By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
The Week 11 (state quarterfinal) Impressions start with the remarkable story and state record for Sedgwick senior kicker/lineman Connor Tillman. We look at each semifinal qualifier and the state’s biggest surprises from the preseason rankings.
SIK has reported on Tillman’s background earlier this fall as he closed in on the Kansas career kick scoring record. Tillman’s right arm was injured at birth. He can use his left hand to play. Tillman has kicked since youth football and kicked all four years for Sedgwick varsity.
Tillman has also started on the line and was a key player on Sedgwick’s state baseball team last spring. On Friday, Tillman delivered another inspirational chapter in a 49-48 road win at Smith Center in the Class 1A state quarterfinals. Tillman broke the all-time record and stands at 279 career kicking points, per Sedgwick coach Jeff Werner. Tillman had suffered injury early in prior week in a 33-6 home win versus Ell-Saline.
The previous record was 275 points set by Wichita Northwest’s Carson Arndt last year. Before then, Phillipsburg’s Jonathan Hunnacutt broke a mark that had stood since the ‘90s in 2018.
“He had to be carried onto the field to try and kick the points against them,” Werner told SIK on Saturday night. “He did not practice at all last week and tried to go in pregame. Could not play. But said he could kick (extra points).”
Sedgwick was 0-5 all-time in school history in state quarterfinals, including losses in ’18 and ’19. The Cardinals, long known for offense Werner, have consistently delivered undefeated regular seasons. Sedgwick had fallen to Smith Center in the playoffs in ’15, ’18 and ’19.
This time, Sedgwick standout quarterback Lance Hoffsommer found Ryan Stucky on a 14-yard pass with 21 seconds left to the game at 48. Then, Tillman hit the game-winning extra point. Hoffsommer finished 28 of 41 for 302 yards with three touchdowns against one interception. He rushed 23 times for 146 yards and two scores.
“We were thrilled for Connor when he broke the record,” Werner said. “We knew it was important to him and when he got hurt last week, we were really worried he would get the record. But the biggest extra point was that final point. That was the biggest extra point in school history and he drilled it. Great moment for sure.”
Sedgwick scored the most points against Smith Center at Hubbard Stadium since a 54-0 Redmen loss to Beloit in Week 2 of 2012. The game-tying touchdown came on a backside route Sedgwick practices often.
“The coverage was actually very good,” Werner said. “It was just a really good ball that Ryan made a great play on.”
Sedgwick faces Heart of America rival Inman in a matchup of undefeated teams in the Class 1A semifinals. Both squads are undefeated. Neither one has made a state final. Inman lost to Oakley in the 1A semifinals last season.
Sedgwick has averaged 52.2 points a contest. Inman has tallied 53.2 points a game and allowed just 47 points this season. While the squads did not match up last year, Sedgwick is 12-0 against Inman since 2005. Werner hopes Tillman can return to the offensive line this week.
Inman won at Conway Springs, 26-13, and defeated CS for the second straight year in the playoffs. CS led 7-6 after the first quarter and had the same margin at halftime. However, Inman had a pair of third quarter touchdowns on a 29-yard pass from Jace Doerksen to Harrison Brunk, and a 13-yard TD run from Kyler Konrade.
Overall, Doerksen completed 8 of 10 passes for 131 yards and a score. He rushed seven times for 62 yards and a TD. Kendyn Blank and Tanner Heckel both intercepted passes.
In 1A East, Olpe improved to 10-0 in on-field performances, 11-0 including a bye. In the 10 on-field performances, Olpe has nine shutouts. The Eagles have allowed 12 points all season. Olpe beat Jefferson County North, 28-0.
Olpe allowed 35 points in 2020, which was the fewest points permitted by an 11-man squad since Smith Center’s 20 points allowed in ’07, per SIK research and Prep Power Index archives. Currently, Olpe is ahead of the pace set by Smith Center in ’07. Olpe will travel to Centralia (8-2).
The 2007 Smith Center team still holds a variety of state records, including a total margin of 844-20. SC has marks for single season scoring offense, single season margin of victory, average margin of victory and touchdowns and rushing TDs, per the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. That year, SC tied 1979 Rossville for the state record with 11 shutouts. Rossville allowed a state record three points all year. That only came in a 3-0 playoff loss to SC, still the KSHSAA era record for scoring defense.
The Panthers beat Lyndon, 53-22, after a 26-0 win versus Lyndon earlier this season. Centralia won the 1A state championship in 2019 with a 22-20 win versus Olpe in the state quarterfinals, and an 18-14 win against Smith Center in the championship. That marks Olpe’s last loss.
In the preseason, Olpe was ranked first, Inman third, Sedgwick fourth and Centralia fifth.
In the East, Blue Valley Northwest defeated Olathe North, 56-27. Blue Valley West beat Shawnee Mission Northwest, 37-34. Northwest, which has enjoyed its huge turnaround under coach Clint Rider, has never made a title game. Northwest was 0-9 and 2-7 three and two years ago.
In the win versus ON, Grant Stubblefield delivered 18 carries for 208 yards with four touchdowns. He had three catches for 57 yards. Mikey Pauley, a D1 recruit in football and baseball and multiple passing record holder for Northwest, completed 7 of 10 passing for 148 yards. He delivered 12 carries for 68 yards and four scores.
BV West under HC Josh Koerkenmeier, a Blue Valley alum, has been the surprise of 6A this season with back to back victories over SMNW this past week and Blue Valley the week before.. Sage Huffman has had a huge year for the Jaguars as one of the top backs in 6A with over five yards per carry and 1,400+ yards on the ground. Gage Roach has also passed for over 1,500 yards this season while four recievers have at least 250+ yards this year (Charlie Johnson, Braxton Symonds, Andrew Coltharp and Jack Schneider)
For the West, Derby had a rare close game with a 27-21 win versus Lawrence Free State. Lawrence beat Manhattan, 41-22. Lawrence junior Cole Watson had a nice one-handed catch for a 21-14 lead. Lawrence is looking for its first state title game trip since 1995. Derby, the three-time defending champions bumped its winning streak to 16 games as Dylan Edwards rushed for 251 yards on 25 carries (3 TD). Free State made a nice push for a comeback and totaled up 384 yards against Derby as Jet Dineen had a huge game. Lawrence’s Grant Glasgow kicked a 48-yard field goal.
East Semifinals: Blue Valley West (7-4) at Blue Valley Northwest (10-1)
West Semifinals: Lawrence (9-2) at Derby (10-0)
Preseason Rankings: No. 1 Derby, No. 5 Blue Valley Northwest, NR Lawrence, NR Blue Valley West
Two-time defending champion Mill Valley beat Blue Valley Southwest, 35-7. Longtime MV rival St. Thomas Aquinas beat De Soto, 30-14. Kapaun Mt. Carmel beat City League rival Wichita Northwest, 38-35, for the second time this year. Northwest was the three-time defending 5A state runner-up. Maize beat Hays High, 48-36.
Maize delivered 573 yards of total offense, including 19 of 34 passing for 392 yards and three scores versus Avery Johnson. Tayveon Williams finished with nine carries for 109 yards and two scores. Bryce Cohoon caught four passes for 138 yards and a score. Maize’s McKinley Joynes had a big interception on HHS’ potential game-winning drive.
HHS senior quarterback Jaren Kanak cleared 200 rushing yards and went over 1,600 rushing yards this season. Kanak, the state’s top recruit and Clemson commit, had a run that went viral for nearly 350,000 combined views on all of our platforms, where he broke seven tackles and bowled over several Maize defenders. Kanak played quarterback as the full-time starter for the first time this year. Kanak has posted sub-10.4 speed in the 100-meter dash. The TD run, capped by a great call from HHS veteran broadcaster Dustin Armbruster, made SportsCenter’s Top-10. HHS (8-3) was in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1995.
Mill Valley is 17-1 in its last 18 contests. The Jaguars had to replace nearly all of their starters this year, especially at the skill positions. Senior Reice Kennedy, in his first year as a starter, has 164 carries for 1,149 yards and 11 TDs. Junior quarterback Hayden Jay has completed 68 percent of his passes with 1,979 yards with 22 scores against five interceptions.
Against BVSW, Jay threw two TD passes, and Kennedy rushed for 198 yards. Junior Mikey Bergeron led the defense with 12 tackles. Senior Aidan Schaffer continued his big year with four sacks. Schaffer, one of the few returning starters, helped MV deliver eight sacks. Overall, sophomore Truman Griffith leads with nine sacks, and Bergeron paces the defense with 81 tackles.
This will be the 17th meeting between Mill Valley and Aquinas since 2006. The teams have met in late November every year from ’15-20. Maize has never made a state finale. KMC has not made a final since 1987 and a semifinal since ’13.
East Semifinals: St. Thomas Aquinas (7-4) at Mill Valley (10-1)
West Semifinals: Maize (9-1) at Kapaun Mt. Carmel (10-1)
Preseason Rankings: No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas, No. 3 Maize, No. 5 Mill Valley, NR Kapaun Mt. Carmel
The East side again features Eastern Kansas League rivals Bishop Miege (5-6) and defending state champion St. James Academy (7-4). SJA captured its seventh straight victory with a 31-7 win versus KC Piper. Miege held off Eudora, 21-6. SJA defeated Miege in the regular season finale. Versus Eudora, Jaylen Burch finished with 28 carries for 224 yards and three scores. Miege was superb in pass coverage, too, against Eudora’s Power 5 pass-catching duo. Jackson House of St. James Academy continues his huge junior year. He has 2,285 passing (19 TD/4 INT) along with 681 rushing (6 TD). John Niesen has had one of the best years in Kansas with 1,183 yards receiving along with 728 yards from Tyler Claiborne, an all-state pick last season from Sports in Kansas Non-Senior list. Wade Spencer leads the defense with 12.5 sacks.
On the West side, Buhler beat Mulvane, 7-0, with a lone third quarter touchdown. Buhler improved to 10-1 and has won nine in a row since a 21-19 loss at Andover Central in Week 2. AC (10-1) shut down Wamego’s high-octane offense in a 48-0 victory.
Buhler standout running back Sam Elliott went over 200 rushing yards again. He has 2,178 rushing yards this season and 5,058 in his career. He is expected to become Buhler’s all-time rushing leader next week and break Tanner Fisher’s career mark. Buhler coach Steve Warner has enjoyed several exceptional running backs in his Crusader career, including Fisher, Jordan Oden and Riley Allen.
Tanner Tustian paces Buhler with 119 tackles. Diante Campbell has been a great cover corner with a team-best five interceptions. Defensive lineman Bo Van Bruggen has eight sacks this year and a school record 21 for his career. Buhler has featured great DEs, including Braden Rose (Washburn) and Brendan Webb (South Dakota). Quarterback Bradley Neill, who scored the only TD versus Mulvane, is 70 of 126 passing for 1,253 yards with 17 touchdowns against four interceptions.
Buhler has a plus-four win improvement from 2020, Andover Central plus-three.
Kai Kunz has passed for 1,756 yards this season for Andover Central along with 67 percent completion (17 TD/4 INT). Ashton Barkdull has ran for 964 yards while Cooper Tabor has had a huge year as WR with over 800 yards. Dillon Savage leads the defense 88 stops along with 57 stops from Nate Peak. Kamden Wilson has 18.5 TFLS for the Jaguars.
East Semifinals: Bishop Miege (5-6) at St. James Academy (7-4)
West Semifinals: Andover Central (10-1) at Buhler (10-1).
Preseason Rankings: No. 1 Bishop Miege, No. 2 St. James Academy, No. 3 Andover Central, NR Buhler
Frontenac beat Rock Creek’s passing offense in a 42-26 victory. Cruz Blair and Landon Dean (Oklahoma State commit) are two of the best two-way linemen in any Kansas classification, throw in Lane Franklin and multiple sport all-state pick Collin McCartney to make one of the best defensive lines in the state in any class. They combined for five sacks. Justice Compton had four total TDs for Frontenac as Mario Menghini also continued to shine on both sides of the ball. The Raiders are in the semifinals for the first time in four years. Frontenac is 7-2 all-time in state semifinal games.
Holton dominated a talented Girard team that had enjoyed its best season since 1999 with a 36-0 victory. Brooks Barta continues to be one of the most consistent coaches in Kansas since taking over the Holton program in the mid-to-late 1990s.
On the East, Andale rolled over Concordia, 54-14. The two-time defending state champions bumped its winning streak to 36 games, which continued a school record and the longest current winning streak in Kansas. SES held off Cheney, 34-28, and is into the semifinals for the first time in 2005. Luke Gebhardt has passed for 2,274 yards this season (30 TD/4 INT) while rushing for 568 more (11 TD). State track and field hurdle champion, Chase Poague, has 837 yards receiving for the Trojans, while Luke’s twin brother, Jake, has 524 yards receiving.
East Semifinals: Holton (11-0) at Frontenac (9-2)
West Semifinals: Andale (11-0) at Southeast of Saline (11-0)
Preseason Rankings: No. 1 Andale, No. 3 Frontenac, No. 5 Holton, NR Southeast of Saline
Defending state champion Rossville crushed Riverton, 56-14. The Bulldawgs bumped its winning streak to 24 games. Rossville will again face War on 24 rival Silver Lake in another state semifinal. SL beat Wellsville, 33-27. Daigan Kruger continues to have a huge year along with Brogan Renfro. Rossville, led by last seasons 2A POY Torrey Horak, has also seen several players step up this season including Corey Catron who has rushed for over 1,000 yards and passed for over 500. Dawgs have outscored opponents 541-to-91. Kade Perine also has over 450+ yards as a receiver.
On the West side, Kingman and its Havoc defense continued its dominant season with its tenth straight victory. The Eagles have its furthest playoff advancement in 49 years. Excellent job by coach Tanner Hageman, defensive coordinator Dusty Beam and the rest of the staff. Beloit, which opened 1-2, is back in the semifinals for a second straight year. Freund has passed for over 2,100 yards at the quarterback position for the Eagles. Kingman has three players with at least 300 yards rushing (Holloway, Freund, Helm), while Albright leads with 808 recieving along with Helm’s 595. Last year, Beloit was the surprise sub-.500 team to make a deep playoff run. Beloit has outscored opponents 334 to 140 this season under HC Brad Gober. Benson Berndt continues to have a huge junior season. Grady Seyfert (6’2″ 270) is one of the best junior lineman in the state of Kansas.
East Semifinals: Silver Lake (9-2) at Rossville (11-0)
West Semifinals: Kingman (10-1) at Beloit (8-3)
Preseason Rankings: No. 1 Rossville, No. 2 Silver Lake, No. 4 Beloit, NR Kingman
Eight-Man, Division I
Canton-Galva dominated Sedan, 52-6, and gets Wheat State rival Little River for the second time this year and third occasion in the last two falls. Little River had a fourth quarter comeback and beat Madison, 38-32. Defending state champion LR has 19 straight victories and has not lost since a regular season defeat to C-G in Week 5 of the 2020 season.
LR has a better yards per play average this season than it did last fall when it featured dual quarterbacks Jayden Garrison and Graham Stephens, both first team all-state picks.
Meade and Hill City continued its big offensive seasons. Meade beat Goessel, 70-20, and has won 13 straight games. Hill City beat La Crosse, 62-12, and won its eighth straight contest. This is the second-best season in HC school history.
East Semifinals: Canton-Galva (10-1) at Little River (10-0)
West Semifinals: Hill City (10-1) at Meade (11-0)
Preseason Rankings: No. 1 Little River, No. 3 Canton-Galva, No. 5 Hill City, NR Meade
Eight-Man, Division II
No. 1 Axtell, enjoying its best start since its undefeated state title team in 1993, beat Waverly, 62-16. No. 2 Thunder Ridge beat Lebo, 52-18.
Victoria held off Dighton, 46-28. Wheatland-Grinnell defeated South Barber, 46-0. Traditional power Victoria is in its seventh state semifinal since coach Doug Oberle became head coach. Oberle is 4-2 in state semifinals and 3-1 in state finals.
Last year, Victoria won at W-G in the state quarterfinals. W-G is 8-2, 8-3 and 10-1 in the last three seasons under coach Jesse Vincent, the best years since Grainfield and Grinnell consolidated in the mid-2000s. It marks the best finish for either school since the Grinnell Warriors made the state semifinals in 1984.
East Semifinals: Axtell (11-0) at Thunder Ridge (11-0)
West Semifinals: Wheatland-Grinnell (10-1) at Victoria (10-1)
Preseason Rankings: No. 2 Victoria, No. 4 Thunder Ridge, No. 5 Wheatland-Grinnell, NR Axtell
Topeka-Cair Paravel won the Kansas Christian Athletic Association title with an 11-0 record. Cair Paravel beat St. Mary’s Academy, 64-16. Senior quarterback Carter Brian delivered a remarkable season with 147 of 215 passing for 2,515 yards with 51 scores against one interception.