Sunday, 19 January 2020
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***BREAKING NEWS***    High School Basketball Postponements for Jan. 17    ***
Local Sports News
Friday Night Fever: Preview of all Week One High School Football Matchups
By Jonny Kane and Justin Fluke
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. 

Along with a preview of each game, Jonny Kane and Justin Fluke will each give their predictions.

Week One Games to be Broadcast:
103.9 KNZA & Holton Channel – Holton at Jeff West  (click here to listen & to watch)
92.1 KMZA & Sabetha Channel  – Sabetha at Nemaha Central (click here to listen and to watch)
KAIR 93.7 FM – MH-MA at McLouth (click here to listen)

Holton at Jeff West 

Holton is coming off a losing season for the second time since Coach Brooks Barta took over 24 years ago.  That was also the last time that Jeff West had beaten Holton, until the Tigers posted a 14-12 road win last year.  The Wildcats return only three starters on offense and all three will carry the ball in the wishbone backfield. Konnor Tanahill posted 674 yards last year as the sophomore fullback.  Kale Purcell takes over as a very athletic junior quarterback but is working with all new tight ends and also five new starters on the offensive line after the Cats best lineman and only returner, Noah Woltje went down with an ACL injury. 

Jeff West on the other hand is lead by their offensive line with four returning starters that will give the Tigers an average weight of at least 270 pounds.  Three Sauli brothers welcome cousin Spencer to the Tiger squad this year and without question have the most experienced and talented team in the Big 7 entering 2019.  Jeff West will likely run the ball more with Quinn Neuenswander running the show at QB and fellow senior Bryce Clements leading the backfield as four-year varsity performers.  The Tigers defense returns 10 starters, making them a favorite to make a 3A playoff run under 14th year Coach Steve Johnson, despite finishing just 5-4 last year following a 4-0 start to the season.

Jonny’s Pick: Jeff West
Justin’s Pick: Jeff West

Sabetha at Nemaha Central 

The Sabetha football program enters 2019 as the back-to-back Class 3A State Champions with 20 consecutive wins.  A super talented group of 13 seniors are gone and the Jays must replace about half their starters on both sides of the football.  Yet, 19 varsity lettermen reunite, and the JV team was 6-1 last year for Coach Garrett Michael in his 23rd year coaching at Sabetha. Gabe Garber is no doubt one of the best players in the state as with a couple 100+ tackle seasons already and made the move to quarterback last year on offense to account for more than 2,000 yards in 13 games. The Jays do return three senior lineman with starting experience and tight end Andrew Schmelzle, but lost their top five runningbacks and also must replace 8 of their top 11 tacklers on defense.  

Nemaha Central is coming off an up-and-down year where they went 5-4 but 4-1 in district play falling to Southeast of Saline 26-13 in the first round of the playoffs. This year, Coach Warren Seitz enters his ninth season with plenty of question marks as only four starters return on offense along with seven starters on defense but a big enough roster that should allow the Thunder to compete well in every game on their schedule. The offense will run through the backfield this season and is probably the deepest position with Gavin Duryea back to lead the group after rushing for just over 300 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The Thunder also return seven starters on defense which is going to be the key this season after giving up nearly 25 points per game a year ago.

Sabetha beat Nemaha 33-7 last year for their first win against their Big 7 County rivals since 2014 and just the second time in the last 12 games.

Jonny’s Pick: Sabetha
Justin’s Pick: Sabetha 

Royal Valley at Perry Lecompton

Perry Lecompton has posted back to back seven win seasons and if not for playing four games at Sabetha, might have won the Big 7 and made a deep 3A playoff run.  The Kaws started last season with a 68-0 shutout at Royal Valley and has their top two tacklers back in Hayden Robb and Grant Roush for a strong defense.  Replacing the nearly 5,000 yards that Dalton Kellum racked up will not be easy, however Billy Welch started several games as a sophomore and looks to distribute the ball all over the field to a variety of capable play-makers.  The Kaws also return a trio of starting lineman.   

Royal Valley won only two games last year but faced a really tough schedule and look to be a sleeper team this year with a deep and experienced senior class that includes four starters on the line as well as Gavin Cumpton at QB and runningback Chance Lyming who is also a three-year varsity performer.  Seven starters also return for the Panther defense, but that side of the ball must drastically improve to give RV a chance to win more games in 2019.

Perry Lecompton has won seven of the last eight meetings between these schools, including 56-0 and 68-0 shutouts the last two years.   

Jonny’s Pick: Perry Lecompton
Justin’s Pick: Perry Lecompton

Hiawatha at Riverside

The first game of the year featuring a pair of first-year head coaches.  Both previously assistants on staff, Michael Downard takes over as the fourth coach in the last five years for Hiawatha while Bryce Paden will Riverside. Both Hiawatha and Riverside have finished with just two wins each of the past two seasons. The Redhawks won last year's game 27-13 and now lead the series 4-3.

The Hawks return the exciting senior duo of third-year starters in quarterback Tyler Brockoff and receiver Michael Moreno.  However, only two linemen are back and new runningbacks will have to step up carrying the ball following the transfer of Julian Brown.       

Riverside has moved several players to new positions and will start a sophomore signal caller in Kobe Davis.  He helped direct the Cyclone JV team to a 4-0 record last year. Several other skill players return, but Riverside also has questions in the trenches with only one lineman back.

Jonny’s Pick: Hiawatha
Justin’s Pick: Riverside 

ACCHS at Oskaloosa

ACCHS and Oskaloosa are each coming off disappointing seasons, as the Tigers went 2-7 in 2018 while the Bears suffered a winless season. ACCHS in now in the third season with head coach Corey Thomas and their second season the Northeast Kansas League after making the switch from the Big 7 League last year. The Tigers enter 2019 with one of the most experienced backfields in Northeast Kansas which includes two-year starters Tucker Smith and Trystin Myers. Smith was hurt for a large portion of last year while Myers had a breakout year and this season his role is expected to increase. The key for ACCHS is going to come on defense, which allowed over 35 points per game for the third straight season.

Oskaloosa is coming off a season to forget in 2018 suffering a winless campaign while going through growing pains throughout the year which included forfeits in the final three games of the year. Oskaloosa had not only new faces at several positions but also a new head coach as Matthew Johnson took over the program for longtime head man Scott Whaley. Luckily for the Bears the 2018 season is in the books and coach Johnson enters year two with all 11 starters back on both sides of the ball with high hopes. The Bears are expected to lean heavily on the run game, with junior Eli King back to lead the charge along with sophomore Nick Henry and senior Zach Danford.

Jonny pick: ACCHS
Justin’s pick: ACCHS

MH-MA at McLouth

It’s a rematch from week one a year ago as the Ravens travel to McLouth after a 48-24 beat down of the Bulldogs a year ago. MH-MA took another step in the right direction in 2018 as the Ravens went 7-1 in the regular season and picked up an opening round playoff win over Mission Valley after claiming a district title. The Ravens fell just short of second round upset of perennial power Rossville falling 21-14, ending the year at 8-2 which was the most wins for the program in over 10 years. Heading into 2019 there will be a new head man on the sideline as Brandon Wilkes is back for a second stint with the Ravens after being the head coach in 2011 and 2012 replacing Jermaine Monroe who has moved on to Topeka West. Wilkes inherits a veteran team including all-league selection Jack Caudle who is back at quarterback after throwing for 1,885 yards and 21 touchdowns to go along with just six interceptions. He proved last season to be just as dangerous with his legs and added a new element to his game rushing for 341 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago.

As to McLouth the Bulldogs will have the smallest roster at the 11-man level with just 11 guys listed on the active roster heading into Friday night. After going winless in 2017 the Bulldogs bounced back nicely last season and won five games to finish the season 5-5. McLouth also picked up their first playoff win since 2011 last season, but will enter 2019 with a young team after the loss of 10 impactful seniors to graduation. The strength of the team is going to be upfront with returning starters Landon Drinkard, Kyler Holloway and Brody Sparks back on the offensive line so expect McLouth to be run-heavy early as they allow Matt Kuglin to settle his feet in at quarterback.

Jonny’s pick: MH-MA
Justin’s pick: MH-MA

Jeff County North at Pleasant Ridge

It’s a matchup of two teams that were up and down last year to kick off the season Friday night as Pleasant Ridge finished 5-4 a year ago while Jeff County North went just 2-7. The Chargers finished under .500 a season ago for the first time in the four years under head coach Jeff Schneider struggling against tough competition. Of the seven teams that JCN lost to; six had a winning record, four won in the first round of the playoffs and Christ Prep won the National Homeschool Championship. Unlike last season where the Chargers struggled with experience at the skill positions it’s a flip this year, as the entire backfield returns while Coach Schneider will have to find a way to replace four starting linemen. The strength of the Chargers comes in the backfield with honorable mention all-state selection Logan Budy back after rushing for 865 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago.

Pleasant Ridge enters 2019 with high hopes after taking another step in the right direction last year by winning five games and going 4-1 in league play. Pleasant Ridge did graduate five key starters and will need some younger players to step up and play varsity roles this year to achieve the goal of not only competing for a league title and district title but also win playoff games which they fell just short of a year ago. The Rams will once again feature an option style offense this season and behind the three returning offensive lineman of Dawson Bertrand, Aiden Williams and Robert Gwartney the run game should have chance to be extremely successful in not only week one but all season

Jonny’s pick: Pleasant Ridge
Justin’s pick: Pleasant Ridge

Horton at Jackson Heights

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 four years and went winless last season with every defeat by at least 30 points. Jackson Heights meanwhile has gone 32-9 the last four years and made the playoff each season, while repeating as NEKL champs for a third straight season last year and making it three rounds into a Class 1A playoff run under Coach Caleb Wick.

Jackson Heights graduated only five seniors and returns an offensive line that has a chance to be the biggest and the best in the 1A State. Both incumbent Cable Wareham and Jason Bosley (sophomore) are likely to see snaps at quarterback and Cooper Williams ran for more than 1,600 yards a year ago.  The Cobras have also won four straight matchups versus the Chargers including a 42-0 shutout a year ago.

Horton has a more kids out for football this year under second year Coach 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 new starters at the skill spots including a few underclassmen but do have some decent size and experience with four returning linemen to build around.

Jonny’s pick: Jackson Heights
Justin’s pick: Jackson Heights

Linn at Frankfort

It’s a rematch from week one of last year as Linn looks to bounce back after the Wildcats ran wild in last season’s meeting to the tune of a 62-12 victory. The Bulldogs enter the season with just eight active players on the roster so Friday night could get interesting. Linn went just 1-8 a year ago under first year head coach Ron Smith and dealt with injuries at important positions which resulted in an overall rough season. The Bulldogs will look to rely on their three headed monster in the backfield in 2019 with Jace Schaefer back at quarterback after an injury plagued 2018 season and along with Schafer Linn brings back Ricardo Carenas and Kevin Alvarado who both showed flashes a season ago.

Frankfort is coming off a season to remember in 2018 as the Wildcats won seven games and produced the program’s best record since 2011 finishing 7-3. The Wildcats also picked up their first playoff victory since 2008 and the only losses on the season came to Axtell once and twice to Hanover who ended up winning the state championship. Coach Nick Anderson enters his fourth season with six starters back on each side of the ball and a backfield that will be one of the best in the TVL. It all starts with senior Garrett Dalinghaus who is back after a breakout junior campaign which saw him rack up 1,065 yards rushing with 19 touchdowns, while he will be joined by fellow senior Branden Bussman (6’, 165) who accounted for 18 total touchdowns last season rushing, receiving and throwing.

Jonny’s pick: Frankfort
Justin’s pick: Frankfort

Valley Falls at Onaga

It’s a matchup of two teams that still hold the 8-man state record for most points in a game which was set just a few years ago when Onaga took down Valley Falls in the final game of the season by a final of 114-68. The two teams delivered another thriller a season ago with the Dragons picking up their only win over the season in overtime 54-48. The Buffaloes took a step in the right direction last season and ended the year on a high note winning their final three games to finish 3-6 in the second year of head coach Ben Kolterman. Onaga will rely heavily on the ground game early this season led by senior Ethan Powell who returns after a strong junior campaign which saw him rush for 1,058 yards and 20 total touchdowns. The Buffaloes will also trot out a freshman quarterback in Zach Fisher so coach Kolterman will really look for Powell to shoulder the load.

Valley Falls has a new head coach as Sawyer Havenstein takes over a program that has combined to win only three total games the last four years. The Dragons beat Onaga last year in a week one thriller 54-48 in overtime for their lone victory of 2018.  With six starters returning on both sides of the football, Valley Falls has a chance for improvement while adjusting to a new leader and scheme’s.    

Jonny’s pick: Onaga
Justin’s pick: Onaga

Washington County at Doniphan West

It’s the second year of 8-man football for these two schools after Washington County won the week one battle last season 38-12. 

Doniphan West has a new head coach again this year, but Perry Smith has been on staff and also coached girls basketball at D-West for three years. The Mustangs had only one senior on the roster last year and this fall have only a couple; however a strong group of sophomore’s return with starting varsity experience looking to improve from a 3-6 campaign a year ago.  

Washington County made the switch to 8-man a year ago and it paid off as the Tigers ended up winning three games, but struggled down the stretch against a much tougher schedule. The Tigers now head in 2019 with high hopes and a veteran team made up of nearly all juniors and seniors giving head Coach Doug Thompson plenty to work with going into the season.

Jonny’s pick: Washington County
Justin’s pick: Washington County

Clifton-Clyde at Wetmore

Clifton-Clyde had a season to remember in 2018 as the Eagles started the season with nine straight before a heartbreaking 22-20 loss to Hoxie in the regional round of the playoffs. Clifton-Clyde returns 11 total letter winners off last year’s team including starting quarterback Aiden Rudolph so the Eagles have a chance to have another successful campaign.

The Eagles will start the season against a Wetmore team that has a big question mark after the loss of Joel Hutfles who accounted for over 1,000 yards of total offense and 21 touchdowns a year ago. The Cardinals do return their entire backfield led by Kael McQueen and with a strong offensive line returning expect Wetmore to keep it on the ground early and often.

Clifton-Clyde had no problems in last season’s week one meeting winning 48-0 which marked the first meeting between the two programs.

Jonny’s pick: Clifton-Clyde
Justin pick: Clifton-Clyde

Troy at Valley Heights

Troy is coming off a 6-4 season and make the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years with two losses by just one point.  Coach Derek Jasper has a senior class of eight talented and experienced players including his son and third-year quarterback, Kipp. The Trojans will not be huge on the line and must find three new starters up front in a spread offensive attack. Troy should put up some points in 2019, but the defense is key against a tough 1A schedule.

Just like Troy, Valley Heights is also coming off a 6-4 season which saw them make the playoffs and pick up a week nine win over Lyndon before falling to Jackson Heights in the regional round. The Mustangs had just three seniors on that six win team meaning 15th year head man Tony Trimble should have a strong veteran roster heading into 2019. Cole Coggins is back to shoulder a bulk of the load for Valley Heights and has proved he can do just that rushing for 2,654 yards and 40 touchdowns in the last two seasons while averaging over eight yards per carry. Coggins will be joined by fellow senior Trey Martin who may be one of the most athletic players in the TVL after averaging over eight yards per carry and 20 yards per reception last season.

Besides Centralia, these are the only 11-man teams left in the Twin Valley League.  This will be the fourth straight year these two Twin Valley League teams have played in week one with the Mustangs winning 59-26 in 2017, but Troy prevailing 58-27 two years ago and 27-12 last season. 

Jonny’s pick: Valley Heights
Justin pick: Valley Heights

St. John-Tipton at Axtell

The Axtell Eagles enter 2019 with perhaps the biggest expectations of any team and for good reason after winning 10 games last year and falling one win short of reach the 8-man DII state title game. Axtell suffered just two losses all season with both coming to the eventual state champion Hanover. Axtell continued their aerial attack and put together one of the best passing attacks in Kansas history which included Hunter Koch setting the state record for touchdown receptions in a single season with 33 in an offense that averaged 56 points per game. While Koch has since graduated, Quinn Buessing is back and returns as one of the top quarterbacks in the state after throwing for 2,595 yards and 51 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions last season.

Axtell will face off against a St. John-Tipton team that they beat rather handily to open up last season which saw a 58-12 final. The Blujays hail from the Northern Plains league where they went 4-1 last season before going on to finish 5-4 falling to Frankfort 30-8 in the first round of the playoffs.  

Jonny’s pick: Axtell
Justin’s pick: Axtell

Blue Valley at Mankato-Rock Hills

After Blue Valley was forced to forfeit their season opening game against Mankato a season ago the two teams will finally meet up in the opening game of 2019. Blue Valley took a huge step in the right direction last season improving their record by four wins and finishing the 2018 season 5-4. The Rams had won two or less games the past five seasons heading into last year but put that all to rest and were able to overcome having just nine guys on the roster. Coach Matt Schreiber enters his 15th season with high hopes after the success from last year and with six starters back including starting quarterback Brody Barr there’s a reason for optimism.

They will face a Rock Hills team that was solid a year ago winning eight games before running into Axtell in the regional round of the playoffs falling 80-30. The Grizzlies do enter week one needing to replace all-state running back Zane Colson who rushed for 24 touchdowns and collected 147 tackles a year ago, but Mankato still brings back a solid roster which should make them a tough out.

It will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2011 when Rock Hills beat Blue Valley 78-40 in the final game of the regular season.

Jonny’s pick: Mankato
Justin’s pick: Mankato

Centralia at Rossville

It’s one of the matchups around the state of Kansas in week one as the Panthers look to get revenge on a week one 26-14 loss to the Bulldogs a year ago. Centralia started 2018 with an uncharacteristic two losses, but in typical Panther fashion bounced back to win eight straight games before falling to Olpe 20-18 in the sectional round. Head Coach Larry Glatczak enters his 14th season at the helm with two of the best big men in the state from last year to replace in Daegan Steinlage and Derek VanDorn, but he brings back all-state quarterback Kamble Haverkamp which should prove to be big. He’s coming off a junior season where he rushed for 1,457 yards and 21 touchdowns on the year along with 137 yards per game on the ground.

Rossville put together another strong season in 2018 after starting the season 2-2 but finishing the season 8-3 falling to Humbolt in the sectional round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs had a commanding win over Pleasant Ridge in week nine but just squeaked out a win at Maur Hill-Mount Academy before the 24-22 loss to the Cubs. If this meeting is anything like last year, expect this one to go down to the wire.

Jonny’s pick: Rossville
Justin’s pick: Rossville

Pike Valley at Hanover

It was another year and another state title for the Hanover Wildcats in 2019 as they ran the table and went a perfect 13-0 to claim the programs third consecutive state championship and the fifth in the past 11 years. It’s going to be a completely different Wildcat team heading into the year with just one starter back in Jonah Weber who is expected to be one of the best lineman in the state, but after that it’s going to be several new faces. Just because there are new faces don’t expect Hanover to drop off, especially with head coach Matt Heuer back for his 15th season boasting a career record of 140-25.

The Wildcats will open their title defense against a Pike Valley team that was up and down in 2018 finishing just 4-5 with two of those losses coming to Axtell by 45-plus points each. While Pike Valley finished below .500 a year ago though they do return six starters on each side of the ball.

Hanover blanked the Panthers in last years meeting 46-0 which came in the two schools first ever meeting.

Jonny’s pick: Hanover
Justin’s pick: Hanover

Atchison at KC Washington

Atchison is coming off a mirror image season from 2017 as the Redmen went 4-1 in league play finishing runner-up to Schlagle. Atchison started just 1-2 to begin the year, but then went 3-2 in the final five games of the season before eventually falling to Fort Scott in the opening round of the 4A playoffs. Jim Smith enters his 22nd season at the helm with high hopes and for good reason with eight starters back on defense. While the defense will be experienced the offense brings back just five starters including a new quarterback in sophomore Patrick Denton so the defense needs to be good early.

The Redmen will face a 5A Washington team that went just 4-5 a year but was competitive in every game which included a 27-20 loss to Olathe West to end the season.

Atchison won last year’s meeting with a couple of big scores late to win by a final of 26-7, giving the Redmen their fifth straight win over the Wildcats.

Jonny’s pick: Atchison
Justin’s pick: Atchison


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