Sports in Kansas: What impressed us after week five of the 2021 high school football season in Kansas?

By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen

Sports In Kansas takes its weekly look at Football Impressions. A pair of No. 1 teams lost (Mill Valley and Ashland), plus 2A No. 2 Nemaha Central and 8-Man II No. 2 Hanover fell. Additionally, Thomas More Prep-Marian delivered its third straight shutout, Inman has gone five games without allowing a TD, another OT game for Wamego, a standout defensive performance from Andover, and a bevy of other top performances, including more than 1,100 yards of total offense in the premier eight-man game between Little River and Canton-Galva.

Class 6A

No. 1 Derby dominated Hutchinson with a 55-6 victory. Drake Thatcher, Cayden Brown and Dylan Edwards scored the first three touchdowns for the Panthers. Derby has scored 226 points in four games and won 10 straight contests. The Panthers have won three straight 6A state crowns.

Lawrence Free State was a perennial power which posted a 37-7 record from 2016-19. Last year, the Firebirds posted a highly uncharacteristic 0-6 season in a year marred by COVID issues. It marked Free State’s first losing season since ’05, per the Kansas Football History database. Free State is 4-1 and earned a signature 41-20 home win versus Mill Valley, the current two-time defending 5A state champions. Class 5A No. 1 Mill Valley had its 11-game winning streak end. FS quarterback Jet Dineen accounted for four touchdowns.

No. 4 Blue Valley beat No. 3 Blue Valley North, 45-23. Dual threat quarterback Greyson Holbert enjoyed another huge contest, and Charlie Weinrich (KU offer) kicked a pivotal field goal.

Topeka High’s Tylan Alejos delivered 400 rushing yards and eight rushing scores. Highland Park’s Tre Richardson continued his highly impressive season, especially on special teams. He delivered 319 all-purpose yards, a rush touchdown, two receiving scores and a pair of kick return TDs. Topeka High improved to 2-3 with the 70-42 victory.

Olathe North was ranked No. 2 in 6A before its upset loss to Olathe West last week. North bounced back with big games from quarterback Noah Palmer and running back Jacob Parrish. North beat Olathe South, 54-16.

No. 5 Manhattan stayed perfect with a 48-21 win versus Topeka Seaman behind 194 rushing yards from Vinny Smith.

Undefeated teams: Blue Valley Northwest (5-0), Manhattan (5-0), Derby (4-0)

Class 5A

No. 5 Maize South, which bumped to No. 5 in the 5A rankings this week, improved to 5-0. Owen Bailey completed 11 of 14 passes for 157 yards and two scores. He rushed five times for 60 yards. Blake Mertes delivered three tackles and two sacks.

Sam Parks, an emerging top kicker, finished 8 of 9 on extra points, two of two on field goals with makes from 41 and 36 yards. Maize South’s offensive line delivered 592 yards of total offense. Evan Cantu has more than 1,100 rushing yards with 23 carries for 234 yards. He finished with five first half touchdowns and did not play after the first series in the second half. Cantu has 10 rushing TDs in the last two weeks. Maize South beat Newton, 68-24.

Spring Hill, significantly featured on SIK this past week, improved to 5-0. The Broncos are already a win away from its best season since the mid-90s. SH is the lone undefeated squad in 5A East. Spring Hill beat a quality De Soto squad, 28-14, at home. De Soto is 2-2. In the first half, Zach Knowlton rushed for a pair of TDs, and Fletcher Pankey tossed a pair of first half scores.

In the preseason, Andover was a KPreps Potential Breakout Team after back-to-back statistically dominant defenses. Offensive lineman/linebacker Jordan Hartman finished with a big game. Andover beat Wichita Heights and its high-octane offense with a 49-7 home victory. Andover has won four in a row and has allowed just 43 total points in 2021. Heights, with its experienced skill players and Division I running back John Randle, averaged 47.8 points a game in the first four contests. Andover is 4-1 and will be significantly favored this week before the big Battle for Andover game versus Andover Central.

Hays High beat Abilene, 64-7, and tied the school record for points in a game, per Indian broadcaster Dustin Armbruster. HHS is 4-1.

The biggest Holy War ever this week? Bishop Carroll (4-1) will be against Kapaun Mt. Carmel (5-0) to decide the City League title and possibly the top seed in 5A West. The game will be at the Stryker Complex. Carroll beat struggling Wichita North, 54-0. KMC won at Wichita Southeast, 80-20. Kapaun has won every game by at least 17 points. Both have a quality win versus 3-2 Wichita Northwest. BC has captured every Holy War game since 1999.

Undefeated teams: Spring Hill (5-0), Maize South (5-0), Kapaun Mt. Carmel (5-0)

Class 4A

St. James Academy, the defending 4A state champions, opened 0-4 against a brutal slate of games. SJA coach Tom Radke told SIK this summer that he expected defensive lineman Wade Spencer to have a big year. SJA won 33-13 against St. Pius X, a ranked Missouri program that took state runner up last season , with a big Spencer performance. St. James had tallied 36 total points in the first month and improved to 1-4.

Ottawa quarterback Noah McCullough finished with 20 carries for 202 yards in a 30-13 win versus Bonner Springs. Ottawa is 2-3 in the first year under Walt Alexander, who has coached at three-plus decades, notably a recent highly successful run at Topeka High. Ottawa was 1-8 last season and entered this year in a seven-game losing streak. Ottawa was 3-34 in its last 37 games before the improvement this year.

Incredibly, Wamego has played in three overtime games. The Red Raiders opened with a 41-40 four-overtime loss to Concordia. In Week 3, Wamego won at Clay Center, 47-41, in three overtimes. On Friday, Wamego beat Paola, 22-21, in overtime. Hayden Oviatt is one of the best multiple sport athletes in the state and just a junior.

According to SIK research and a 2016 USA Today story, the national record for single season OT games is five, most recently by Corsicana (Tex.). The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame does not track this statistic, though most notably Belle Plaine played three OT games in 2018, per KPreps archives.

Fort Scott scored on the game’s final play, a two-yard touchdown run from Cade Gulager, to beat Labette County, 19-15. FS ended a five-game losing streak that dated back to last year.

No. 4 Basehor-Linwood scored 21 points in the first quarter and won 42-7 versus Shawnee Heights. B-L tallied 380 yards and 7.6 yards per play. Brady Garrison was only 7 of 21 but delivered 123 yards and three touchdowns. Zack Sisemore has 17 carries for 144 yards, and Sam Hicks paced the defense. The Bobcats are 5-0 overall, 4-0 versus Kansas teams – and have beaten all KS squads by at least 21 points.

Undefeated teams: Basehor-Linwood (5-0), McPherson (5-0), Andover Central (5-0)

Class 3A

No. 1 Andale earned its 30th consecutive victory with a 48-0 win versus Hesston. Andale improved to 53-2 under fifth-year coach Dylan Schmidt. The Indians have not lost a regular season game under Schmidt.

Cheney quarterback Harrison Voth, a three-sport all-conference player, continues to impress as 3A’s top quarterback – and likely in the top-5 for all classes. In a matchup of undefeated teams against Pratt, Voth threw for four touchdown passes and has 21 this year. Luke Grace finished with three touchdowns and has seven this year. Cheney beat Pratt and its single wing, 27-14. Cheney, ranked No. 3 in 3A, improved to 5-0 and is 14-1 since the start of 2020. Cheney is 5-0, 2-0 in District 8, and Holcomb is 4-1, 2-0.

Holcomb quarterback Kaden Johnson, who can challenge Voth for 3A’s top signal caller, finished 16 of 18 for 295 yards and four touchdowns in one half. Johnson has played 6.5 quarters in the last three games and stands 33 of 40 for 685 yards and 14 scores in those contests. Holcomb improved to 5-0 with a 58-0 victory. Holcomb won 58-0 at Larned, and then has the huge matchup at Cheney this week. Holcomb/Cheney will be one of Kansas’ marquee games in Week 6.

In a matchup of undefeated teams, Girard won, 38-15, at Prairie View. Girard has its longest winning streak since nine in a row in 2012, per the KFH database. Before then, the Trojans won six in a row in ’01 and five straight in ’00. This is Girard’s first 5-0 start since an 11-0 opening in 1999. Credit to coach Neal Philpot and a host of really talented juniors in multiple position groups. Girard had just one returning offensive line starter. Wyatt Foley, who doubles as an all-state baseball player, had three scores on Friday night. Girard is quite loaded at their skill spots. Frontenac and Girard is starting to sound like quite the CNC/3A district showdown.

Riley County’s Steve Wagner and his family were honored for his 37 years of service. Wagner retired after last season following 259 wins. Arguably his most famous player, Jordy Nelson, was officially elected to the Kansas State Hall of Fame on Saturday. Wagner coached more than 1,000 players. RC beat Chapman, 37-16, and improved to 5-0.

Iola’s T.J. Taylor finished with five catches for 185 yards and two scores. Iola is 2-3, 1-1 in District 2 after a 34-7 home win versus Anderson County.

Undefeated teams: Girard (5-0), Holton (5-0), Concordia (5-0), Riley County (5-0), Southeast of Saline (5-0), Andale (5-0), Wichita Collegiate (5-0), Cheney (5-0)

Class 2A

No. 1 Rossville rolled over Oskaloosa, 62-0, and won its 18th straight game. Rossville has tallied 266 points in five weeks.

St. Marys has been close to upsets this season with coach Kyle Schenk, a Smith Center graduate. St. Marys has played probably the hardest 2A schedule. The Bears have played four of its first five games on the road. Those have been their four hardest contests. St. Marys lost to Riley County and Silver Lake to start by a combined four points, and then fell, 44-20, to Rossville. After a 54-7 win versus Riverside, St. Marys won at Nemaha Central, 30-12. NC is the No. 2 team in Class 2A. Keller Hurla has been a breakout player for the Bears this season.

In the summer, SIK believed Hoisington senior running back Legend Robinson would be a breakout player in 2021. Robinson had played in the backfield, then moved to the offensive line last season as the Cardinals earned 2A state runner-up for the best season in school history. Robinson returned to the backfield for 2021 and was expected to be the Cardinals’ next standout back. Hoisington beat Minneapolis, 36-6, and won its fourth straight game. The Cardinals remain a strong contender in a relatively wide-open 2A West.

Per Hoisington broadcaster Cole Reif, Robinson rushed 24 times for 327 yards and five touchdowns. He has 97 carries for 1,043 yards and 14 scores.

2A East has the powers with Rossville, Nemaha Central, Silver Lake and Osage City, the top-four teams the last several weeks in the KPreps poll. 2A West has had Beloit, Hoisington, Garden Plain, Kingman, Garden Plain and now likely Chaparral ranked in the top-five.

Chaparral (5-0) earned its first signature win and continued to be one of Kansas’ top turnarounds. The Roadrunners beat No. 5 Garden Plain, 41-21. Wyatt Drouhard finished 24 of 34 for 364 yards and six touchdowns. Chaparral went 2-6 last year and ended the season with four straight losses.

Beloit’s Benson Berndt finished with 245 rushing yards and three scores in a 32-0 win against Phillipsburg. Beloit won 32-0 at Phillipsburg and picked up its second consecutive victory.

Thomas More Prep-Marian earned its third straight shutout with a 27-0 home win versus Ellis in the Ellis County Rivalry. TMP has allowed just 36 points this season and posted three straight shutouts for the first time in at least 51 years.

Southwestern Heights’ Memo Flores delivered 33 carries for 186 yards in a 12-6 loss at Lakin.

Undefeated teams: Osage City (5-0), Wellsville (5-0), Rossville (5-0), Chaparral (5-0)

Class 1A

No. 3 Inman has established itself as a legit state contender after a 48-3 win at Plainville, a team known for its physicality and winning tradition with veteran coaches Grant Stephenson, Justin Casey and Ryan Becker.

It marked the worst regular season loss under Stephenson, who is 50-24 as the Cardinals’ coach. Inman was impressive all over the field, especially with its speed. The Teutons allowed a field goal, its first points permitted this year. Inman leads all of Kansas in scoring defense.

Harrison Brunk caught a pair of early TD passes, while senior Jace Doerksen threw for 179 yards. Kendyn Blank went over 140 total yards, and Tanner Heckel rushed for two scores. Senior lineman Dawson Mannebach was involved with five tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks.

No. 4 Sedgwick’s combination of QB Lance Hoffsommer and WR Ryan Stucky continued their impressive combination. The Cardinals beat Ell-Saline, 55-12. Sedgwick delivered 580 yards of total offense behind the offensive line that features Sam Culp (6-6, 250), Austin Harjo (6-4, 250), Jace Helstrom (6-0, 250), Koen Werner (6-2, 225), Peyton Reed (6-0, 220) and Connor Tillman (6-3, 225).

Stucky caught 10 passes for 207 yards and five scores. Chris Ward had six catches for 154 yards with a TD. Jeff Nold delivered four catches for 100 yards and a score. Lance Hoffsommer completed 22 of 23 passes for 448 yards and seven TDs, all in the first half.

Undefeated teams: Olpe (5-0), Inman (5-0), Smith Center (5-0), Sedgwick (5-0)

Eight-Man, Division I

In a huge game, No. 1 Little River, paced by its experienced offensive line, defeated No. 3 Canton-Galva, 60-52. Braxton Lafferty recorded 317 rushing yards and five rushing TDs. In the first half, Lafferty gave LR a 30-20 advantage when he ran into the pile, though wasn’t taken down. He bounced outside and ran in for the score. Little River lost 56-38 to Canton-Galva in district play last season, and then reeled off eight straight wins en route to the Division I state title. LR’s winning streak is now at 12 games.

The game finished an incredible 1,148 yards of total offense. C-G ran 71 plays for 605 yards, and Little River delivered 53 plays for 543 yards. Canton-Galva veteran junior quarterback Garrett Maltbie came back from injury and completed 23 of 41 passes for 436 yards and five scores. C-G senior Tyson Struber, a Kansas State commit, continued his prolific career and moved closer to the all-time eight-man career receiving TDs mark. He recorded 11 catches for 184 yards and two  scores.

The game also had seven turnovers in what could be the first of two meetings. LR now has a pair of one-score wins. Eight-Man, Division I was expected to be close and unpredictable this year, but LR’s outstanding offensive line of Kaden Shafer, Carter Holloway and Kyle Bruce could be the trump card for the Redskins thus far.

No. 4 WaKeeney-Trego continues to be one of the biggest stories in Kansas this year. The Golden Eagles improved to 5-0 behind 33 carries and 307 rushing yards and four scores from running back James Kriegh. Trego beat Atwood-Rawlins County, 58-28. In its four on-field games, the Golden Eagles scored 76, 42, 60 and 58 points. Trego’s five skill players are possibly the best in the classification: QB Owen Day, ATH Cole Feldt, Kriegh, TE Charlie Russell, and WR Gunner Wilson. Day completed eight of 13 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown. Feldt completed a pass, caught a pass and had a rushing TD. Wilson and Russell combined for six catches with a score.

Spearville’s Kolten Bennett delivered 28 carries for 197 yards and three scores. Evan Benjamin delivered a big game with 13 tackles, three interceptions and a fumble recovery. The Lancers are 3-2 after a 30-14 home win against its big rival, Jetmore-Hodgeman County. Both of Spearville’s losses came against currently 5-0 squads Bucklin and Meade.

Argonia-Attica’s Xander Newberry finished 11 of 11 passing for 328 yards and six touchdowns and zero touchdowns in a game that ended at halftime. A-A defeated Pretty Prairie, 60-12. The Titans have scored at least 36 points in all five games.

Undefeated Teams: Sedan (5-0), Yates Center (5-0), Chase County (5-0), Madison (5-0), Little River (5-0), Medicine Lodge (5-0), Meade (5-0), WaKeeney-Trego (5-0)

Eight-Man, Division II

No. 1 Axtell established itself as the Division II favorite with its third quality win with a 54-8 win against No. 5 Frankfort. Axtell has victories versus Wheatland-Grinnell (4-1), No. 2 Hanover (3-2) and Frankfort (4-1). The latter two are league and District 3 contests. Two years ago, Axtell beat Hanover and then lost to Frankfort on the game’s final play the next week.

Now, Axtell is 5-0, 3-0 in District 3. The Eagles beat Hanover and Frankfort for the first time in the same season since 1991, per the Kansas Football History database. Axtell junior Isaac Detweiler is the early season favorite for Eight-Man, Division II Offensive Player of the Year. He accounted for seven offensive scores.

Detweiler completed 9 of 14 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed 10 times for 131 yards and four TDs. Grady Buessing caught a pair of passes for 58 yards, both for scores. Axtell held a 328-172 yardage edge. This season, Detweiler has completed 40 of 54 passes for 644 yards with 12 scores against two interceptions. He has 80 rushes for 551 yards and 16 scores.

No. 3 Thunder Ridge continued to be dominant with a 54-0 road win versus Mankato-Rock Hills and set up big back-to-back home games versus Osborne and Frankfort. The Osborne game is for districts. TR has outscored teams, 298-40. Last year, the Longhorns were 4-1 and had a 212-135 margin after five games. Junior Dylan Bice passed for 44 yards and rushed for 63 with two scores. TR ran 28 plays for 246 yards.

No. 4 Victoria trailed nearly all game in a 42-40 win against undefeated WaKeeney in Week 3 and then required a second-half comeback to beat Sylvan-Lucas in district play last week. The Knights had its likely de facto District 5 championship game against rival Central Plains and pulled away for a 56-6 win. Grant Schoenrock accounted for three scores, Thaddeus Wohler tacked on two, and Nate Windholz scored two.

Bucklin continued its best start in 14 years with a 26-6 win against Satanta. The Red Aces have a huge home game versus Minneola this week in a contest that will likely decide the District 7 title. Bucklin has permitted just 78 total points. Last season, Bucklin opened 2-3 against the same opponents and allowed 206 points. Bucklin finished with 17.5 tackles for loss, including 6.5 from sophomore Drew Ellis. Senior Scott Price had 167 all-purpose yards, two scores and picked off a pass. Senior Nathan Bowman rushed for two scores.

South Barber’s Gatlin Jewell enjoyed a massive performance with 281 all-purpose yards. He rushed 13 times for 189 yards and five touchdowns. He caught two passes for 37 yards. He had one return, a 55-yard touchdown. SB improved to 4-1 with a 66-20 home win versus Peabody-Burns.

Caldwell rolled over Stafford, 51-14, behind another big game from junior dual threat quarterback Keiondre Smith. He passed for 95 yards and rushed for 197. Smith completed 4 of 7 passes with three scores against two interceptions. He rushed 25 times for 197 yards and three scores.

Undefeated Teams: Axtell (5-0), Thunder Ridge (5-0), Caldwell (5-0), Bucklin (5-0)


For the third straight week, Six-Man will have a new No. 1 ranked team. First, Ashland beat then-No. 1 Cheylin to move into the top slot. Then, Cunningham picked up a big 72-24 win versus Ashland. Cunningham has outscored teams, 316-69. Last year, the Wildcats had its big surprise improvement to 6-2. Cunningham and Ashland did not play last year in a game that was cancelled. The Wildcats scored 326 points in 2020. Cunningham re-started its program in 2019 with a 1-7 mark and zero on-field victories.

Undefeated Teams: Natoma (4-0), Cunningham (5-0)

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