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Friday Night Fever: Preview of All Week One Area 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 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, Justin Fluke and Jake Spalding will each give their predictions.

Week One Games To Be Broadcast

103.9 KNZA – Troy at Hiawatha

92.1 KMZA & Holton Channel – Holton at Nemaha Central

KAIR 93.7 FM – Atchison at Lafayette

Sabetha Channel – Chapman at Sabetha

Pick Records from 2019

Jonny: 173-30 (85%)
Justin: 175-28 (86%)

Holton at Nemaha Central on 92.1 KMZA and Holton Channel

It's a battle of state ranked Big 7 League teams with high expectations as the Wildcats are #4 in Class 3A following a 7-3 District Championship season that included a win against 3A Runner-Up, Perry Lecompton, as well as a 28-14 week three victory against eventual 2A State Champ, Nemaha Central.

The Wildcats are very experienced and have as much depth as anyone in Class 3A. Coach Brooks Barta expects to play as many as 17 kids on each side of the football. Besides having a more seasoned offensive line, the Cats return two leading rushers in Konnor Tannahill and Canon Karn who combined for more than 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. The duo also returns to lead a defense that surrendered only 16 points per game against a tough schedule with both seniors registering more than 70 tackles.

Nemaha begins their state title defense against the team that game them their final loss of the season in week three last season before the Thunder ran the table to a 2A State Championship. Just like last season the Thunder have key positions to replace heading into the year but a good group of guys back led by Tyler Gerety on offense who is expected to be one of the most dynamic players in the state after racking up over 700 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns a year ago.

Jonny’s Pick: Holton
Justin’s Pick: Holton
Jake’s Pick: Holton

Perry Lecompton at Jeff West

It is a huge Big 7 rivalry to kick off 2020 for the Tigers and Kaws, who even have a traveling trophy for their football meeting each year. Both teams are coming off great playoff winning campaigns as Jeff West went 4-0 in the League and completed their best season since in more than a decade. The 8-2 Tiger mark included an 8-3 win against Perry in week six when a defensive pick six was better than a Perry field goal.

The Kaws however got hot however and won six straight, including a pair of wins against Hayden to advance to the 3A State Championship game for the first time since 2009. Despite coming up short in Hutchinson, Coach Mike Paramore returns for a 20th season with nearly all the Kaws stats and weapons among eight starters back on both sides of the ball following a 9-4 campaign.

Perry is ranked #2 to start this season and a title contender with Billy Welch throwing for 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns and Thad Metcalfe also back for a senior season after running for 1,300 yards in a very balanced offensive attack. Hayden Robb is a terrific lineman and led the team with nearly 100 solo tackles last year at linebacker with plenty of other talented and seasoned stars around him. The one question Perry has is replacing a couple key starters on the line of scrimmage. 

The trenches are the strong suit for Jeff West, despite Spencer Saili (6', 315) opting to not play this year. Danny Saili (6'3, 340) is a monster and Pene Saili (6'2 ,145) is the returning 3A Defensive player of the year.  Still, the Tigers lost three of their top four tackles and must replace nearly all their production of offense after losing several three-year starters. Coach Steve Johnson has much lower numbers this year and needs six new starters to step up quickly to continue the momentum of last year.  Jeff West has won five of the last six meetings against Perry. 

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

Horton at ACCHS

Another rivalry week one game and Northeast Kansas League meeting between teams that have struggled for wins the past few years. Horton, in fact is on a 20-game losing streak, but has also doubled the numbers of kids out with 28 this year under new Head Coach David Losey. The Chargers have a few new players in the program (like Jaden Oswald) that should help and a few top returning linemen to protect QB Trey Lockwood. 

For the second straight year the ACCHS football team took a step in the right direction winning three games including the final two games of the year by a combined score of 90-13 to finish 2019 with a 3-6 record. The Tigers did most of their work on the ground compiling over 2,500 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on the year, but most of that production has graduated with the likes of Trystin Myers and Tucker Smith. The Tigers do head into week one with their starting quarterback returning from last season in Kieran Courter, but his weapons will be entirely new. ACCHS is awfully familiar with Horton and looks to repeat what was a stellar performance against the Chargers last season in a 52-6 victory.

Jonny’s Pick: ACCHS
Justin’s Pick: ACCHS
Jake’s Pick: ACCHS

Jeff County North at Pleasant Ridge

After finishing with a losing record for the first time under the direction of head coach Jeff Schneider the Chargers got back on track last season finishing 5-4.. A strong nucleus from a year ago heads into week one as seven starters are back including senior Landon Gutschenritter who last year rushed for over 300 yards and earned a first team all-Northeast Kansas League selection with nine total touchdowns. The Chargers will be in the best shape up front starting three seniors in Caleb McAfee, Haden Drury and Trenton Filbert along with junior Anthony Larson who all started a year ago.

After back-to-back seasons of improvements in the win column Pleasant Ridge took a step back last season winning just three games to finish the year at 3-6. The Rams now head into week one looking to start over as Logan Fritz takes over the reigns of the program after a stint as a coordinator at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth. He brings back a solid cast of skill guys on offense with senior Conner Gibson back at quarterback after throwing for 764 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago. Gibson added 289 yards and four more scores on the ground last year while he even recorded a pair of receptions. He will have plenty of experience with him in the backfield as fellow senior Jake Heckman is back at running back after rushing for 719 yards and four touchdowns last season while also recording 114 yards receiving with another score.

This matchup is a repeat of week one from a year ago where JCN won 38-12 after leading by just two points at halftime.

Jonny’s Pick: JCN
Justin’s Pick: JCN
Jake’s Pick: JCN

McLouth at Maur Hill-Mount Academy

McLouth heads into week one looking to quickly forget about what was a tough 2019 season which saw the Bulldogs finish just 1-8. The Bulldogs did win their final game of the year over Arma-Northeast 22-18, but that was the only true positive from a year ago. Four starters return to the offense for McLouth including senior Matt Kuglin who made the switch from receiver to quarterback last season and played most of the year. Along with the quarterback spot the running back position will also see a familiar face with senior Hunter Plake expected to control the run-game for the Bears and be a spread back in the slot as well. After those two there are several question marks so there are going to be several new faces out on the field tonight.

Maur Hill-Mount Academy on the other hand is coming off one of the best seasons in program history as the Ravens captured the league title for the first time since 1992 in the first season back for head coach Brandon Wilkes. The Ravens had a huge upset of Jackson Heights in week three and played eventual state champion Nemaha Central close falling 26-20 in the final district game of the year. MH-MA now heads into week one with a question at quarterback after the graduation of Jack Caudle who was one of the best four-year starters in the area, but it looks like junior Drew Caudle or sophomore Mark Harris is going to get the call despite not seeing many varsity snaps. Fortunately for the Ravens the load will not be entirely on one of the young quarterbacks as the backfield is in great hands with the return of senior Andrew Schwinn who returns as one of the top running backs and linebackers in the area. As usual the Ravens won’t be the biggest team, but they sure have the ability to make up for it with athleticism.

The Ravens dominated this week one matchup a year ago 42-0 scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions of the game.

Jonny’s Pick: MH-MA
Justin’s Pick: MH-MA
Jake’s Pick: MH-MA

Doniphan West at Worth County (Mo.)

After learning Thursday morning that Blue Valley Randolph would not be able to play, Doniphan West was scrambling and willing to drive even four or five hours to play a game if they could find an opponent for week one.  As it turns out, they will only have to travel 100 miles to play Worth County, Missouri.

The Mustangs are hungry after barely missing a playoff and winning season with a triple-overtime loss that left D-West 4-5 last year. Coach Perry Smith returns for his second season and brings back all but two senior starters. Despite only 16 players out, the talented and experienced junior class is ready to take the next step with quarterback Trent Spiker and lineman Cooper Clark and Riley Schuneman all earning top league honors a season ago. This Doniphan West team is a sleeper, but now won't play a Kansas school until week four when district play opens up against TVL foe Washington County. 

Worth County has had some great teams going 8-4 last year and 10-3 the year prior in a deep playoff run following a 13-0 state championship season in 2017. However, the Tigers are 0-1 this year after starting their season with a 78-22 loss against South Holt last week. 

Jonny’s Pick: Doniphan West
Justin’s Pick: Doniphan West
Jake’s Pick: Doniphan West

Onaga at Clifton-Clyde

Onaga heads into tonight fresh off one of the better seasons in recent memory after posting five wins last season which was their first winning record since 2014, including their first as 8-man, and making the playoffs as well. The Buffaloes must find a way to replace the production lost with the graduation of Ethan Powell but do return half of their starters on each side of the ball. The quarterback position will not be a question as Zac Fisher returns after a promising freshman season while Rilyn Mayginees will add to the backfield as a hard-nosed runner that can take on multiple tacklers. The key for Onaga is getting experience quickly with no projected seniors on the roster and what better way than to go against a Clifton-Clyde squad who has seen plenty of recent success.

The Eagles have continued its upward trajectory under head coach Russ Steinbrock, boasting a 9-1 record last season and winning their second straight district title. Seven starters return including four-year starter Aiden Rudolph who has a chance to be one of the best quarterbacks around with his ability to both run and pass the football. The offensive line will also be a strength with all-leaguer Douglas Koch back to anchor things up front. Clifton-Clyde has high hopes heading into tonight and for good reason as the Eagles are poised for a deep run.

Tonight’s meeting is the first between Onaga and Clifton-Clyde since 2017 when the Eagles pitched a shutout winning 56-0.

Jonny’s Pick: Clifton-Clyde
Justin’s Pick: Clifton-Clyde
Jake’s Pick: Clifton-Clyde

Frankfort at Washington County

Frankfort is coming off another season to remember in 2019 as the Wildcats won eight games and produced the program’s best record in school history finishing 8-2. The Wildcats only two losses were to Hanover including a 4-point loss in the second round of the playoffs while picking up a dramatic win over Axtell on the game’s final play to earn a 3-way tie for the Twin Valley League 8-man title. Frankfort now heads into week one with high expectations as senior Gavin Cornelison returns at quarterback after throwing for 875 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago along with rushing for 815 yards and 11 more scores. The Wildcats also return wideouts Aiden Gerstner and Bryce Stowell who accounted for over 350 yards and six touchdowns last season.

In year two at the 8-man level the Tigers continued to see improvements a year ago winning four games to end the year with a record of 4-5. The season could not have started any better for the Tigers who won four of their first five games before dropping their final four contests. The defense was the biggest problem for Washington County a year ago allowing over 40 points per game including over 45 points in each of the final four games of the season. The Tigers do have a solid mix returning in third year starting quarterback Drew Buhrman along with big junior Nate Tice up front who have both been in big moments.

It's the first meeting between Frankfort and Washington County since the Tigers made the switch to 8-man just two years ago.

Jonny’s Pick: Frankfort
Justin’s Pick: Frankfort
Jake’s Pick: Frankfort

Wetmore at Valley Falls

The Wetmore Cardinals enter 2020 still looking to build a program foundation after struggling once again last season finishing with a 2-7 record. The Cardinals will look to erase what was a forgettable season and they have a great chance to as seven starters return from a year ago led by Kael McQueen and Storm Hackler who will each have the football in their hands a majority of the time. Wetmore also brings back four guys that have starting experience on the offensive line so running the football should not be too much of a problem.

Valley Falls will suit up only 13 players in week one under second year Coach Sawyer Havenstein. The Dragons had a couple players not go out and a couple more than got injured. Cade Norris was injured half of last year but returns for his senior campaign as a top runningback and weapon. The Dragons have gone just 4-32 since transitioning to an 8-man independent teams four years ago.

Jonny’s Pick: Wetmore
Justin’s Pick: Wetmore
Jake’s Pick: Wetmore

Axtell at Wheatland/Grinnell at 6 p.m.

Axtell is coming off a magical season in 2019 where they reached the 8-man DII State Championship before falling to Osborn in the title game 34-26. The Eagles dealt with plenty of adversity throughout the season but still won 11 games and even ended Hanover’s 43-game win streak with a freshman quarterback under center. Now a sophomore, Isaac Detweiler will take over the quarterback duties full-time in replace of Quinn Buessing who was one of the best 8-man quarterbacks in the history of the state of Kansas. Detweiler returns after his freshman campaign where finished the season with 321 yards passing and seven touchdowns with zero interceptions while adding 511 yards on the ground with eight more scores. He will have plenty of weapons at his disposal with the return of George Volle and Mitchell Buessing who have been starters the past two seasons. Perhaps the most notable returning player is all-TVL and all-state selection Kolby Talbot who will again be anchoring the line at center for the fourth straight season and disrupting things up front.

The Eagles are going to be tested right away with Wheatland/Grinnel who is coming off an 8-2 season with most of the production back from a year ago including a strong junior class. The Thunderhawks are led by junior Trey Vincent who threw for 800 yards and 14 touchdowns last season while fellow juniors Isaac Mendez and Tyrell Chapin both return at running back after combing for over 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. On defense the Thunderhawks also return their leading tackler Trevor Zarybnicky who recorded 95 stops, 5.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss last season.

Jonny’s Pick: Axtell
Justin’s Pick: Axtell
Jake’s Pick: Axtell

Hanover at Pike Valley

The Hanover Wildcats continued to dominate the 8-man ranks a season ago with another successful season finishing 10-2 and making it all the way to the semifinals in the playoffs. The Wildcats entered last season with a ton of question marks but answered those quickly jumping out to a 5-0 start right out of the gates before suffering a week six loss to Axtell which ended Hanover’s 43-game win streak.  Hanover now heads into 2020 with one of the top quarterbacks in the state back in senior Jacob Jueneman who threw for 1,521 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 542 yards and 12 more scores last season. Jueneman sure won’t be alone in the backfield with two returners back from a year ago in seniors Colin Jueneman and Tyler Bonser who combined for over 800 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground last season.

The Wildcats open against Pike Valley who went 3-6 a year ago which includes a forfeit win over Linn. Hanover made quick work of Pike Valley twice last season winning 58-14 in week one and 46-0 in the second round of the playoffs.

Jonny’s Pick: Hanover
Justin’s Pick: Hanover
Jake’s Pick: Hanover

Troy at Hiawatha on 103.9 KNZA

These teams started a basketball series last year and now meet on the football field for the first time since 1958 when Troy was in the Big 7. The game won't be played at Highland CC on the turf as scheduled, but both teams are happy just to be playing after Troy had a Covid scare earlier this week.  One football player tested positive and will miss this game along with three other starters. That meant Coach Derek Jasper had to change some numbers and find some new lineman, including shifting his backup QB to a starting line spot for this week one game.

Troy went 2-7 last year and lost their final six games. They also return only three starters from a season ago. Yet, new QB Camden Anderson has some quick athletic targets in Griffin Weber, Jarrit Norris and Blaine Shellenberger, who hauled in 433 yards on 29 receptions a year ago. Gavin Fuemmeler hopes to carry the load at runningback to balance the Trojan spread attack while alum, Andrew Dominguez takes over the defensive coaching duties.

Hiawatha also has a lot of unknowns for second-year Coach Michael Downard, who has only four seniors on the roster.  The young Redhawks are coming off a 1-8 season and have won just 10 games total the last six years. They will again start a handful of underclassmen including three on the offensive line. Alex Rockey takes over at QB and has several runningback options to try and establish a ground game

Jonny’s Pick: Hiawatha
Justin’s Pick: Hiawatha
Jake’s Pick: Hiawatha

Oskaloosa at Riverside

After suffering a winless season in 2018 the Bears took a major step forward a year ago winning three games, all in district play, to finish 2019 with a 3-6 record. The Bears now head into 2020 with plenty of optimism in the second year of head coach Matthew Johnson who returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. Junior Chord Perry is expected to lead the Bears offensively in his second year at quarterback after he threw for 619 yards and nine touchdowns last season while rushing for 119 yards and eight more scores. Fellow junior Nick Henry also returns at running back after running for 330 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.

Riverside was a surprise team last year going 6-3 under new Head Coach Bryce Paden and earning a home playoff game. They won twice by one point and went undefeated on JV for the second straight season. Now, those players must step into starting varsity roles after nine seniors graduated and only four starters return on both sides of the football.  Kobe Davis emerged as a top signal caller throwing for 1,513 yards as a sophomore and 21 touchdowns. He welcomes Bray Davies to varsity after the speedy Troy transfer with great hands was confined to JV play last season. Several Cyclones are switching positions on defense and the offensive line will be young.

In their first year as a school (2011), Riverside outscored Oskaloosa 62-22 in these teams only other meeting. The Cyclones were supposed to open the season against Royal Valley, but the Panthers are just coming out of a 14-day team quarantine and finally started practices again this week.

Jonny’s Pick: Riverside
Justin’s Pick: Riverside
Jake’s Pick: Riverside

Chapman at Sabetha

Despite going 6-3, it was still a successful year for Sabetha last year following a pair of state championship seasons.  The Bluejays beat Nemaha Central and Perry Lecompton who both advanced to a state title game. Then, they lost over half their starters including some top veteran talent and have several question marks entering 2020. Kaden Dillon will take over for the dynamic dual-threat Gabe Garber at quarterback while Michael Gugelman ran for 335 yards last year and returns to the backfield. The Jays have some bruising downhill runners for their ball control offense and a legit Division One talent in Drew Schmelze (returning tight end and linebacker), who may line up at several spots as Sabetha tries to get him more touches.

Chapman is a new opponent for Sabetha after the Fighting Irish went just 2-7 last year in the tough NCKL. Six of those losses were by two scores or less. Senior Trevor Erickson returns as a senior QB after throwing for more than 700 yards last year and leading the team with 873 rushing yards. Top back Eli Riegel is also back after running for 686 yards and David Schoby is another senior returning after leading the team in receptions and yardage.   

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

Rossville at Centralia

The Centralia Panthers are set to begin their title defense against the team that many expect to compete for the 2A state title in Rossville who holds the top ranking in the state according to Centralia is coming off a fun 2019 season which saw them drop their season opener to Rossville before running the table and knocking off Smith Center 18-14 to claim the Class 1A State Championship. Everything the Panthers did ran through Kamble Haverkamp who proved to be one of the best players in the state, but Haverkamp has since graduated leaving big shoes to fill for Coach Glatczak heading into 2020. If there’s one thing you need to know about Centralia though it’s they don’t rebuild they reload and the Panthers appear to be dangerous once again with Devon Feldkamp back at running back following a breakout season a year ago rushing for 1,114 yards and 12 touchdowns. The most experience returns to the offensive line with three full-time starters back from a year ago in seniors Austin Holthaus and Colten Hasenkamp along with junior Treydon Talley. Losing Haverkamp is obviously a huge hit but there are plenty of guys in place to make a difference for the Panthers.

Centralia will be tested right away by Rossville who returns some of the most talent in the state including junior quarterback Torrey Horak who accounted for over 2,200 all-purpose yards and 33 touchdowns a year ago. Horak has a majority of his favorite targets back from a year ago including senior Bo Reeves who caught 26 passes for 512 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago along with fellow seniors Tyree Sowers, Kaiden Brown, and Woodrow Rezac who all went over 100 yards receiving last season. Rezac is also back after finishing behind Horak in rushing a year ago finishing with 828 yards and 10 touchdowns while Sowers added 636 yards on the ground with seven more scores.

Again, Rossville took down the Panthers in last season’s opener 28-8 with Horak accounting for three touchdowns and more than 200 total yards.

Jonny’s Pick: Rossville
Justin’s Pick: Rossville
Jake’s Pick: Centralia

Valley Heights at Marysville

Valley Heights is coming off another successful season after last year, posting a 7-3 record to finish second in the Twin Valley League. After falling in the second round of the postseason to Jackson Heights in an OT thriller, the team is looking for redemption. Valley Heights will run the ball and try to control the line of scrimmage with their triple-option offense led by three-year starter Cameron Beardsley at quarterback and look to utilize his speed and athleticism. Beardsley will be joined in the backfield by senior Jake Yungeberg and sophomore Carter Beardsley as backs in the triple-option. If the Mustangs decide to throw the ball more this year they certainly have options as both Evan Haines and Jackson O’Toole return to the outside and provide good size and athleticism to the offense. Valley Heights strength will come up front with all but one starter back led by senior Bryson Kenworthy.

Marysville on the other hand is coming off another strong and successful season which saw them win seven games including strong wins over Clay Center, Concordia and defending state champion Sabetha. The Bulldogs started the season 6-0 before a tough loss to Holton in week seven and a 20-14 loss to Jeff West in the first round of the playoffs. Marysville now heads into 2020 looking to replace seven key seniors from last year including Atreyau Hornbeak who rushed for over 1,000 yards with 22 touchdowns last season. Senior Ayden Price is set to take over the reins at quarterback for the Bulldogs while Caden Brinager and Jackson Rader are back at receiver and will look to be leaders as a couple of the only returners from a year ago.

Valley Heights and Marysville are seeing each other for the first time in a rare 3A vs. 1A matchup.

Jonny’s Pick: Valley Heights
Justin’s Pick: Valley Heights
Jake’s Pick: Maryville

Atchison at Lafayette

Atchison is coming off a wild preseason where they were forced to completely redo their schedule after nearly all schools in the Kansas City-Atchison League were forced to cancel their seasons. But, Atchison has finally filled their schedule and are ready to go tonight looking to forget about what was a tough 2019 season which saw the Redmen finish just 3-6. Only a handful of starters return for the Redmen including quarterback Patrick Denton who will be asked to be a major leader this season along with Xavier Cushinberry at running back who is going to be a main focal point of the offense. The Redmen are simply going to try to out-physical their opponents this season and control the clock.

Their week one opponent in St. Joe-Lafayette already has one game down on the season after last week falling to Harrisonville, Missouri in a thriller 28-26. The Fighting Irish feature a spread attack and saw good success last week with quarterback Jaron Saunders throwing for over 280 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.

It’s going to be tough competition all season long for Atchison with new opponents like Lafayette who the Redmen are playing for the first time.

Jonny’s Pick: Lafayette
Justin’s Pick: Atchison
Jake’s Pick: Lafayette


Jackson Heights – The Cobras got three practices in before a positive COVID case put their entire team in 14-day quarantine. JH just resumed practices this week and will miss their first two games of the season.

Royal Valley  - Another Jackson County team, Royal Valley had a positive COVID test following their football camp and did not get to start their first football practices until this week.  They will also miss the first two games this season.



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