BV North (1-6, 1-5 EKL) at SM South (3-4, 3-3 SL)
7 p.m. Thursday at SM South District Stadium
Outlook: The visiting Mustangs’ continued struggles stopping the run proved costly in the district opener last week, a loss to Olathe East. Of course, the Raiders’ run defense also floundered against BV Northwest. A loss all but eliminates either team from playoff contention.
About BV North: Powered by quarterback Cory Taubin, the Mustangs passed for more than 300 yards against Olathe East with Jevante Siglar hauling in 10 receptions for 148 yards and Danny Weston grabbing seven passes for 121 yards. SM South has faced only 80 passes, so it’s in for a new experience against a BV North squad that attempts more than 35 passes per game.
About SM South: Running back Gabe Guild leads the Sunflower League in rushing for the second straight season with 200 carries for 1,434 yards and 12 touchdowns, which is second in the league. He averages nearly 7.2 yards per carry, which is the most for any feature back in the league as well. But victory probably hinges more on a defense led by Jeramie Fischer and Ra’Keim Abdul.
Prediction: SM South 35, BV North 21
Olathe East (3-4, 2-4 SL) at BV Northwest (4-3, 3-3 EKL)
7 p.m. Thursday at BV District Activity Complex
Outlook: Olathe East coach Jeff Meyers and his former assistant, BV Northwest coach Mike Zegunis, meet with control of the district on the line. The visiting Hawks knocked off BV North last week, and BV Northwest outlasted SM South in their respective district openers.
About Olathe East: Led by senior Hayden Frazier, who racked up 26 carries for 251 yards and two touchdowns, the Hawks averaged 6.9 yards en route to 352 total rushing yards last week against BV North, which ranks last in the East Kansas League in rush defense (280.4 ypg). BV Northwest isn’t much better, allowing 197 yards per game on the ground, which bodes well for Olathe East.
About BV Northwest: Step one will be controlling Frazier and the Hawks’ ground game, a challenge that is heightened because Olathe East is so strong against the run. The Hawks permit a shade over 100 yards per game on the ground, which could hamper Reed Coda. Although, quarterback Alec Windsor and his leading receiver, Austin Moses, who has 31 catches for 434 yards with six touchdowns, should have opportunities for big plays.
Prediction: Olathe East 28, BV Northwest 21
Bishop Miege (3-4, 2-4 EKL) at Harmon (0-7, 0-5 KCKAL)
7 p.m. Friday at Harmon High School
Outlook: The Stags got untracked offensively in a big way against Turner, while Harmon was flattened by St. Thomas Aquinas. With a win and a victory by the Saints against the Golden Bears, first-year coach Jon Holmes’ Miege squad, which snapped a four-game losing skid last week, will qualify for the playoffs.
About Bishop Miege: Quarterback Montell Cozart completed nine of 14 passes, including four touchdowns to four different receivers – McKinley Johnson, Jeffrey Martin, Michael Murphy and Blake Schneiders – last week. Connor DeLeon added 90 yards and two touchdowns rushing, giving a balanced attack that should have little trouble against the downtrodden Hawks.
About Harmon: The Hawks are now 13-81 since 2002, including losses in 13 of the last 14 games over two seasons. During district play last season, Miege crushed Harmon 75-24. It might not get quite as ugly again, but the Hawks aren’t likely to pull an upset either.
Prediction: Bishop Miege 49, Harmon 7
BV Southwest (4-3, 3-3 EKL) at BV West (5-2, 3-2 EKL)
7 p.m. Friday at BV District Activity Complex
Outlook: BV West is in a considerably less desperate situation with a win against Pittsburg already under its belt, while BV Southwest faces potential elimination from postseason qualification (assuming Blue Valley beats Pittsburg). Still, the host Jaguars would do well to view the matchup as a must-win.
About BV Southwest: The Timberwolves ran the ball effectively and made plays in the passing game against Blue Valley, but quarterback Aaron Ramsey’s two interceptions and a porous run defense have put coach Bill Lowe’s boys behind the eight-ball. The defense has to be better at limiting sustained drives and getting off the field while avoiding big plays, especially against the run. The big question: Can the T-Wolves channel the desperation that accompanies possible elimination?
About BV West: Running back Conley Wilkins followed a 300-yard performance with four touchdowns against Miege by carving up Pittsburg for 217 yards and two TDs on only 19 carries. Meanwhile, quarterback Ryan Ralston matched Wilkins’ school-record four rushing touchdowns, gaining 124 yards on 19 carries. It won’t be as easy against a BV Southwest defense that allows only 139.7 yards per game on the ground.
Prediction: BV Southwest 28, BV West 24
Gardner Edgerton (4-3, 3-3 EKL) at Olathe North (2-5, 2-4 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at the Olathe District Activity Center
Outlook: Both teams are coming off wins to open district play – and surprisingly dominant ones. The visiting Trailblazers ran roughshod over Olathe South in its first Kansas 6A district game, while the Eagles crushed rival Olathe Northwest in its most complete performance.
About Gardner Edgerton: There’s simply no stopping running back Traevohn Wrench right now. That, of course, was the expectation entering the season, but it has only been true the last five weeks. Wrench, with help from his blockers, smacked around Olathe South for 319 yards and four touchdowns.
About Olathe North: Buoyed by a defense that forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, the Eagles were dominant for the first time all season. Defensively, the Ravens managed only 3.4 yards compared to the 8.0 yards per carry Olathe North averaged on offense. Another turnover-free performance and big games from Elbert Johnson, who had seven carries for 145 yards last week, along with Venus Triplett, who had 29 carries for 190 yards, would be a good start on an upset.
Prediction: Gardner Edgerton 35, Olathe North 21
Lawrence (6-1, 6-0 SL) at Wyandotte (5-2, 4-1 KCKAL)
7 p.m. Friday at Wyandotte High School
Outlook: Wyandotte might be the Kansas City, Kan./Atchison League champion, but the Bulldogs got a rude lesson in Sunflower League play last week against Lawrence Free State. It’s probably going to happen again, facing the league’s most potent offense. Quarterback Brad Strauss and company average 394 yards per game.
About Lawrence: Strauss has completed an eye-popping 106 of 161 passes for 1,487 yards with 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also leads the Chesty Lions with 101 carries for 552 yards and 10 more TDs. But if there is reason for concern for coach Dirk Wedd’s bunch, it’s a defense that coughed up 26 points last week against Leavenworth.
About Wyandotte: Not even quarterback Dimonic Roden-McKinzy could help the Bulldogs get untracked on offense against Lawrence Free State. Perhaps Wyandotte learned a few things about what it takes to compete with the top-notch Kansas 6A powers, but unless the defense finds a way to force turnovers and contain Strauss it could be another long night for coach Eddie Brown’s squad.
Prediction: Lawrence 40, Wyandotte 20
Lawrence Free State (6-1, 4-1 SL) at Leavenworth (3-4, 2-4 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at Leavenworth High School
Outlook: Know this much for certain, Leavenworth won’t be intimidated by Lawrence Free State. The Pioneers have played the Firebirds tough the last few seasons, including a 14-6 defeat last season. Of course, Free State isn’t exactly the same team as last season.
About Lawrence Free State: The Firebirds remain No. 1 in Kansas 6A and were able to save some wear and tear on quarterback Kyle McFarland. He only had five carries last week and attempted just four passes, all completions for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Look for that balance to continue with T.J. Cobbs, who had 15 carries for 125 yards and three touchdowns, and Demarco Bobo, who racked up 81 yards and TD on nine carries.
About Leavenworth: Halting the Sunflower League’s top scoring offense, which averages 37.7 points per game, won’t be an easy task for a Pioneers’ squad that ranks 10th in total defense at 341 yards allowed per game. That means it will be critical for running back Jason Randall to have a big game. For the year, Randall has 124 carries for 844 and seven touchdowns, so he’s capable.
Prediction: Lawrence Free State 42, Leavenworth 14
Olathe South (4-3, 3-2 SL) at Olathe Northwest (2-5, 2-4 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at the College Boulevard Activity Center
Outlook: Little will be decided officially by the outcome of this game, but the loser is almost certainly eliminated from playoff contention. Both teams are coming off frustrating, perhaps even embarrassing losses and now face a season on the brink.
About Olathe South: The Falcons pride themselves on smash-mouth football, but it can become predictable at times. Gardner Edgerton seemed to know what was coming and limited Olathe South’s ground game to 122 yards on 44 carries, a meager 2.8-yard per-carry average. Even more troubling, the Falcons’ run defense was gashed for 319 yards and allowed more than 9 yards per rush last week.
About Olathe Northwest: The Ravens’ balanced attack could be effective against Olathe South, but there must be more of a premium on protecting the football. Quarterback Holdyn Halperin completed 19 of 34 passes for 250 yards with a touchdown, but he also tossed four interceptions, and the ground game produced very little. Linebacker Alex Durr and company must be sharp against Olathe South’s run.
Prediction: Olathe South 42, Olathe Northwest 28
Pittsburg (5-2, 5-1 SEK) at Blue Valley (4-3, 4-2 EKL)
7 p.m. Friday at Blue Valley High School
Outlook: With a win and a victory by BV West against BV Southwest, Blue Valley can clinch a playoff berth and take another massive step toward a third Kansas 5A title-game appearance. Pittsburg got a rude awakening against BV West last week but ought to bring a little more fire to the matchup with the Tigers.
About Pittsburg: The Purple Dragons were turnover prone against BV West, which didn’t help their cause. But the Southeast Kansas League powerhouse also couldn’t stop the run and coughed up a special teams score. Still, Alex Barnes tuned up the Jaguars for 155 yards on 24 carries, proving that Pittsburg can move the ball.
About Blue Valley: Led by Ryan McNerlin, who had 32 carries for 185 yards, the Tigers ground out a win against BV Southwest last week. Considering BV West’s success against Pittsburg, expect another big game from McNerlin as Blue Valley potentially wraps up a playoff appearance. The Tigers struggled to stop the run, allowing the Timberwolves to rack up 288 yards on the ground. That is a concern.
Prediction: Blue Valley 35, Pittsburg 21
St. Thomas Aquinas (6-1, 4-1 EKL) at Turner (4-3, 4-2 KVL)
7 p.m. Friday at Turner High School
Outlook: Assuming Bishop Miege takes care of business against winless Harmon, the visiting Saints can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Golden Bears, who had won four straight before getting whipped by the Stags last week. Expect the Saints to clinch a postseason with relative ease.
About St. Thomas Aquinas : Eight different Saints got multiple carries last week, and three of four completed passes went for touchdowns in a rout of Harmon. Coach Mike Thomas was able to rest many of his front-line guys, relying instead on Joel Edwards and Pat Spafford among others. If all goes well, everyone will get involved once again for Aquinas.
About Turner: The Bears rushed for seven yards – seven – on 28 carries and failed to score a rushing touchdown for the first time all season. Junior quarterback Paul Berry threw for 152 yards, but completed only 10 of 24 passes. Aquinas arguably has an even better defense.
Prediction: St. Thomas Aquinas 41, Turner 7
SM East (6-1, 4-1 SL) at SM West (6-1, 5-0 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at SM South District Stadium
Outlook: The district title is on the line between the Sunflower League’s top scoring defenses. With struggling SM North and SM Northwest filling out the district, it’s basically a foregone conclusion that both the Lancers and Vikings are going to advance to the postseason. The loser of this game, however, starts on the road and faces perhaps a harder road through the Kansas 6A state bracket.
About SM East: Quarterback Jordan Darling was a model of efficiency in his district debut with the Lancers, completing 18 of 27 passes for 256 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a one-sided win against SM Northwest. Better balance will be needed against the Vikings, who are going to try and hammer out a win on the ground against an SM East defense that allows only 12.4 points per game.
About SM West: The Vikings lead the Sunflower League in yards per carry (6.01) and are second in rushing touchdowns (21). They will try to impose their will on rival SM East and stay undefeated in the league standings. Running back Brett Sterbach, who has 187 carries for 1,235 yards and 15 touchdowns, carries the load on offense, but the defense must adjust to losing safety and leading tackler Robert Rice, who suffered a fractured leg last week.
Prediction: SM West 21, SM East 14
SM Northwest (1-6, 0-5 SL) at SM North (0-7, 0-5 SL)
7 p.m. Friday at SM North District Stadium
Outlook: It’s the best chance either team has had for a win since August. SM Northwest opened the season with a shocker against Olathe North but hasn’t won since, while SM North has lost eight straight over two seasons and 14 of 15 overall.
About SM Northwest: The Cougars played relatively well against the run last week. Admittedly that isn’t SM East’s forte, but it’s a good sign nonetheless going against run-heavy SM North. SM Northwest’s biggest struggle continues to be an offense that averages only 4.2 yards per play and also ranks last in the Sunflower League at 13.1 points per game.
About SM North: Coach Dennis Grayless’ squad remains the only team in the league without a passing touchdown, but SM North leads the league in carries (360) and rushing yards (1,822). The squad’s 16 combined rushing touchdowns are more than SM South and Olathe North and tied with Olathe East and SM East. Four SM North players have at least 300 yards rushing this season – Henry Bell (525), Jesse Patterson (411), Mario Louis (374) and Caleb Denman (322).
Prediction: SM Northwest 17, SM North 14
Palmer’s prognostications: East Kansas League: 4-3 last week; 14-19 overall; Sunflower League: 5-3 last week; 33-11 overall
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com