As the high school football season draws closer to an end here in Kansas, here's a quick rundown of the quarterfinal match-ups and our best guess at who will make the semifinals in each classification:
Blue Valley North at Blue Valley
Another year, another late season playoff push for coach Andy Sims and his Blue Valley North Mustangs. For the fourth season in a row the Mustangs started the year with three losses in the first four games. This year that rocky start included a 2-5 record through the first seven games as BVN adjusted to life after Graham Mertz. But that is all in the past as the Mustangs have engineered a three game win streak that includes a quality 17-14 win over St. James Academy in Week 8 and a stunning 42-41 upset of highly regarded Gardner-Edgerton in last week's second round playoff match-up.
Blue Valley has rebounded from a rare losing season a year ago (4-5) and improved to 7-3 with losses to Aquinas, Miege and Mill Valley but has quality wins over Missouri power Rockhurst (21-14), an improved Blue Valley West (10-7), a solid Olathe East team (24-7) last week, and this week's opponent, Blue Valley North, in rather dominant fashion, 34-7, in Week 2.
But, that BVN team is not the mature team the Tigers will meet in Friday's quarterfinal match-up. While the Mustangs still sometimes struggle to keep opponents off the board, a rather consistent trend in the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, North seems to find a way to score enough to win and usually winds up in the semifinals.
While we think this one will be a great game, we anticipate that North will again find a way under Sims.
Prediction: Blue Valley North, 24 - Blue Valley, 21
Blue Valley West at Olathe North (at ODAC)
Blue Valley West is one of the great rebuilding stories of the 2019 season, thanks in large part to the return of senior running back Riley Cummings, who spent much of his early high school career injured. Cummings went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season in last week's win over Shawnee Mission Northwest and has rushed for at least 89 yards in each of his last four games. The West defense has been solid in allowing 20 points or less in four of the last five games and 29 against standout NW quarterback Ty Black and receiver Ty Lindeman in last week's win.
The bad news for the West defense is this week's opponent brings in one of the most electric offensive players at Olathe North since Darren Sproles, junior Arland Bruce IV. A versatile weapon who switches from running back to quarterback in the Eagles' offensive scheme, Bruce continues to pile up yards and touchdowns for North.
West is battled tested from their EKL schedule, but North is explosive. We'll take North in another close one.
Prediction: Olathe North, 42 - Blue West, 35
Manhattan at Derby
Until proven otherwise, Derby is the king of this classification and while we expect that Manhattan won't go down without a fight, Derby has depth, experience and athleticism that gets it done year-after-year.
Prediction: Derby, 28 - Manhattan, 13
A rematch of a late September thriller between two Centennial League rivals led by successful veteran coaches in Junction City's Randall Zimmerman and Topeka's Walt Alexander could deliver another excellent match-up, but this time Ky Thomas and an improved Trojan defense are too much for JC quarterback Andrew Khoury and the Trojans finally get over the quarterfinal hump.
Prediction: Topeka, 38 - Junction City, 20
Mill Valley at De Soto
A talented, experienced De Soto team has rolled to 10-0, but against an inferior schedule. The Jaguars are battle tested from a brutal Eastern Kansas League schedule and veteran coach Joel Applebee knows how to get the most out of his team in the playoffs.
Prediction: Mill Valley, 28 - De Soto, 7
Blue Valley Southwest at St. Thomas Aquinas
Southwest lost to Aquinas 62-7 in Week 2.
Prediction: Aquinas, 48 - Southwest, 7
Bishop Carroll at Wichita Northwest
On paper this looks like one of the best games in all classes, but an improved defense for the Grizzlies should help to avoid the 84-67 shootout of a year ago. Northwest appears poised and mature and ready for a return trip to the title game.
Prediction: Northwest, 30, Carroll 14
Maize at Maize South
The intra-district rivalry match-up between one of the state's best defenses (Maize South) and one of the state's most explosive offenses (Maize) is sure to have outstanding atmosphere and energy, but after Maize South's offense finally came alive last week against Hays it appears they are hitting their stride at just the right time. But Maize has been known to play some defense as well this season, so we'll take South in a low-scoring afair.
Prediction: South, 21 - Maize, 17
Miege at Tonganoxie
You'd have to be a little delusional to pick against Miege in this one, but, we do think an inspired Tongie offense will gain some yards and control the ball against a Miege defense that at times this season has shown flaws. All that said, the Miege offense has too many weapons.
Prediction: Miege, 38 - Tonganoxie, 14
Chanute at Paola
The Blue Comets have enjoyed an outstanding season thanks in large part to standout quarterback Ty Bowman, but the experience of Paola will likely be too much for Chanute to overcome. Simply put, you can't count out a Paola Panther football team in November - unless maybe it's against Miege.
Prediction: Paola, 35 - Chanute, 14
Ark City at McPherson
Ark City is in the midst of one of the great mid-season turnarounds in recent memory. Since losing the first five games of the season and scoring just 33 total points while thrice being shutout the Bulldogs are 4-1 over the past five weeks. The lone loss in that span to another quarterfinalist, 9-1 Andover Central. The Bulldogs have been tough on defense all season, allowing more than 21 points just twice, but in the past five weeks the Ark City D has been spectacular, allowing an average of just 10.8 points per game including 21 to the afore-mentioned Andover Central Jaguars in a 21-13 dogfight.
But McPherson is a proven commodity with weapons all over the field and on special teams. While we wouldn't be surprised by a low scoring match-up, we would be surprised by an Ark City win.
Prediction: McPherson 35, Ark City 13
Buhler at Andover Central
Buhler has rebounded nicely from last year's 5-5 finish, their worst record since before head coach Steve Warner took over the program in 2006. The Crusaders have relied on defense, as the typically potent running game that Warner is used to hasn't found the end zone at its usual blistering pace.
Central is enjoying a spectacular season under first-year coach Derek Tuttle, only the second coach the Jaguar program has ever known.
We'll take the Jags - on the strength of a sligthly more impressive resume - in a low scoring affair.
Prediction: Andover Central, 21 - Buhler, 14
Frontenac at Topeka-Hayden
In a battle of two of the state's great coaches - 20 year veteran Bill Arnold at Hayden and seventh year coach Mark Smith at Frontenac - the Raiders and the Wildcats should deliver a low-scoring battle for the ages. The two teams don't feature any statistical superstars but rather a group of hard-nosed players who rely on efficiency on both sides of the ball to get the job done. Both surived challenges from worthy adversaries a week ago and are primed for a dogfight in Topeka.
We'll give Hayden the edge in a thriller.
Prediction: Hayden, 21 - Frontenac, 20
Prairie View at Perry-Lecompton
The Prairie View Buffs have stampeded through one of the best season's in school history while the Kaws of Perry-Lecompton seem to be picking up steam after three narrow regular season losses to Big 7 leaders Sabetha, Holton and Jeff West. In their current four game win streak the Kaws have dispatched Hayden (21-20) in OT, Wamego (38-21) and avenged their earlier loss to Holton with last week's 35-21 victory.
Prairie View may be among the state's most underrated teams behind a defense that has pitched five shutouts and allowed just one score in two other games, but P-L's difficult Big 7 schedule leaves them well prepared for this quarterfinal match-up.
Prediction: Perry-Lecompton, 28 - Prairie View, 14
Cheney at Scott City
Cheney has rebounded brilliantly under third year coach Shelby Wehrman after going 2-7 a year ago. The Cardinals have quality wins over Conway Springs (49-19) and Wichita Collegiate, twice (46-21 in Week 2, 30-13 last week) and one of the state's most explosive playmakers in Riley Petz.
Scott City's defense has been a constant behind linebackers Cale Goodman and Hunter Yager and a dominant defensive line and the offense has retooled behind senior quarterback Parker Gooden, who moved back under center three weeks ago after starting the season at running back.
Cheney's two losses are to two quarterfinalists - 2A Garden Plain in Week 1, 35-19 and Andale in Week 8, 29-22.
Fans could be in for a dandy in Scott City and a game that will likely feature a combination of big plays, defensive stands and possibly a special teams or defensive score.
Prediction: Cheney, 29 - Scott City, 22
Andale at Beloit
Beloit's 7-3 record could very easily be 10-0 following narrow mistake-filled losses to Southeast of Saline in Week 2, Colby in Week 4 and a shocking loss to Concordia in Week 7 - Beloit led the Panthers 16-0 before allowing Concordia to score 34 straight points.
Beloit's offense has emerged behind the running of senior Carson Cox - primarily a defensive starter in his previous two seasons - and quarterback Hudson Gray. A physical offensive line that features senior Creighton Johnson is the driving force for the Trojans and the defense is solid, but lacks depth.
The Trojans avenged the loss to Colby and eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs while delivering Colby's only loss of the year, 28-14 last week.
Andale appears to be doing Andale things this season and third year coach Dylan Schmidt has the Indians at 10-0 for the third straight season. The Indian defense is absolutely dominant and has allowed more than 7 points just twice this season.
The Indians feature depth and experience and play a physical brand of football. Beloit has enjoyed a great season, but likely don't have enough to knock off the Indians.
Expect the pads to pop tonight as these two teams like to hit.
Prediction: Andale, 35 - Beloit 14
Humboldt at Nemaha Central
Humboldt makes the three hour road trip to Seneca and brings a 10-0 record with them, but, just as a year ago against Rossville, will have questions thanks to their substantially weaker Tri-Valley League schedule. Nemaha Central has rebounded nicely from a sub-par 5-4 season a year ago and has quality wins over Riverside, Maur Hill and last week's overtime victory over Rossville. The Thunder also have narrow early season losses to Big 7 powers Sabetha and Holton.
The game is very simillar to last season's quarterfinal match-up with Rossville, the primary difference is the graduation of Shrine Bowler Dagen Goodner, but the Cubs have not skipped a beat thanks to 2,000 yard rusher Conor Haviland and an offensive line led by Kansas Pregame coverboy Josh Hull.
Veteran coach Warren Seitz has enjoyed great success as the head coach of the Thunder and Humboldt's Logan Wyrick is one of the top young coaches in Kansas.
The Cubs edged Rossville in this game last year in their closest win of the season, but this year we'll give the edge to Nemaha Central thanks in large part to their performance against a number of the top teams in class 2A and 3A.
Prediction: Nemaha Central, 28 - Humboldt, 18
Silver Lake at Riley County
Silver Lake will go on the road to play Riley County in a rematch of last year's quarterfinal contest and a rematch of a Week 3 game that the Eagles won in a 25-0 shutout of the Falcons. Two of the state's most potent offenses will show off quarterbacks Colby Hay (Silver Lake) and Garrett Harmison (Riley County).
Riley County appears improved since that Week 3 loss, but Silver Lake will be primed to avenge last season's heartbreaking loss to the Falcons that kept them from the semi-finals.
Prediction: Silver Lake, 30 - Riley County, 16
Conway Springs at Norton
Conway Springs is in their usual position deep in the playoff bracket while Norton has rebounded from a rare losing season a year ago. This game features a pair of Kansas Pregame #KSQB feature subjects in Conway Springs' Collin Koester and Norton's Kade Melvin.
The Cardinals and Phillipsburg played in the quarterfinals a year ago in a game that likely featured the two best teams in the classification, but this year both Norton and Conway Springs are a bit further down the rankings.
Kade Melvin is truly one of the top dual-threat QBs in the state and that coupled with the massive Bluejay offensive line should give Norton the edge.
Prediction: Norton, 29 - Conway Springs, 22
Garden Plain at Hoisington
Similar to the Conway Springs/Phillipsburg match-up of a year ago, this game features quite possibly the best two teams in the classification. Garden Plain has quality wins over 3A Cheney and rival Conway Springs and QB Matt Pauly is one of the classification's best players.
Hoisington, however, is on a mission. After falling short to Phillipsburg in the playoffs the last two seasons, the Cardinals and superstar running back Wyatt Pedigo appear destined for the title game, but not without a battle with the Owls.
Prediction: Hoisington, 16 - Garden Plain, 14
Pittsburg-St. Mary's Colgan at Jackson Heights
Colgan started the season 1-3 for the first time since 2016 and has since recorded six straight wins. Shawn Seematter has done an excellent job following legendary coach Chuck Smith and now has the Panthers in at least the quarterfinals in each of his three seasons at the helm. Caleb Wick has built the Jackson Heights program into a consistent winner in his eight seasons guiding the Cobras.
The Panthers surived Hillsboro 29-21 last week while the Cobras got just one score in a 6-0 win over Valley Heights. This game is a rematch from last year which Colgan won 34-7 before seeing their season come to an end to Olpe in the semi-finals.
We'll give the edge to Jackson Heights thanks to their big, physical offensive line, ball control offense and hard nosed defense.
Prediction: Jackson Heights, 12 - Colgan, 6
Centralia at Olpe
Likey the marquee match-up on this side of the bracket, and another rematch from a year ago, this quarterfinal features arguably the top two teams in the East. Centralia has quality wins over Riley County, Colgan, and Valley Heights in convincing fashion with their only loss to Rossville in Week 1. Olpe has quality wins over Christ Prep Academy, Jackson Heights and a dominant win over Hillsboro (55-21) three weeks ago.
This match-up will showcase a pair of the classifications top signal callers in Centralia's Kamble Haverkamp and Olpe's Colby Hoelting.
Expect another thriller, but we'll give the nod to Centralia.
Prediction: Centralia, 18 - Olpe, 14
Smith Center at Sedgwick
Much like Derby, Aquinas, and Miege in the larger classifications, picking against the Redmen is a risky proposition, and you won't find that risky pick here, but, thanks to an improved defense from Sedgwick we anticipate a better game in this one than the 61-27 Smith Center win of a year ago.
Talented sophomore quarterback Lance Hoffsommer and senior RB/WR Kale Schroeder will likely find tough going against the Redmen defense but the Redmen's ball control offense is likely a bigger concern. One of the few real three-yard-and-a-cloud-of-dust teams left in the modern era, the Redmen have pounded most teams into submission this season with quarterback Trenton Colby and standout backs Jaden Atwood and Colton Shoemaker.
Prediction: Smith Center, 34 - Sedgwick, 14
Plainville at Inman
The Teutons pulled off one of the state's more impressive wins last week against one-loss Elkhart last week, but their season likely comes to an end this week against a Plainville team that features Jared Casey, Jordan Finnesy and a physical offensive and defensive interior. The only thing that could trip up the Cardinals is looking ahead to a likely rematch with Smith Center.
Prediction: Plainville, 42 - Inman, 7
Madison at Caldwell
Coach Alex McMillian is looking to complete his four-year rebuild process at Madison by delivering the Bulldogs to the semi-finals for the first time since 2012. His teams are 3-6, 5-4, 9-1 and now 10-0 in his four years at the helm. Caldwell is a consistent winner, but struggled against top competition, including a 52-6 loss to South Central and a 30-0 loss to Argonia-Attica. Last week Caldwell survived Medicine Lodge, 30-28, while Madison dominated Maranatha in a rematch of a 10-point Bulldog win earlier in the season.
Prediction: Madison, 30 - Caldwell, 16
South Central at Canton-Galva
This is a rematch of one of 8-Man's great games from a year ago, which C-G won 54-52 in OT. The game features a pair of the state's best defenses and two of the state's top QBs in SC's Chayde Snyder and C-G's Landon Everett.
This will be a physical contest between two teams that like to hit, and Canton-Galva gets the edge because of their size and physicality up front.
Prediction: Canton-Galva, 32 - South Central, 24
Little River at Wichita County
The Redskins make the long drive to Leoti to face off against one of the teams emerging 8-Man powers. Brant Douglas has done a masterful job in his two seasons at the helm for the Indians while former western Kansas coaching legend Kevin Ayers has taken the reins at Little River.
The Redskins have reeled off nine straight victories since a Week 1 loss to top-ranked Canton-Galva while Wichita County has won four straight, since a 46-0 Week 6 loss to St. Francis. WC has quality wins over Victoria and Clifton-Clyde in back-to-back weeks while Little River survived a good Ness City team 44-42 a week ago.
The Redskins will rely on the offensive production of Jayden Garrison while the Indians counter with Kayde Rietzke, two of the state's top juniors.
WC has looked too impressive on offense in wins over quality opponents the last two weeks and get the edge in a shootout.
Prediction: Wichita County, 52 - Little River, 42
St. Francis at Hodgeman County
St. Francis continues to play well under second year coach Nick Fawcett thanks in large part to a big, physical offensive line and a talented senior quarterback in Brady Dinkel. The Indians have been absolutely dominant since a Week 4 scare from Hoxie. In that that two-point win the Sainty defense allowed 28 points, the only time they allowed more than 12 points all season, and one of only two games where the defense allowed an offensive score the entire season. The Indians have recorded seven shutouts.
Hodgeman County features the dynamic duo of Kansas Pregame coverboy Eli Salmans and younger brother Isaac at running back and quarterback respectively, but the Indians are just too much for the Longhorns in this one.
Prediction: St. Francis, 48 - Hodgeman County, 20
Hanover at St. Paul
Hanover had to completely reload this season returning just one starter from last year's squad and it showed with slow starts in early season games and a loss to Axtell that ended the Wildcats 8-Man record-breaking win streak. For St. Paul it's another season of Adam Albertini piling up yardage and scoring.
This year's game should be much closer than last year's 46-0 mercy-rule shortened victory, but Hanover's championship pedigree still gives them the edge.
Prediction: Hanover, 48 - St. Paul, 26
Centre-Lost Springs at Axtell
The Cougars have been spectacular since opening the season 1-2 reeling off seven straight wins and allowing just 6 points in that span. Axtell has met expectations thanks in large part to the return of Kansas Pregame coverboy Quinn Buessing at quarterback, and in spite of Buessing's injury during the Hanover game were still able to knock off the Wildcats. A week later the Eagles lost to a talented Frankfort team on a heartbreaking last second touchdown pass.
The Eagles look like the favorite in this one and could be headed for a rematch with Hanover in the semi-finals.
Prediction: Axtell, 46 - Centre, 12
Osborne at South Barber
After surviving Thunder Ridge in a 40-34 thriller three weeks ago all signs pointed to a rematch with the Longhorns in the semi-finals, but an injury to standout Darrien Holloway last week has the Bulldogs wondering if they can survive without their senior speedster. Quaterback Steele Wolters will have to pick up the slack in Holloway's absence as the Bulldogs travel to Kiowa to face talented Chieftain quarterback Trevor Rooks and a South Barber team who hasn't lost to a squad from Kansas this year.
The loss of Holloway helps South Barber's odds in this match-up but veteran coach Steve Tiernan will likely devise a game plan that will deliver the Bulldogs into the semi-finals.
Prediction: Osborne, 34 - South Barber, 24
Thunder Ridge at Hutchinson-Central Christian
Joel Struckhoff's Thunder Ridge Longhorns are six points from being 10-0 thanks in large part to the emergence of his cousin Reece in the backfield and the development of several talented young players on the line and on defense. Central Christian features one of the state's most explosive offenses behind quarterback Caleb Lambert.
Prediction: Thunder Ridge, 48 - Central Christian, 24