its first season of six-man football, has won double-digit games for the first time since 2006. Cheylin, 9-1 in on-field games, has tripled its win total from last season. Cheylin has 31 touchdowns against no interceptions. Junior quarterback Logan McCarty has enjoyed a huge year with 65 of 102 passing for 1,238 yards with 21 scores against zero interceptions. McCarty has 100 carries for 1,063 yards with 20 rushing scores.
Cunningham (11-0) at Waverly (11-0)
Bird City-Cheylin (10-1) at Ashland (9-1)