Friday, 10 July 2020
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Friday Night Fever - Preview of All Week One Kanzaland Area Matchups
By Jonny Kane
Copyright: MSC Sports

The start of the Kansas high school football season is here as week one action kicks off tonight. To get prepared for all the action for Kanzaland area teams from the Big Seven League, Twin Valley League, Northeast Kansas League and a few other teams, we have a Friday Night Fever preview of each game. 

Week One Games to be Broadcast:
103.9 KNZA & Sabetha Channel – Nemaha Central at Sabetha (click here to listen & to watch)
92.1 KMZA – Rossville at Centralia (click here to listen)
KAIR 93.7 FM – Pleasant Ridge at Jeff County North (click here to listen)
Holton Channel – Jeff West at Holton (click here to listen)

Riverside at Hiawatha

Both teams finished 2-7 a year ago, although the Cyclones beat the Redhawks 18-13 in week seven after scoring a touchdown with just 63 seconds to play in the contest to even the series at three wins apiece.

Riverside has been bit hard by the injury bug the past two years and after losing their starting runningback for the season in week one each of the past two seasons, top offensive weapon, Dawson Dick, is questionable entering the 2018 campaign.  The Cyclones lost only six seniors, but will have to improve drastically on defense after surrendering 38 points per game last fall.  The Cyclones do return a trio of starting offensive lineman and may be a more balanced offense with Bradley Libel took full control at QB. 

Hiawatha has a new head coach, although Curtis Myers was the defensive coordinator the past two years for the Hawks.  Hiawatha only had two seniors on last year’s team, and also welcomes back a couple key players (Brode Jones and Manuel Flores) that weren’t apart of the 2017 squad.  Besides Riverside, the Hawks lost two other games by a single score last year.  Despite Tyler Brockoff throwing for more than 1,500 yards and All League receiver Michael Moreno totaling 710 of his 900 + yards in the air, Hiawatha wants to shift focus to the running game - led by fellow All Leaguer, Andrew Woods, and new starting signal caller, Kaiser Isaac.            

Jeff West at Holton 

Despite falling a few rungs down the Big 7 League ladder, Holton has maintained a winning record and reached the playoffs for 20 straight years.  The Wildcats lost only six seniors from their 7-4 team, but they were all key athletes, including their top four defensive tacklers and accounting for nearly 2,500 yards of offense.  The wishbone does return Jackson Martin and Jayger Carson, who each had more than 580 varsity rushing yards.  Coach Brooks Barta plans to play two quarterbacks in Parker Gilliland and Zane Moylan, while most of the lineman will platoon and focus on one side of the football. 

After winning only one game in 2016, Jeff West started last year 2-0 but then lost their final seven contest of the 2017 campaign, including a 27-0 setback in week seven against Holton.  In the new spread and no huddle attack, freshman Cade Ross threw for nearly 1,700 yards and 13 scores a year ago.  His favorite weapon, Quinn Neuenswander (627 yards) is also back and the Tigers hope to make huge strides on defense, especially with a trio of Saili brothers dominating the line of scrimmage. 

Jeff West hasn’t beaten Holton in more than 20 years or even played the Wildcats within 14 points on more than one occasion.  However, if the Tigers can limit mistakes, they could easily be a surprise team that starts this season with a 3-1 or 4-0 record.   

Nemaha Central at Sabetha

Usually one of the best games of the season happens to be the first game of 2018 tonight as huge Nemaha County and Big 7 League rivals collide.  The Bluejays are the defending Class 3A State Champions and one of the favorites again this year with more than half their starters returning.  Sabetha averaged 36 points and 357 yards per game with five of their top six runningbacks reunited and the electric Gabe Garber taking over at quarterback.  The offensive line has four returning starters, including All State senior, Elliott Strahm, who gets some extra help on the defensive line this year with the addition of newcomer, Kyle Grimm (340 pound senior).  Garber has more than 100 tackles last year, but so did Cauy Rockey, and Joe Gruber added 75 take downs as well as six of the teams 36 takeaways while their gave up a mere 10 points per game. 

Sabetha went 13-1 last year and that one loss was to Nemaha Central, who again started the season 10-0 and won a third consecutive League title before bowing out of the playoffs in the second week.  The Thunder have nearly 60 athletes on their roster, but only a few returning starters.  Yet, they have beaten the Bluejays 10 of the last 11 meetings.  (Sabetha won playoff game in 2014.)  The Thunder allowed just 11 points per contest last season and have more varsity experience back on that side of the field, led by Matt Baumgartner, who registered over 50 tackles on the line.  Dalton Schmelzle stands at 6’4 and should have plenty of opportunities to spread the ball around in what is likely the only game this season that Nemaha Central isn’t favored to win comfortably in their new 2A Classification.  KNZA will have the live call tonight from the new Sabetha press box.

Perry Lecompton at Royal Valley

Both these teams took a step forward last season, especially Perry Lecompton who posted their best record (7-4) since 2011 and won a playoff game, which hadn’t happened since 2008.  The Kaws have a chance to be just as good this year with 12 returning starting players, most of which are seniors.  Dalton Kellum is the real deal after accounting for 1,295 yards passing and 1,555 rushing with 26 scores last year as a junior, leading Perry to 365 yards and 42 points per game.  The defense returns seven starters, including a trio of play-makers who posted 100 + tackles in 2017.  Scott Urban, Grant Roush and Hayden Robb will be tough to run against, despite Perry not having a lot of team size. 

Royal Valley improved their win total, even though they had a brutal schedule with all five losses coming against teams that all made and won a game in the post-season.  Seven starters are back on offense, including dual-threat QB, Gavin Cumpton, who has the luxury of two of the best junior lineman in the state (Komesh Spoonhunter and Jaiden Wamego).  The Panthers defense however allowed more than 36 points per game and must replace four of the top five tacklers.  Royal Valley might have an even tougher slate of opponents this fall.   

Perry Lecompton has won six of the last seven meetings between these schools, including a 56-0 shutout in week seven a year ago in Hoyt. 

Oskaloosa at ACCHS

ACCHS and Oskaloosa are each coming off disappointing seasons, as the Tigers went winless in 2017 while the Bears were just 3-6. ACCHS in now in the second season with head coach Corey Thomas and their first season the Northeast Kansas League after making the switch from the Big 7 League. Coach Thomas brings back 13 total letter winners with six starters back on offense and seven on defense. The offense will be led by junior tailback Tucker Smith who returns after rushing for 831 yards and nine touchdowns, which earned him honorable mention all-state honors. The biggest key for the Tigers is going to be the defense which allowed over 40 points per game last year for the second straight season.

The Bears are coming off a third straight season of winning their first two games but struggling in the back half of the schedule. Matthew Johnson takes over the reins of the program for longtime head coach Scott Whaley, but returns just four starters with a lot of question marks heading into the season. The Biggest returner comes at quarterback, as senior Eli Tarwater returns after completing 60 percent of his passes last season. Just like ACCHS the key for the Bears is going to come on defense, as the unit has allowed more than 30 points per game the last four seasons.

Jackson Heights at Horton

Its a Northeast Kansas League matchup between a couple program that have been trending in opposite directions.  Horton has won four total games the past three years and posted only one season with a winning record in the last decade.  Jackson Heights meanwhile has gone 24-7 the last three years and made the playoff each season, while repeating as NEKL champs and starting last year 8-0.  The Cobras have also won three straight matchups versus the Chargers including a 36-12 final in week eight a yea ago. 

The Cobras only had five seniors on the roster and this year return a huge nucleus of experienced players.  Jackson Heights also has likely the biggest Class 1A line in the state with an average of 250 pounds and a lot of physical toughness in the trenches.  Cooper Williams moves from QB to runningback this year with the tailback and linebacker positions the biggest concerns for the Cobras in 2018.       

Horton has a new coach in Mark Friess, who was the head man at Jackson Heights in 2008 and 2009 and also served as a mentor and Cobra assistant coach under Caleb Wick.  The Chargers have only 16 players out for football this year, and five seniors will be asked to lead the way, including quarterback Matthew Lobdell and speedy backs Gunnar Madere and Marshall Randall as well as Isaiah Cortez and lineman Sky Wishkeno.     

Pleasant Ridge at Jeff County North

The Rams are coming off a one-win improvement going 4-5 overall last season and 3-5 in league play. Despite starting the season 0-3, the Rams were able to overcome multiple early injuries to win two out of their final three games to reach the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. The Rams have the pieces in place to do it or a seventh straight time, as seventh year head man Pat McCollim brings back eight starters on each side of the ball. The key for the Rams is going to come on the defensive side of the ball, as Pleasant Ridge is looking to better the 33 points per game they allowed a season ago.

For the second consecutive season the Chargers saw a two-win improvement and a Northeast Kansas League championship, but coach Jeff Schneider enters his fourth season with most of last year’s squad gone and a lot of question marks heading into 2018. The offensive line will be the strength for the Chargers with Second Team-All NEK selection Kyle Budy back to lead the group, but it’s going to be up to the underclassman to determine the success of the Chargers this season.

The Rams are looking to avenge last season’s week three loss to the Chargers, as JCN took the contest in dominating fashion 58-20.

McLouth at Maur Hill-Mount Academy

McLouth and Maur Hill-Mount Academy enter the 2018 campaign off of two completely different seasons. The Bulldogs are looking to forget what was a winless 2017 season in which they suffered three losses by two touchdowns or less, while also giving up over 37 points per game. Coach Gary Freeman enters his fourth season with 17 letter winners back, including six on offense and eight on defense, with high hopes of once again bein-g competitive in the NEKL.

Maur Hill-Mount Academy meanwhile is coming off a third straight season of finishing with a 7-3 record, going 3-0 in districts and falling in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. Coach Jermaine Monroe enters his seventh season with one of the most successful senior classes in recent memory to replace, but brings back 11 total letter winners and a lot of talent with high hopes of making a run at a league title. The Ravens return one of the top quarterbacks around in junior Jack Caudle, who is back after throwing for 1,701 and 23 touchdowns last season.

The Ravens took last season’s meeting 25-0 and have won the last four matchups.

Rossville at Centralia

After a rough campaign in 2016 which saw Centralia win just one game, the Panthers bounced back and found their winning ways again in 2017 posting an 8-3 record and earning a trip to the playoffs. Centralia enters 2018 with several question marks, as head coach Larry Glatczak brings back only four starters on offense and five on defense. The Panthers did run for 330 yards per game last season, and bring back Kamble Haverkamp under center who accounted for over 800 total yards of offense a season ago.

Rossville meanwhile is coming off a disappointing 2017 season in which the Bulldawgs went just 2-7 and broke their streak of three straight Class 3A state championships. The losing season was the first for the program since going 4-5 in 2001, which also marked the last time the program failed to reach the playoffs before last year. Rossville enters 2018 looking to replace Sheldon Hulbert who accounted for 2,251 of Rossville’s 2,749 total yards and 18 of the team’s 22 touchdowns.

Friday night marks the first meeting between the Panthers and Dawgs since the 2015 season, which Rossville dominated winning 59-13.

Valley Heights at Troy

The Mustangs are coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2008 and 2009 after going 7-2 last season, but Valley Heights missed out on the playoffs leaving them hungry heading in to 2018. Head Coach Tony Trimble enters his 14th season at the helm with a handful of starters back on offense and six back on defense, leaving several question marks heading into 2018.

Following their state championship campaign, Troy took an expected step back last year with their first losing football season in five years.  The Trojans did win three of their final four games and hope to maintain that momentum returning 10 starters on both sides of the ball.  Kipp Jasper is part of a talented junior class and directed a balanced offensive attack as the signal caller for his father coach.  A trio of strong seniors will lead Troy in the trenches in: Marcus Martinez, Jacob Mott and Owen Root.   Coach Don Cash is out of retirement again to direct the defense, which gave up 33 points per game last year. 


Besides Centralia, these are the only 11-man teams left in the Twin Valley League.  This will be the third straight year these two Twin Valley League teams have played in week one with the Mustangs winning 59-26 last season and Troy prevailing 58-27 two years ago.

Onaga at Valley Falls

Onaga is coming off a 2017 campaign in which they went 2-7, as the Buffaloes have struggled in their first two years playing 8-man football. But the Buffaloes have dropped down to 8-man DII and have a new head coach in Ben Kolterman looking to improve and challenge in the Twin Valley League. In order for Onaga to be successful it’s going to have to start on defense, as the Buffaloes surrendered 48 points per game last year.

Valley Falls begins their third season as an 8-man team and under the direction of Nick Cummings.  His son, Creston, is a freshman this year and looks to take over quarterback duties with only 15 players again on the roster.  The Dragons look to run more option offense and improve on defense to be more competitive after posting just one win the last two years combined. 

Valley Falls and Onaga have played week nine the past couple seasons, including the state record breaking 114-68 score two years ago, and a 60-6 Onaga victory that ended last season for both teams.   

Frankfort at Linn

After three straight years of 5-4 records, the Frankfort Wildcats dipped slightly under .500 last season finishing the 2017 campaign just 4-5. The Wildcats had just two seniors on the roster last year, leaving head coach Nick Anderson with youth and inexperience on both sides of the ball. But, seven starters return on each side of the ball, including junior running back Garret Dalinghaus who as a sophomore ran for 695 yards and 11 touchdowns. The key for the Wildcats is going to come on the defensive side of the ball, as Frankfort surrendered 46-plus points in all five of their losses last season.

Linn meanwhile has finished eight of the last 10 years with a 4-5, and that was the case last season. Ron Smith will take over the reins of the program in 2018, and enter the season with just four starters back on each side of the ball. The good news for Coach Smith and the Bulldogs is leading rusher Joseph Trimble is back, after rushing for 680 yards and seven touchdowns in his junior campaign.

Friday night marks the first meeting between the two schools since 2014, which the Wildcats won going away 78-42.

Doniphan West at Washington County

These two TVL teams are both making the transition to 8-Man football this year.  The Mustangs went 6-4 last year and made the playoffs, but graduated a great senior class.  D-West only has 16 players out for football this year, and only two of them have ever played high school football.  Tucker Holzey is the senior leader as a lineman for new Coach Jeff Savage, who will have to play many of the 11 freshman on the 2018 squad.  

Washington County only had 12 players on their roster last year and suffered a winless season.  The Tigers have more depth and experience, but are still very young, including a sophomore quarterback, Drew Buhrman.  This is one of only two League games for Washington County all season. 

Axtell at St. Johns/Tipton

After missing out on the playoffs in 2016, Axtell got back to the postseason last year with their run ending in the first round with a loss to Pike Valley. Coach Eric Detweiler enters 2018 with a solid group of returners back, as six starters return on offense and seven on defense. The biggest returner comes in the form of quarterback Quinn Buessing, who enters his third season under center after leading the state in passing at the 8-man level last year with 1,788 yards and 27 touchdowns. All-state receiver Hunter Koch is also back for the Eagles after recording over 1,000 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns, giving Axtell plenty of firepower heading into week one.

St. Johns/Tipton meanwhile is coming off a 5-4 record last season, after averaging just a shade over 200 yards per game on offense.

Despite both teams being 8-man last season, Friday night marks the first meeting between the two schools in over 10 years.

Wetmore at Clifton/Clyde

In just their second full varsity season the Wetmore Cardinals took a step forward in 2017, winning three games including their first two. Head Coach Rick Snacker enters his third season at the helm looking to take another step forward, but must replace a strong senior class. Two of the top three offensive weapons are gone for the Cardinals, but senior Joel Huftles is back under center after compiling over 1,000 total yards last season to go along with 20 touchdowns.

Clifton-Clyde continued their recent success last season finishing 7-2, which marked the sixth time in the last 10 seasons the Eagles have finished over .500. Clifton-Clyde also made the playoffs, but had a tough first round exit falling to Osborne. Head Coach Russ Steinbrock enters his 18th season on the sidelines for the Eagles, and brings back nearly all offensive production from a year ago. The Eagles will be led by senior Drake Steinbrock, who returns after rushing for more than 700 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.

In the three seasons Wetmore has competed at the varsity level the two teams have never played.

KC Washington at Atchison

After three straight seasons of claiming the Kansas City-Atchison League regular season title with a perfect league record each year, the Redmen fell one win short a season ago going 4-1 in league play and finishing runner-up to Schlagle. Jim Smith enters his 21st season at the helm with six starters back on each side of the ball, including First Team All-KCAL running back Sercy Duncan who returns after rushing for 618 yards and six touchdowns last season. Atchison was able to squeak out a 33-20 win over Washington last season, recording three turnovers and rushing for over 300 yards in the contest.

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Hiawatha, KS 66434
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