First, an apology. I haven't had the time to put up much new content this week because of the effort to produce the Winter Edition. Gathering basketball and wrestling questionnaires and working on layout of the only statewide full color glossy keepsake preview magazine for Kansas gets to be a full time job this time of year.
But, that said, I couldn't miss the chance to have a little more fun trying to predict the outcome of this weekend's semi-final playoff match-ups. I've got to get back to work on the Winter Preview, so these will be brief, but here's my best guess at the winners of this week's match-ups:
Blue Valley at Olathe North (at ODAC)
Blue Valley returns to its rightful place deep in the playoffs after holding off Blue Valley North, 21-20, while Olathe North needed overtime to get past Blue Valley West, 35-34. For the Tigers, the turnaround from a rare losing season is nearly complete, but for Olathe North it's their second consecutive season in the semis.
These two teams have history in the playoffs. Blue Valley beat North 48-21 in the quarterfinals in 2017 and 43-19 in the semi-finals in 2015, but the Eagles downed the Tigers 27-14 in the 2014 quarterfinals.
This should be a great game between two of the most successful programs in Kansas history, but look for Arland Bruce IV and the Eagles to earn a trip to the title game.
Prediction: Olathe North, 28 - Blue Valley, 21
Topeka at Derby
Topeka High is in the midst of one of the best seasons in program history behind Kansas Pregame coverboys Da'Vonshai Harden and Ky Thomas, but Derby's dominance of Manhattan could spell doom for the Trojans. While THS is clearly playing it's best ball of the season after avenging their only loss to Junction City in fantastic fashion in Topeka last week, Derby's beating of Manhattan was likely not even as close as the 56-0 final score indicated - it was 42-0 at halftime.
Thomas is one of the state's all-time great players, but Derby may be fielding one of the state's all-time great teams.
Prediction: Derby, 35 - Topeka, 14
Mill Valley at St. Thomas Aquinas
Just like last year the Jags hung close with the Saints in the regular season. Aquinas won 24-13 in Week 4 a year ago and this year the Saints edged the Jags 28-21 in Week 4. And just like last year the two match-up in the playoffs - the semis this year, the quarters a year ago. Aquinas learned from the early season contest a year ago and downed Mill Valley 30-7 en route to the 5A State Championship.
This one just feels like it will be closer, but we'll take a Aquinas.
Prediction: Aquinas, 21 - Mill Valley, 17
Maize at Wichita Northwest
Maize proved us wrong in a big way in last week's 28-0 shut-out of rival Maize South and while I hate to pick against a team that won so decisively two weeks in a row, Northwest just seems hungry for a possible rematch with Aquinas.
Prediction: Northwest, 28 - Maize, 14
Bishop Miege at Pola
Miege won big last week and appears to be on a roll. Paola's outstanding season will likely come to an end in decisive fashion.
Prediction: Miege, 42 - Paola, 12
Andover Central at McPherson
This one is shaping up to be a dandy in McPherson. The difference in this game will likely be the McPherson defense's ability to slow down the Andover Central playmakers.
These two teams have so many common opponents and similar scores it's indicating a potential thriller, possibly a contest that slips into overtime. In a game like that we'll take the home team.
Prediction: McPherson, 21 - Andover Central, 14
Hayden at Perry-Lecompton
The Kaws' current five-game win streak started with a 21-20 Week 7 victory over Hayden. The win delivered P-L what was likely the easier playoff schedule but the Kaws' played well in wins over Wamego and Holton. Even so, we'll take Hayden in the rematch in another barn-burner.
Prediction: Hayden, 21 - Perry-Lecompton, 13
Cheney at Andale
All signs point to a thriller in Andale. These two teams played a knock-down drag-out game that the Indians won 29-22 in Week 8. Both teams looked the part of classification favorites in man-handling their quarterfinal opponents a week ago. Cheney has explosive playmaker Riley Petz, but Andale has depth likely unmatched in the classification.
Prediction: Andale, 28 - Cheney, 16
Riley County at Nemaha Central
The Falcons continue to roll towards a return trip to the 2A title game while Nemaha Central is anxious to finally deliver a championship game berth for veteran coach Warren Seitz. On paper it looks like two evenly matched teams, but we'll take the Thunder in a close one.
Prediction: Nemaha Central, 20 - Riley County, 14
Hoisington at Norton
For the second time in less than 30 days Hoisington will travel to Norton to face the Blue Jays. And all signs point to a similar result as the Cardinals dispatched a quality Garden Plain opponent 48-22 last week.
Prediction: Hoisington, 42 - Norton, 14
Jackson Heights at Centralia
Jackson Heights appeared to play their best game of the year last season as they dispatched Colgan with ease, 42-10, while Centralia squeaked past Olpe, 22-20. This should be a good one featuring a pair of hard-nosed defenses and ground and pound offenses that should result in a low-scoring affair.
Prediction: Centralia, 18 - Jackson Heights, 14
Plainville at Smith Center
For the second time this season the Cardinals will make the trip to Smith Center, but this time they'll bring along Kansas Pregame coverboy Jared Casey, who missed the Week 4 40-14 loss to the Redmen with an injury to his hand. Casey brings a lot to the table for the Cardinals and should help to make things closer than the final score from earlier in the year. This is the fourth straight year these two teams have played in both the regular season and the semi-finals. In 2016 the Cardinals won both games and then lost a thriller to Troy in the 2A title game. Smith Center has since won the last five against the Cardinals and the last two state championships.
While this one is closer than the Week 4 match-up, it still likely goes to the Redmen.
Prediction: Smith Center, 28 - Plainville, 18
Canton-Galva at Madison
Canton-Galva is on the verge of going wire-to-wire as the classification's top-ranked team and will be favorites in this game in spite of the Bulldogs unblemished record. The Eagles got talented sophomore Tyson Struber back from injury last week just at the right time and the Eagles should deliver the anticipated trip to the title game.
Prediction: Canton-Galva, 48 - Madison, 22
Wichita County at St. Francis
Wichita County has been the team we thought they would this year, scoring points in bunches and rolling to an 10-1 record. But, that one loss? It was 46-0 at the hands of St. Francis in Week 6. St. Francis appears to be playing possibly the best ball in the state right now and a likely collision course with Canton-Galva awaits.
Prediction: St. Francis, 48 - Wichita County, 22
Axtell at Hanover
The rematch we've all been waiting for! Hanover dispatched St. Paul last week and Axtell took care of business against Centre and now these two teams will replay their match-up from six weeks ago that saw Axtell win in thrilling fashion 28-26. These two teams also played in the regular season and the semis last year with Hanover winning a close one in the regular season and blowing the Eagles out in the semi-final on the way to their third straight state title. Axtell's regular season victory earlier this year ended Hanover's 8-Man record win streak and the Eagles threaten to end the Wildcats' streak of five consecutive state title game appearances and three straight championship game wins.
In a rematch featuring one of the state's all-time great programs, we'll take the traditional power in a close one.
Prediction: Hanover, 28 - Axtell, 22
Central Christian at Osborne
The Hutch-Central Christian Cougars stunned Thunder Ridge last week building a big first half lead before holding off the Longhorns in the second half to surive, 64-60. Osborne continues to plug away despite the loss of star running back Darrien Holloway. With the Cougars weapons we can see them scoring a bunch of points, but it's so hard to pick against a Steve Tiernan coached team, so we won't.
Prediction: Osborne, 44 - Central Christian, 38