Tuesday, 27 February 2024
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Local Sports News
Sectional Round Playoff Preview
By Brandon Tadtman, Jared Sleppy, Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports

The High School football playoffs are down the Sectional (quarterfinals) round with plenty of area teams still alive. Teams will advance to the Sub-State round with a win on Friday night. 

Listed below are the previews for our area teams in action this week. 

(9-1) Osborne at (10-0) Axtell - 8M-II 

Another week, another mercy rule victory for Axtell. This past week, the Eagles were able to win handily against Hutchinson Central Christian at home by a final score of 52-6 to secure their 36th victory in a row. It’s also the ninth mercy rule victory Axtell has strung together, and it was thanks to seven turnovers forced with five interceptions for the Axtell defense. Brandon Schmelzle went 8-for-10 for 128 yards and a touchdown. The superstar junior had three interceptions on defense and a rushing touchdown as well. Wyatt Detweiler, son of head Eric Detweiler, had two touchdowns on the ground in just three rushing attempts for 30 yards and an interception on defense. Eli Broxterman got involved too with a rushing touchdown on his lone carry for the night which was on a ten-yard scamper. He also added four receptions and 77 receiving yards. Landon Schmitz kept up his solid season as well with a 36-yard reception for a touchdown. Collin Shaughnessy also had an interception. Axtell comes into this matchup still atop KPreps’ 8-Man DII rankings.

Osborne is still cruising since their Week 3 loss to Hanover, which is their lone loss of the season. Since then, they have only given up multiple touchdowns in two of their games during their seven-game winning streak. During that streak, the Bulldogs are averaging 64.6 points per game. For context, Axtell has averaged 59.1 points per game in that span. In the last five weeks, Osborne has given up just four points per game. As for Axtell, they have given up just 2.8 points per game. Axtell has also forced four shutouts in the last six weeks. Osborne is ranked fifth in KPreps’ latest rankings.

This will be the third ever meeting between these two teams. Axtell and Osborne met in the sectional round of the playoffs last year as well with Axtell winning 52-8. Osborne won the first matchup in the state title game in 2019 34-26. The winner of this game will take on the winner of Frankfort-Hanover in the sub-state round next week.

(8-2) Frankfort at (6-4) Hanover - 8M-II 

Frankfort came through last week with a stunning 66-28 utter domination against then #3 Canton-Galva last week. The Eagles were almost able to kick Axtell out of the playoff bracket last year, and Frankfort absolutely smacked Canton-Galva around. This game was actually tied at halftime at 22 points apiece. The Eagles got out to a 16-6 lead early in the second quarter, but the Wildcats came back with a pair of touchdowns to take the lead 22-16. Just before the half, though, the Eagles were able to tie back up going into the break. Frankfort’s defense cranked it up to 11 in the second half giving up just six points. The Wildcats outscored the Eagles 14-0 in the third quarter and 30-6 in the fourth quarter to put the game away. The yardage totals for this game were close with Frankfort outgaining Canton-Galva 428-401. Going into the week, head coach Nick Anderson wasn’t sure he was going to have his quarterback Wes Anderson play in this game. All he did was go 26-for-33 with 355 yards and four touchdowns. Brock Armstrong also had a monster game with four rushing touchdowns on eight carries with 45 yards. He also had a receiving touchdown. Star receiver Carter Olson had eight catches for 145 yards and two scores. Lane Loiseau was heavily involved with a team-high 11 receptions with 142 yards. Trent Hardin also found the endzone along with his four receptions. Friday’s sectional game will be the Wildcats’ first time in the sectional round since 2020. They lost to Hanover 74-26.

Hanover has tied for the worst record remaining in the field with an overall record of 6-4. The Wildcats have reached the sectional round of the playoffs for the first time since their state title in 2020. They got there thanks to a 30-14 win against Lebo last week. Now, they will try to beat a team in Frankfort that handed them their most recent loss in the regular season finale by a final score of 62-14. In that game, Frankfort outgained Hanover 397-205. Wes Anderson went off for 264 passing yards and four touchdowns with Lane Loiseau and Carter Olson catching two touchdowns apiece and Loiseau also having two rushing touchdowns.

This will be the 18th meeting since 2008 between these two teams. In that span, Hanover has won 14 of the 17 games, but Frankfort has won two of the last three. Only two of those meetings were in the playoffs with Hanover defeating Frankfort in the 2020 sub-state game, and the Wildcats winning in the district round in 2019 36-32. The winner of this game will take on the winner of Axtell-Osborne in the sub-state round next week.

(8-2) Medicine Lodge at (8-2) Valley Heights - 1A 

The Medicine Lodge Indians survived against a scrappy Hutchinson Trinity Catholic team that finished fourth in their district, defeating them in a 17-14 win. The Indians got it done with their passing game which accounted for 84.2% of the team’s yardage. The ground game was held to just 44 yards on 22 carries for two yards per carry. Junior quarterback Keveon Ruiz went 21-for-37 with 218 yards including a touchdown and an interception. This season, he has 1,281 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 53.8% of his passes. He also has tied for the most rushing touchdowns with four. As a unit, Medicine Lodge is averaging 4.2 yards per carry with no ball carriers with more than 400 yards this season. This is the deepest playoff run Medicine Lodge has had in a long time. This is the first time the Indians have played three games in a single postseason this millennia. The Indians come into this game with a six-game winning streak. Their offense has averaged just 24.5 in that span, but their defense has surrendered just 9.3 points per game including two shutouts. Medicine Lodge has given up more than 20 points just twice this season, and both of those games resulted in losses. Those losses are a 21-7 loss against Garden Plain in Week 3 and a 40-34 loss at #3 Conway Springs in Week 4.

Valley Heights survived a high-scoring shootout at Sedgwick last week which resulted in a 52-40 victory with a combined 1,068 total yards of offense. The Mustangs were outgained 543-525 with the Mustangs getting every single yard on the ground. Throughout most of the game, Valley Heights was in control with their lead growing to as much as 26 points at multiple points in the second half. However, the Cardinals got three straight scores spanning from late in the third quarter to mid-way through the fourth quarter to pull within one score. However, the Mustangs would get the final score of the game to secure the win. Jayden DeWalt was a monster as he ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 attempts. He had touchdown runs of 28, 56 and 81 yards. Carson Spoonts had 193 yards on a team-high 26 attempts, including a touchdown and an 87-yard run. Kaison Bigham was also fantastic in his 17 carries with 118 yards and two touchdowns. Cayden Dummermuth contributed as well with a ten-yard touchdown, which was his only carry of the game. The Mustangs are averaging an absurd 311.8 yards on the ground per game with 46 total rushing touchdowns. Spoonts and DeWalt are both over 1,000 for the season with Spoonts at 1,153 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also has 600 passing yards exactly on the year with seven passing touchdowns and five interceptions. DeWalt isn’t too far behind with 1,057 yards and 15 touchdowns. DeWalt is averaging 10.1 yards per carry and Spoonts is getting 7.7 yards per carry. Last week’s win gave Valley Heights their first ever multi-win playoff run in school history.                                                                                   

This will be the first meeting ever between these two teams. This is the only matchup in Class 1A that doesn’t have a ranked team, according to K-Preps’ latest poll. The winner of this game will play the winner of Conway Springs-Marion in the sub-state round next week.

(8-2) Olpe at (9-1) Jefferson County North - 1A

The powerhouse Olpe Eagles are back in familiar territory once again as they beat Central Heights last week 23-14. Ethan Redeker scored the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter which was the lone score of the first quarter. Redeker would add a passing touchdown in the second quarter to Brody Cole which gave the Eagles a 14-0 halftime advantage. Olpe would take more than seven minutes off the clock on their first drive of the second half and Redeker connected with Cade Whitmore to push Olpe’s lead to 20-0. Central Heights battled in the fourth quarter and made the game interesting with two long touchdown plays but Olpe would add a field goal between those two scores and ultimately run out the clock at the end of the game to secure the win. It was the second time that the two teams have played this season as Olpe won the first meeting 28-0 in the regular season finale. Olpe’s two losses were against 3A #3 (10-0) Hayden and (9-1) Osage City in the first three weeks of the season. Both teams are still alive in their respective classification. This is the seventh consecutive season that the Eagles have found their way into the Sectional round of the playoffs. Olpe won back-to-back State Titles in 2020 and 2021 and lost to Smith Center in the State Title game in 2018. They won the Class 2-1A State Title in 2014 and in two other State Title games in 2008 and 1976.

The Jefferson County North Chargers have put together one of their best seasons in recent memory. The 9-1 Chargers advanced to the Sectional round with a 16-0 win at Centralia last week which snapped a six-game losing streak to the Panthers. Ethan Noll had a three-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a six-yard touchdown run with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter for the only scores of the game. Ethan would rush for 107 yards on 15 carries with those two touchdowns while Grady Noll finished the game with 25 carries for 128 yards. JCN is averaging over 47 points per game while the defense is allowing 10.9 points per game. The offense has scored 48 or more points in six games and in four of those games they’ve scored 62, 66, 72, and 68. The defense has posted four shutouts and have held three other opponents to 7 points or less. The only loss this season for JCN was back in week six against the defending champs St. Marys 34-18. The rushing attack is what powers JCN with Grady Noll rushing for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns, Ethan Noll has rushed for 783 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Connor Keirns has rushed for 652 yards and 11 touchdowns. Grady has also thrown for 992 yards with 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The Chargers are in search of their first football state title in school history.

This will be the fifth all-time meeting between Olpe and Jefferson County North. The Eagles are 4-0 against the Chargers with the last meeting in 2021 in the second round of the playoffs with Olpe winning 28-0. They played in the second round of the playoffs in 2017 and Olpe won that game 7-0. They also met in the regular season in 2012 and 2013 with Olpe winning those matchups 34-7 and 49-7 respectively.

(9-1) Osage City at (10-0) Nemaha Central - 2A

Although their absurd streak of eight consecutive shutouts ended, Nemaha Central’s winning streak was extended to 23 after a 55-13 win against Riley County at home last week. The Thunder offense has been humming with last week being their third-most points scored this season and their Week 9 win over Pleasant Ridge being the fourth-best scoring effort. Their offensive attack has been as effective as it is thanks to their domination in the trenches with tons of size and experience that helps Carter Hajek get free in the running game. Last week, the sophomore quarterback had six total touchdowns with five on the ground and 186 rushing yards. He went 6-for-9 over the air with a 43-yard touchdown completed to Carter Rottinghaus. They also held the Falcons to just 3.1 yards per carry on 27 attempts and held their passing game to just 154 yards and a 42.3% completion rate. Carter Hajek is getting close to his brother Cooper’s stats from his senior year. He is exactly 400 yards shy of Cooper’s 2,094-yard 2022 season. Carter is also eight touchdowns shy of Cooper’s 42 touchdown season.

Osage City just snuck by Council Grove last week by a final score of 15-8. The Indians did so just barely outgaining the Braves 318-281. Sophomore quarterback Kasen Parsons was responsible for both of the team’s touchdowns going 9-for-15 with 125 yards and a passing touchdown, as well as six carries for 73 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. His older brother, senior running back Cooper Parsons, had 20 carries and rushed for 84 yards. The Indians’ offense goes almost exclusively through the Parsons brothers. In fact, 81.6% of their plays involve Cooper or Kasen passing or running the ball. Entering this week’s sectional contest, Osage City is averaging 36.7 points per game. Their defense has been rock solid as well allowing just 14.2 points per game and pitching three shutouts. They have allowed more than 22 points just twice this season. Their lone loss on the season is a 46-40 defeat at Sedgwick in Week 5. Osage City has never played four games in a single postseason in school history and an upset win over the Thunder would get them there.

The lone meeting between these two schools was in 2020 in the sectional round when the Thunder bested the Indians 7-0. The winner of this game will play the winner of Sabetha-Humboldt in the sub-state round next week.

(9-1) Humboldt at (9-1) Sabetha - 2A

The Humboldt Cubs advanced to their matchup with Sabetha after defeating Riverton on the road last week 24-14. They have won four straight games since their lone loss of the season to Osage City. Junior quarterback Blake Ellis led the charge against Riverton. He finished the game with 30 carries for 165 yards and three touchdowns while completing seven of 10 passes for 70 yards. The Cubs rushed for 240 yards against Riverton and averaged nearly five yards per carry. Ellis is the focus of the Cubs offense this season as he has thrown for 1,414 yards and 18 touchdowns to just six interceptions while rushing for 1,149 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior running back Cole Mathis has also provided a spark this season in the rushing game with 758 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging over six yards per carry. Humboldt got to the Sectional round last season but were eliminated by Nemaha Central 44-20. The Cubs have not had a season below .500 since 2016. They finished 7-3 in 2017, 11-1 in 2018, 10-1 in 2019, and 8-3 in 2022. Humboldt is searching for their first football state title in school history.

The #4 ranked Sabetha Bluejays ran wild at Silver Lake last week defeating the Eagles 45-34 in what will be a future Big East league matchup beginning next season. Sabetha’s first two plays of the game on offense were touchdown runs by Colin Menold of 43 yards and Chase Frey of 80 yards. Silver Lake tied the game at 14-14 going into halftime with touchdowns by Tanner Martin and Brody Deiter. The Bluejays outscored the Eagles 10-0 in the third quarter and led 24-14 going into the fourth quarter. Sabetha scored three more times in the fourth quarter including two more long touchdown runs by Menold of 48 and 52 yards. Colin finished the game with 360 yards and three touchdowns as Sabetha finished with well over 500 yards on the ground. Silver Lake had no problems moving the ball as they finished the game with over 500 yards of offense, but they finished the game with six turnovers. Sabetha’s defense forced five interceptions and recovered a muffed punt. The Bluejays lone loss this season was in the regular season finale against Nemaha Central which gave the Thunder both the district and Big 7 league titles. Sabetha’s offense is averaging 39 points per game while the defense is surrendering just 11.1 points per game. The Bluejays are in search of their first 2A title in school history. Sabetha won back-to-back 3A state titles in 2017 and 2018. They won 4A titles in 1993 and 1997 and lost in a 3A title game back in 1986.

This will be just the second all-time meeting between Sabetha and Humboldt. The only meeting between these two teams was a 39-13 regular season win for Sabetha back in 1965.

(9-1) Frontenac at (6-4) Holton - 3A 

For the sixth time in the last nine years, Holton and Frontenac will collide in the football playoffs this Friday night. It was the Raiders prevailing at home and winning the Sub-State latest matchup in 2021.  However, Holton holds a 3-2 series advantage overall. The Wildcats are 6-4 this season and winners of three straight including an impressive regional road win at undefeated Wellsville 21-13 last week. 

Frontenac is 9-1 this year, including nine consecutive victories since falling to (now 10-0) Pittsburg Colgan 27-20 in the season opener. Frontenac beat Burlington last week 15-12, which was their third win this season by three points or less. Raider Head Coach Mark Smith has posted a winning record and had his team in the post-season every year since taking over in 2012. 

Frontenac's balanced attack (186 rush/126 pass/game) is led by senior returning quarterback Kal Turlip (1,260 passing yards) and his top targets Wyatt Frazier (20-444 yards) and Trey Cramer (19-361 yards) who both have caught five touchdowns. Gavyn Witthuhn had emerged to pace the team with more than 1,000 yards rushing this season while fullback Peyton McDonald has added just over 600 yards on the ground and paces the team with 87 tackles. Wyatt Frazier leads the Raiders with seven interceptions of their 18 takeaways (+10). 

Holton's rushing attack, which was an entirely new backfield with no returning varsity ball carriers, has produced 311 yards per game on average, led by senior converted lineman Abbott Hundley with 1,089 and 12 touchdowns. Kyler Jackson (junior) has 713 and sophomore fullback Cael Frazier added 497. The Wildcat defense is led by Dalton Roush and Jackson Bear with more than 70 tackles apiece and both seniors have a trio of sacks. Hundley has really emerged the past few weeks coming off his 216 yard and 6 touchdown performance against Bishop Ward, Abbott had 28 carries last week and 134 yards against Wellsville helping Holton convert on numerous third downplays and 3 for 3 on fourth down attempts, while holding the Eagles to just 1 of 5 on fourth down tries to secure that impressive win. 

The Wildcats are trying to qualify for the state semifinals for a fourth straight season after finishing state runner up last year. Despite losing 18 seniors and not having as high of expectations entering 2023, Holton has been led by eight seniors and overcome several injuries and tough losses to ranked playoff teams like Nemaha Central, Sabetha and Hayden to play some spectacular football the past three weeks, which has included eliminating costly mistakes and penalties that haunted the Cats this season.  

(8-2) Tonganoxie at (10-0) Atchison - 4A

Tonganoxie scored a late touchdown on a four-yard run by Colton Brusven to win at Chanute last week 28-21. Brusven would finish the game last week with over 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Chanute’s only two losses this season were against the Chieftains as they also beat Chanute in the regular season 38-21 back in week three. Tonganoxie has some big-time playmakers on offense with Brusven leading the rushing attack with 1,539 yards and 21 touchdowns. Quarterback Trevor McGraw has thrown for over 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns. Isaiah Holthaus is one of McGraw’s top targets with 685 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Tonganoxie is ranked #2 in Class 4A by K-Preps with their only two losses this season coming against Spring Hill in week two and Louisburg in week six. Spring Hill is a 5A school that went 7-3 this season while 4A Louisburg finished their season 9-1.

Atchison’s undefeated season continued last week with a 50-27 win at home over Eudora. Eudora was 5-4 going into the matchup but the Cardinals were a top-five team at one point during the season. The Phoenix jumped out to a 22-7 halftime lead and were able to roll the Cardinals from there. They finished the game with over 500 yards of offense. Quarterback Trey Carter led the offense against Eudora finishing with 266 passing yards and two touchdowns while adding 132 rushing yards and another score. Carter has thrown for 1,876 yards with 24 touchdowns while adding 542 rushing yards and eight more touchdowns. This is Atchison’s first 10-win season since 2006.

This will be the 12th all-time meeting between Tonganoxie and Atchison with the first meeting back in 2002. Atchison holds the 6-5 advantage, but Tonganoxie have won the last two meetings in 2016 and 2017. Atchison last defeated Tonganoxie in 2015 but won the first four meetings of the series. This will be the fourth time the two teams have met in the playoffs, and this will be the first meeting beyond the opening round of the playoffs.

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