Here's a look at a few things we're watching on this sixth Football Friday of the season:
Junction City at Manhattan
Even at 5-0 the Junction City Blue Jays still seem like one of 6A's under-the-radar teams. Tonight JC will head to Manhattan (4-1) for one of the state's traditionally toughest rivalry games. The contest even features a trophy - the Silver Trophy - and also has league title implications.
A victory for Junction City leaves the Blue Jays standing alone atop the Centennial League standings. A win by Manhattan results in a three-way tie between the Indians, the Blue Jays and Topeka High.
Nine of the last 10 installments of this contest were decided by nine points or less, including last year's 9-7 victory by Junction City which would end up as the last win of the season for a 4-5 Blue Jays squad and one of just two losses on the year for Manhattan.
Andover at Ark City
Andover is no stranger to close games. Through five weeks of the season the Trojans have yet to play in a game with a final score featuring a margin larger than 10 points. In a three-game losing streak to open the season the Trojans suffered losses of three, seven and six points and in wins the past two weeks the Trojans have delivered victories of 10 and five points.
In Cade Armstrong's three seasons at the helm Andover has played in 13 games decided by 10 points or less and the Trojans are 4-9 in such contests.
Andover's first three opponents this season (Great Bend, Maize South, Eisenhower) are a combined 11-4. Including tonight's opponent, Ark City, Andover's Week 4-6 games feature teams with a combined 2-13 record.
Andover boasts the fourth best scoring defense in the 32 team class 5A with just 54 points allowed all season. But, the Trojans also feature the third worst scoring offense in the classification with just 53 points scored in five games.
Andover will look for a breakout offensive performance tonight against winless Ark City after not scoring more than 14 points in any one game through five weeks of the season. The Bulldogs are no strangers to close games themselves with losses by two, six, 18 and 19 points.
De Soto at Basehor-Linwood
For the third straight season, De Soto is off to a 5-0 start. The Wildcats won their first five games last season before dropping an eight-point game to Basehor-Linwood.
The winner of this game will take over first place in the United Kansas Conference. De Soto is currently sitting atop the UKC with a 3-0 record, but Basehor-Linwood is not far behind at 3-1. The Bobcats took a surprising loss to Leavenworth, 41-30, in Week 3. De Soto already owns a 51-19 win over Leavenworth back in Week 1.
De Soto is coming off what is by far its closest game of the season ‒ a 14-0 win at Spring Hill on a cold and wet night. Tyson Priddy caught a touchdown pass late in the second quarter to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead heading into halftime. It remained a one-score game until late in the fourth when Jackson Miller ran for a 30-yard score to put the game out of reach.
Priddy rushed for 92 yards in the win while Miller led the Wildcats with 107 yards on the ground.
As explosive as the offense has been for the Wildcats, the defense is likely the strength of this De Soto squad. For the season, De Soto is only allowing eight points a game.
Basehor-Linwood is coming off a 10-2 season which saw the Bobcats make the semifinals in 4A last season, but B-L graduated a talented senior class. The Bobcats returned just six total starters entering the season.
Basehor-Linwood began 2019 with an uncharacteristic 1-2 start with losses to undefeated Tonganoxie and league-rival Leavenworth, but the Bobcats have back-to-back blowout wins over Shawnee Heights and Kansas City Turner.
Senior quarterback Chase Torkelson will try and find holes in the Wildcat defense. Torkelson has 100 completions on the season for 1,389 yards and 12 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
At running back, sophomore Zack Sisemore and senior Curtis Ingham each have over 200 rushing yards, but Torkelson leads the team with six rushing touchdowns.
On defense the Bobcats are led by seniors Mason Capper and Luke Jennings with 34 and 33 total tackles respectively, but one of their top returning defensive player, senior linebacker Brock Hofer, was lost for most of the season in Week 2.
Currently, De Soto sits atop the 5A East standings, but against the 31st ranked schedule in the classification, according to Prep Power Index. De Soto and St. Thomas Aquinas are the only two teams in the East with a 5-0 record, but De Soto has a better point differential margin.
Basehor-Linwood is one of five teams in 4A East with a 3-2 record. The Bobcats are currently in ninth in the East, according to PPI.
The Bobcats are likely outmatched by De Soto's experience and depth in this one, but B-L is a tough out under Rod Stallbaumer and a solid performance against the 5A Wildcats could position B-L well for another deep 4A playoff run.
Goessel at Canton-Galva
Goessel has an extremely tall task ahead of itself on Friday when the Bluebirds head to Canton to take on undefeated and top-ranked Canton-Galva.
Canton-Galva entered 2019 with very high expectations and the Eagles are meeting those expectations through five weeks. Third-year head coach Shelby Hoppes has posted records of 4-5, 10-2, and now his Eagles are 5-0 with an appealing schedule ahead of them.
Heading into the season, it appeared the biggest obstacle to Canton-Galva would be last year’s state runner-up Solomon. However, the Gorillas are 2-3 and do not appear to be good enough to hang with the Eagles at the moment.
Canton-Galva boasts an impressive 70-23 win over Little River in Week 1. Since then, Little River is 4-0 and the favorite to win their district.
The dynamic duo of Landon Everett and Tyson Struber has been nothing short of dominant. In just two quarters last week against Peabody-Burns, Everett threw four touchdowns - two to Struber - and rushed for another. The duo has been unstoppable thus far, and Goessel knows slowing down these two will be priority No. 1.
The Bluebirds of Goessel are off to their best start since 2009 when they also started 4-1 and finished 8-3. Goessel is 2-0 in District 4 along with Canton-Galva.
Goessel rebounded from an 18-12 loss against Moundridge to open the season with four straight wins, including district wins over Solomon and Herington.
Northern Heights at Centralia
Northern Heights and Centralia enter Week 6 with identical 4-1 records.
Class 1A, District 4, is unforgiving. Of the four teams, three are 4-1 with the other being Valley Heights.
Centralia has faced the fifth-toughest schedule in 1A, according to Prep Power Index. The Panthers boast an impressive 54-32 win over last year's 2A State Runner-up Riley County and a 30-0 victory over perennial 1A power Pittsburg-St. Marys Colgan. The Panthers have also rebounded nicely since their opening-week loss to Rossville with four straight wins.
Centralia is ranked fourth in the Kpreps.com 1A poll behind Plainville, Olpe, and top-ranked Smith Center.
Northern Heights had its undefeated season snapped last week against undefeated Lyndon, 34-24. The Wildcats' win over Osage City in Week 1 is the only victory over a team with a winning record.
The Wildcats went toe-to-toe with Lyndon last week, but were outscored 14-3 in the second half. Senior quarterback Cameron Heiman threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns, but he was also the leading rusher with just eight yards. Heiman suffered an injury in the game last week and his status for the rest of the season was uncertain.
Senior Tee Preisner, a four-year starter for the Wildcats, caught two of Heiman’s touchdowns, and also recorded six catches for 95 yards.
Northern Heights has enjoyed a solid season, but Centralia and quarterback Kamble Haverkamp present a tough challenge for the Wildcats.
Rock Creek at Hesston
Rock Creek is 2-3 under first year coach Shane Sieben who took over after long-time Mustangs' coach Mike Beam retired in the offseason. Hesston is 4-1 under third-year coach Tyson Bauerle, but this contest should be closer than the records indicate.
Rock Creek’s three losses ‒ at Riley County (41-34), vs. Rossville (44-16), and vs. Halstead (44-38) - are the result of a tough schedule through five games. However, Rock Creek’s two wins come against St. Mary’s and Chapman, who are a combined 2-8.
Rock Creek and Hesston are both 1-1 in 3A, District 5, both with losses to undefeated Halstead. The Mustangs lost to the Dragons 44-38 two weeks ago while the Swathers fell by 40 last week.
Before last Friday’s 46-6 loss at Halstead, the Hesston offense was averaging 32.5 points per game. That number took a dip afterward, but Hesston is still capable of putting up points on a Rock Creek defense that gives up 27 points per contest.
The Mustangs are, however, coming off a 14-0 shutout of Chapman.
Hesston is 4-1 overall and in the Central Kansas League. While Hoisington - which plays neither Halstead or Hesston this season - and Halstead look like the top-two teams in the CKL, Hesston has established itself as the clear third best team out of the 10-team league.
In the district, Halstead and Clay Center remain at 2-0, but play each other this week. The winner of this game will move to 2-1 in district while the loser drops to 1-2.
With Chapman and Smoky Valley both 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the district, the loser of this game still has a shot of making the playoffs.
Wichita County at St. Francis
St. Francis narrowly survived Hoxie 30-28 last week while Wichita County appears to be picking up steam and a victory over St. Francis would deliver a signature victory for second year coach Brant Douglas.
St. Francis coach Nick Fawcett, also in his second season, inherited a squad that finished the year with less than 20 players out two seasons ago. He has since rebuilt the roster and improved the overall morale of the football program and community. In the process he has continued Sainty's winning ways and has his Indians near the top of almost everyone's 8-Man I poll.
Wichita County, a squad with a number of juniors in key positions, including quarterback Kayde Rietzke, could be set for a quality two season run if they can match St. Francis.
A talented offensive line will pave the way for Wichita County running back Jesse Gardner, while St. Francis features their own trio of bruisers up front blocking for versatile quarterback Brady Dinkel.
If Hoxie as a common opponent is any indicator Wichita County is the favorite in this one having beaten Hoxie, 56-26, two weeks ago while St. Francis barely survived last week, 30-28.