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Football Friday #4: What we're watching for!

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  • This week's Football Friday includes a number of players featured in this year's Kansas Pregame. Pictured clockwise from top left: Jordan Finnesy, Hudson Gray, Da'Vonshai Harden, Collin Koester, Ky Thomas, Jack Moellers, Kade Melvin and Teven McKelvey. (File Photos)
    This week's Football Friday includes a number of players featured in this year's Kansas Pregame. Pictured clockwise from top left: Jordan Finnesy, Hudson Gray, Da'Vonshai Harden, Collin Koester, Ky Thomas, Jack Moellers, Kade Melvin and Teven McKelvey. (File Photos)

Time for week four in Kansas high school football, but first lets take a look at Thursday night’s action, which may have already produced the best games of the weekend.

St. James upsets Bishop Miege

You read that right, the St. James Academy Thunder knocked off the Bishop Miege Stags in a 28-27 Thursday night thriller that was moved from Friday amid concerns about forecasted severe weather. Miege led 12-0 at the end of the first quarter but the Thunder rallied to take a 14-12 lead at the half. The Stags would take a 27-14 lead in the third quarter following a Daniel Jackson touchdown reception and a 25-yard TyQuez Agnew-Whitten fumble return for a touchdown.

The Thunder’s Michael Tujague added a touchdown run near the end of the third quarter which would set the stage for a defensive battle in the fourth. The St. James offensive line paved the way for Cade Lautt’s second touchdown run of the night in the middle of the fourth quarter and the successful extra-point kick would prove to be the final points of the game.

Lautt, the Thunder’s top defender and a University of North Carolina wrestling commit, was also a beast in the offensive backfield in the win and senior quarterback Jack Moellers, playing in just his second full game since a summer knee injury provided the Thunder a dual-threat all game long.

The Thunder defense corralled the Stags standout running back Brison Cobbins, but Miege quarterback Tim Dorsey used star receivers Phillipe Wesley and Daniel Jackson to keep the offense going through the air.

The Thunder improved to 2-2 while Miege fell to 3-1.

Check out 810 Varsity’s broadcast of this instant classic:

Junction City scores in the final second to knock off Topeka

In one of the most exciting finishes of the season, Junction City scored with 2:51 in the fourth quarter to tie the game with Topeka High at 41 apiece and scored the winning points with 4/10ths of a second remaining, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Rick Peterson. Junction City, one of the season’s surprise teams, improved to 4-0 with the 48-41 win while Topeka High slips to 3-1.

Junction City continues to get great play from junior quarterback Andrew Khoury, junior running back Russell Wilkey and senior wide receivers Ethan Alcorn and Qua'Vez Humphreys. Topeka High got another big game from Kansas Pregame coverboys Ky Thomas and Da'Vonshai Harden as the two teams racked up more than 1,000 yards of total offense, Peterson reported.

This sets up a pivotal Centennial League match-up in the Blue Jays rivalry game with Manhattan in two weeks. Topeka High beat Manhattan 32-27 in week two.

Blue Valley West takes down Blue Valley North in two overtimes

The Blue Valley West rebuilding tour continues as the Jaguars improved to 3-1 with a 25-18 double overtime victory over two-time 6A state finalist Blue Valley North. Meanwhile, it’s just another season with a 1-3 start for North, but Mustang fans need not be alarmed as each of those seasons ended with at least seven wins including trips to the last two 6A title games.

West running back Riley Cummings continues to make a name for himself after suffering through injuries the last two seasons. The senior rushed for 141 yards and all three of the Jaguars’ touchdowns on 30 carries. Cummings scored two of those touchdowns and got all five of West’s carries during the two overtimes to deliver the big win. West also got great play out of their defense as six different players recorded a sack.

Here's a look at the game winning score in the second overtime:



Gardner-Edgerton rebounds with win over Olathe East

Two of K-State’s top recruits were on display last night as Gardner-Edgerton rebounded from last week’s one-point loss to Lawrence with a quality 34-6 win over a good Olathe East team. Gardner-Edgerton offensive lineman Talor Warner squared off against his future teammate in Olathe East linebacker Nate Matlack as the two future K-State Wildcats continued quality senior seasons. According to GoPowercat’s Ryan Wallace the two didn’t have any collisions thanks in large part to Matlack’s move from defensive end to middle linebacker this season.

The Blazers got another great game out of quarterback/receiver Teven McKelvey, who may yet emerge as an FBS recruit. McKelvey rushed for 164 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries.

The win over East might be the toughest game left on Gardner’s regular season schedule, but a game versus an improved Shawnee Mission Northwest team in three weeks looms.

Now, on to what we’re watching for this week:

Dodge City (3-0) vs. Great Bend (2-1)

Dodge City (3-0) plays host to Great Bend (2-1) in a game that should have significant Western Athletic Conference ramifications. DCHS has enjoyed a big defensive improvement with its new-look three-front, and has senior quarterback Beau Foster. Great Bend has plenty of experience at the skill positions, but is relatively inexperienced up front. GB has run the gamut with results in the first three weeks with a 13-10 overtime miracle win against Andover, a big Week 2 victory versus rival Hays High, and then a rare shutout loss in Week 3.

Both teams also have multiple two-way players, including standout Great Bend QB/S Dalton Miller, and Dodge City’s John Johnson who plays in all three phases. It’s rare for 5A/6A players to be on both sides of the ball. Dodge City is 7-1 in its last eight contests, dating back to last year. GB has won three straight in the series: 34-27, 38-13 and 35-15.

Conor Nicholl

Andover (0-3) at Kapaun Mt. Carmel (1-2)

Andover will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak to Kapaun on Friday while winning its first game of the season in the process. The Trojans have been close to victory in all three losses.

Andover traveled to Great Bend to start the season and dropped a 13-10 heartbreaker in overtime. Andover proceeded to drop back-to-back games to AVCTL Division II foes Maize South and Goddard-Eisenhower by seven and six points each.

There is reason for optimism, however. Starting this week at Kapaun, every team Andover will face the rest of the regular season currently has a losing record, except for the season-finale against Goddard.

Kapaun is 1-2 for the first time since 2015, although the Crusaders could just as easily be 0-3. Kapaun survived Week 1 against Wichita Southeast, 6-3. Southeast held a 3-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Kapaun senior quarterback Jairus Kennedy delivered a TD pass to Tiger Jones late for the game’s only touchdown. There were fewer dramatics in Week 2. Wichita West delivered a shutout, 34-0. The Kapaun offense reached double digits the next week, but still struggled in a 22-14 loss to Wichita East.

Kapaun’s offensive struggles do not bode well against an Andover defense that is allowing just under 16 points a game. Kapaun’s three touchdowns have all been thanks to Kennedy in one way or another. Kennedy has a passing, rushing, and receiving touchdown this season.

Andover features a number of outstanding players in senior running back Peyton Henry, junior quarterback Eli Fahnestock, senior defensive end Connor Hall and junior kicker David Kemp.

Neither team has been impressive on offense this season, but both teams have been solid on defense. Expect a low-scoring, competitive game in this one.

Gallagher Martin

Conway Springs (2-1) at Hutchinson Trinity (2-1)
District play begins this week in many of the smaller classes, and Conway Springs opens up at Hutch-Trinity in 2A, District 6. Matt Biehler – who could win his 100th victory as CS head coach tonight – has his Cardinals at 2-1 this year with big wins over Wichita Trinity and Kingman, and a shocking 49-19 loss to Cheney in Week 2. 

Despite the loss, Conway Springs fans can find solace in the fact that quarterback Collin Koester has been as good as advertised this season. Koester already has 416 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns to go along with 363 passing yards and a passing TD. Senior running back Jack Ebenkamp has 221 yards and three touchdowns on the ground so far. In total, the Cardinals have 12 rushing touchdowns this year by five different players.

Hutch-Trinity, which graduated a load of talent off last year's 9-2 team, began the year 2-0 but ran into a buzzsaw in Ell-Saline last week, 34-0. The Celtics have not been impressive on offense this year. Trinity rode its defense to the 2-0 start, holding Marion to eight points and Inman to 14. But the offense only mustered 14 and 22 points in the wins, and failed to score against an Ell-Saline team that is now 3-0 with three shutouts.

Trinity faces its toughest two district opponents right away. The Celtics host Conway Springs this week before hosting Garden Plain (3-0) next week. After that, Wichita Independent, Whitewater-Remington, and Chaparral — a combined 1-8 — stand between the Celtics and a playoff spot.

While the Celtics are likely overmatched in this one, it will tell us a lot about the overall state of what last year was an ultra-competitive district.

John Baetz & Gallagher Martin

Norton (1-2) at Phillipsburg (1-2)

Two teams that are not accustomed to being under .500 find themselves there heading into Week 4. Both teams have played a monster of a schedule and coincidentally have the same two losses.

Phillipsburg opened the season with a 40-22 win over Ellis, but fell to Plainville 21-14, and lost to Smith Center 27-7. Norton began the year with Plainville and Smith Center, falling to 0-2. Norton also lost to Plainville by a touchdown while losing at Smith Center by 23. Last week, Norton picked up its first win, defeating Oakley 41-0. Plainville and Smith Center, both 3-0, will play each other this week in one of 1A's most important games.

Phillipsburg hasn’t lost two games in a season since 2015 when the Panthers went 11-2, and last week's loss to Smith Center ended an eight-game winning streak over the Redmen. Additionally, the Panthers haven’t won less than nine games since 2012. In order to keep that streak alive, Phillispburg will need to win out plus have success in the playoffs. That would not be out of the ordinary for the defending 2A state champions, but District 8 is unforgiving. 

Hoisington looks like the top team in the district, and class 2A, while Ellsworth is a surprising 3-0 and will try to make the district interesting. Norton should also be a factor at the top of this district.

Before last season, Norton hadn’t finished under .500 since 2011, but the Bluejays are in danger of back-to-back seasons with a losing record. Norton finished 4-5 last season, but did sneak into the playoffs. Norton went 3-2 in district last season with wins over Minneapolis, Thomas More Prep, and Ellsworth.

Norton is led by one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in class 2A in Kade Melvin, head coach Lucas Melvin's son. The also feature an enormous front line with Christien Hawks (6-5, 255), Judson Wiltfong (6-5, 215) and Dante Smith (6-1, 280). The Panthers counter with their own sizable front featuring Noah VanKooten (6-5, 260), Austin Miller (6-5, 215) and Tyce Jerby (6-0, 280).

Norton hasn’t beaten Phillipsburg since a 7-6 win in week two of 2015, and they haven’t really kept the match-up with the Panthers close since that win. This year's game should be much closer.

Gallagher Martin & John Baetz

Plainville (3-0) at Smith Center (3-0)

Speaking of Smith Center and Plainville they’ll match-up for what could be the first of two possible contest this season with a likely rematch in the playoffs, but there are a couple factors that have the Redmen a big favorite in this game. 

First, the Redmen are playing so very well. They are getting great play out of their offensive line, hard-nosed yards out of running back Jaden Atwood and great play on the defense by now linebacker Joel Montgomery - who was previously a defensive lineman - and up front by Charlie Timmons.

Smith Center, just as in the last two seasons, appears to be head and shoulders above anyone in 1A. They looked vulnerable after week one against TMP, but that week of practice must have been difficult because they were so much more physical the last two weeks and are now back to imposing their will on teams, as they are known to do.

Second, Plainville’s best player, Kansas Pregame coverboy Jared Casey, sustained a hand injury that required surgery last week and will miss at least three weeks. The good news for the Cardinals is that Casey injured his non-dominant hand, the bad news is they’ll miss one of the most versatile players in all of Kansas high school football who at points over his career as a four-year starter has played linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, tight end/h-back, fullback and running back. Casey is settled in at running back and linebacker, but in addition to his ability to run the ball and make tackles he can also catch the ball and cover receivers in space. 

The Cardinals are not without weapons, most notably quarterback Jordan Finnesy, but for the Cardinals to live up to their number two ranking in 1A they’ll have to get Casey back.

John Baetz

Beloit (2-1) at Colby (3-0)

This is a key district opener in a Class 3A, District 8 which is headlined by favorite Scott City. This game very likely delivers the district runner-up.

Beloit is talented and are led by their quarterback, senior Hudson Gray, who is one of the smoothest and most accurate throwers in the classification. He’s entering his third year as a starter, but played only two and a half games last year after an injury in week three - he was having an outstanding season up to that point. He’s also potent in the ground game and has good speed.

Wide receiver Vinny Palen is one of the best in the classification and is also one of the state’s top basketball players, and fellow senior Grant Arasmith provides a quality ball carrier for the Trojans after transitioning to running back from quarterback where he started in Gray’s absence last season.

Gray, Palen and Arasmith also make up a potent trio in the defensive secondary. Gray and Palen had interceptions and Arasmith forced a fumble in last week’s win over Minneapolis.

Carson Cox is a multi-year all-leaguer at linebacker and has also added depth in the offensive backfield this season after graduation took much of that production.

Creighton Johnson is an absolute beast up front for the Trojans and Trase McQueen is entering his second year on the offensive line and as a defensive end after not going out for football as a sophomore. And freshman Grady Seyfert, who is the son of former Fort Hays State standout defensive lineman and track thrower Casey Seyfert, could be the next in a long line of great linemen and throwers for Beloit. He stands 6-1 and weighs 240 pounds as a freshman and broke records for throws in junior high track, and that’s saying something because Beloit has a strong tradition of throwers in addition to Grady’s dad, who also happens to be on the coaching staff.

Beloit’s only loss is to a good 2A Southeast of Saline team 20-12. In that game a couple of late interceptions, including one that was returned nearly to the goalline put SES in great position to punch in the go-ahead score. It was a rivalry game against a good team and Beloit just couldn’t afford to make the mistakes they did.

The issue for Beloit is depth, they can’t afford to lose any of their key players, but they are going to be talented and they are going to be physical as they have always been going all the way back to winning three straight state titles in the mid-70s.

Colby improved to 3-0 with an impressive win over Holcomb last week and continues to get quality play out of Calvin Stapp, Hagan Booi and Aaron Kurth and number of other players who are helping the Eagles to play winning football, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

I’m not a big believer in home field advantage in high school, but if there’s any game with a home field advantage it’s one with such a lengthy travel time. Travel messes up your routine and just makes it hard for kids to get focused. I think going into this Colby is going to be the favorite, but I expect a good game.

John Baetz

Leoti-Wichita County (3-0) vs. Hoxie (2-1)

Wichita County hosts their first home game after a season-opening neutral site game against Pretty Prairie at Spearville and road games at Sharon Springs and Palco. Wichita County has scored at least 68 points in all three of their wins and second year coach Brant Douglas has done an excellent job in bringing new life to this previously downtrodden program.

Originally from Cheyenne, Wyo., and previously a player at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, Douglas took the head coaching position when he and his wife moved back near her hometown of Tribune. Douglas installed the Spread and helped WC average 44.2 points per game last year while the defense allowed just 17.6.

Wichita County features two of 8-Man's top offensive weapons in junior quarterback Kayde Rietzke and junior running back Jesse Gardner and four other players who return with starting experience from a year ago are helping to change the culture in Leoti.

This week WC will find out what they're made of as they square-off with a solid Hoxie team in a pivotal 8-Man I, District 8 game. WC lost to Hoxie 36-20 a year ago, but Lance Baar graduated several key pieces off a Hoxie squad that went 21-3 the last two seasons and won the 2017 state championship.

Hoxie has played just two games this season, a 54-26 loss to a very good Osborne team in Week 2 and a 46-6 win over an 0-3 Quinter team last week. Week 1 saw a forfeit from Tribune-Greeley County.

Wichita County could emerge as a contender for a district championship and deep playoff run after this one, but St. Francis is still on the schedule in two weeks.

John Baetz

Wheatland-Grinnell looking for playoffs; already eclipsed last year’s offensive numbers

Wheatland-Grinnell finished 6-3 in 2011 and lost in Week 9 to Wallace County in a winner-take-all contest for a playoff spot. The Thunderhawks posted a 5-4 year the following fall under then-coach Tyler Flavin, now the Meade girls’ basketball coach.

Since then, W-G has had continued success in volleyball, boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball, including a state volleyball crown. However, the football program has had continued challenges. W-G couldn’t finish the year in ’13 because of lack of players and went winless.

Since then, W-G is 3-6, 3-6, 1-7, 3-5 and 1-8 and is the only recent team to play eight-man football, then six-man and then switch back to eight-man. Last year, the Thunderhawks lost to Gove County rival Quinter, which ended the Bulldogs’ 33-game losing streak. W-G has encountered multiple injuries to key players. Wheatland-Grinnell has never made the football playoffs since the schools formed a football co-op from ’04-06 and then consolidated in ’07, according to Kansas Football History. Wheatland last made the playoffs in 1973, and Grinnell in 2002.

This season, though, W-G is off to a 2-1 start – has possibly its best team since ’11, and opens Eight-Man, Division II, District 6 play this Friday.  The Thunderhawks have outscored teams, 110-56, and have the best record in District 6. W-G has already scored more points than it did last year when it tallied 104 and permitted 421.

W-G plays host to Wallace County this week. WC, while not the state power in recent seasons, has made the playoffs every year but one from ’06-18. This year, the Thunderhawks have defeated Fairfield, 52-6, lost to Logan-Palco, 32-30, and beat Northern Valley, 28-18.

For  coach Jesse Vincent, sophomore Trey Vincent has completed 39 of 65 passes for 580 yards with an 8/3 TD/INT ratio. Junior Trevor Zarybnicky has 27 tackles, three for loss, to lead the squad. Freshman Jett Vincent has 26 stops and has already picked off four passes. W-G has already forced 12 turnovers, one more than they created in all of ’18.

Conor Nicholl