Here's our best guess at the Top 5 in each class
Friday night left us with more questions than answers, which is the way it should be, parity is good for high school sports. It’s great for kids across the state to truly believe they have a chance to help their team win a state title, and in our estimation more teams than ever have a legitimate shot to challenge for the top spot in their respective classifications, however, the defending champions in most classifications appear more well-equipped to repeat than we originally thought.
Here’s our best guess at the Top 5 in each classification with a look at some notables we feel could make some noise. It looks like it could be a fun season!
2. Wichita Northwest
4. Blue Valley Northwest
5. Olathe North
The rankings shuffle a bit from the preseason thanks to Wichita Northwest’s absolute domination of Bishop Carroll and defending 6A champion Manhattan appearing to more than adequately replace graduated skill players in posting their third consecutive win over Derby. …Gardner-Edgerton looked like the same team that missed a 6A title last fall by the narrowest of margins. The Trailblazers were dominant in all phases of the game against a Shawnee Mission East squad kicking off the first season under new head coach Mark Simoneau. …Wichita Northwest scored 59 points playing two different quarterbacks (Jayce Glasper and Jaylen Mason) and showing off a plethora of offensive skill weapons, but also played dominant defense and displayed similar star power on that side of the ball with athletes like Tre Birch, Jalil Cooper, Jacob King, and sophomore sensation Johnmichael Fountain looking the part of All-State selections. …Carter Aslin looks the part of the next big thing in 6A football and “The Tribe” looked the part of the defending 6A champions in dispatching Derby for the third consecutive time in the last two seasons. …Blue Valley Northwest opened in fine fashion with a win over 4A private school power and EKL foe St. James Academy. BVNW QB Nate Livingston piled up 325 total yards and junior speedster Trevor Garlington made explosive plays on offense and special teams. …Olathe North was dominant over what we thought was an improved Olathe East team. …Derby should be fine in spite of the loss to Manhattan. QB Braxton Clark, TE Dashaan Brame, and RB Derek Hubbard all made great plays at times and are likely to improve significantly over the course of the season, but as anticipated, the defense has some work to do to help the Panthers get back to the 6A title game after a year away. …Washburn Rural edged a good Wichita East team 26-25 and both squads will be a factor in the 6A race. …Shawnee Mission Northwest showed off their typically explosive offense under Bo Black. …Blue Valley West suffered a narrow loss to a good Aquinas team. …Both Lawrence and Free State posted wins over quality opponents and showed off great QB performances from Banks Bowen and Wesley Edison respectively. …Blue Valley lost to Blue Valley Southwest for the first time, 33-19. The BVHS schedule is absolutely brutal and could again see the Tigers with a crooked number in the loss column heading into the playoffs.
1. Mill Valley
2. Blue Valley Southwest
3. De Soto
5. Maize South
Just one major change in 5A from the preseason rankings as Bishop Carroll falls out of the Top 5 after taking a beating at the hands of Wichita Northwest in the season opener. Obviously there’s plenty of time for the Golden Eagles to prove the lopsided loss to their rival was a fluke, and it’s possible that Northwest is the best team in 6A and just that far ahead of BC in the opener, but it was a disappointing loss for Carroll and coach Dusty Trail nonetheless. …Mill Valley is still the top-ranked team in the class, but a runaway state title doesn’t appear it’s the slam dunk it was for the Jaguars a year ago. Don’t lose your minds over that statement, Joel Applebee still has the best squad in 5A and possibly all classifications. Yes the Jags opened the year with a 42-13 win over Northwest, and yes the offense was expected to have growing pains breaking in a new QB for the graduated Hayden Jay, it just looks like the margin for error could be a bit slimmer come the biggest games of the year. Senior Daniel Blaine and junior Connor Bohon split time leading Applebee’s offense with both employing primarily the running game. Certainly the QB play is going to get better, but the Jags will have to throw the ball more than they did in Week 1 to win their fifth straight 5A title. …Blue Valley Southwest posted one of the most impressive wins of the opening week defeating Blue Valley for the first time in program history. Quarterback Dylan Dunn passed for 300 yards and distributed the ball to his pack of receivers in Alex Parks, Tate Everard, and Emmitt Peters. Anthony Orrick’s squad gets back-to-back litmus tests the next two weeks in games against Bishop Miege and Blue Valley West. …De Soto got a solid win over Lansing, 42-21, to open the season. The Wildcats got strong offensive performances from QB Carson Miller (5-6, 137 yds., 2 TDs; 15 car., 85 yds., 1 TD), RB Bennett Hutchison (21 car., 117 yds., 1 TD), and athlete Amarion Green (9 car., 42 yds., 1 TD; 1 rec., 68 yds., 1 TD). The defense got interceptions from Davis Barr and Gunnison Hastings. …Kapaun scored 72 points against Wichita South on Thursday night but will get a much better test from Wichita East this week. …The Maize South offense performed as expected behind QB Tate McNew and a stable of receivers, and kicker Sammy Parks is a special teams weapon, but the Mavs will have to avoid breakdowns along the offensive line and develop their young defensive players if they are to hold onto a spot in the Top 5. Salina Central scored 54 points against rival Salina South, but an injury to standout QB Gunnar Gross has the Mustangs with question marks entering Week 2, though Jack Gordon looked solid in replacing Gross partway through the first quarter. …The Shawnee Heights’ dominant win over Piper didn’t go unnoticed. Senior running back Allan Baughman had 164 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries and three different players passed for at least 75 yards and a touchdown apiece. …Hays had one of the most impressive wins of the night with the OT win over Junction City behind 218 yards rushing from Malik Bah. … Goddard, Maize, and Pittsburg looked good in their openers, while Hutchison dropped a surprising 7-3 contest to Eisenhower.
1. Bishop Miege
2. St. Thomas Aquinas
3. St. James Academy
4. Andover Central
Bishop Miege rolled Blue Valley North 54-14, Aquinas edged Blue Valley West 49-42, and St. James Academy fell to Blue Valley Northwest 30-21 to keep the 4A Top 3 the same. …McPherson struggled on offense against Great Bend to fall out of the Top 5 and Andover Central edged Buhler to move into fourth. …Eudora stomped Baldwin and will be heavy favorites against Bonner Springs. A Week 3 matchup with Spring Hill will give us a better idea where an experienced and talented Cardinal team stands in the 4A pecking order. …Chanute looked impressive in their 42-21 Week 1 win over Augusta. Quentin Harding rushed for over 330 yards for the Blue Comets in the win. …Louisburg QB Declan Battle scored five rushing touchdowns and Ashton Moore and Conlee Hovey played well as the Wildcats rolled to a 48-14 win over Rogers-Heritage, Ark. LHS led 34-7 at halftime. …Tonganoxie got a quality win over Basehor-Linwood 34-20. QB Trevor McGraw went 13 of 20 passing for 230 yards with three touchdowns, Colton Brusven rushed for 190 yards and two TDs on 39 carries, and Isaiah Holthaus caught three passes for 105 yards and two scores. …Abilene, Atchison, and Paola got wins to open the year but the jury is out on their postseason prospects, while Circle and Piper suffered disappointing Week 1 losses.
3. Topeka Hayden
4. Wichita Collegiate
5. Clay Center
No changes after Week 1, any doubts about Andale were squashed in resounding fashion with their 75 point outburst vs. Wellington. Each of the next four teams looked good in their debuts. …The Cheney win over Kingman is one to watch. We still believe Kingman is one of the best teams in 2A in spite of the 34-7 loss to the Cardinals. Josh Burdick was sensational at QB for Cheney in throwing four touchdown passes while Jackson Voth showed off the versatility that earned him a scholarship offer to New Mexico State. The Week 8 Andale trip to Cheney is one everyone is waiting for. …Hayden was dominant over 1A power Olpe. …Collegiate shut out Rose Hill 35-0 as new QB Hudson Ferralez went 11 for 20 with 120 yards and a TD in his debut for the Spartans, but he also threw a pair of interceptions. Sophomore running back Jaden Parker rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries and six different players caught passes. The Collegiate defense was the real story though, allowing the Rockets just 66 yards of total offense. …Clay Center got a quality win over 2022 4A runner-up Wamego. ...Parsons has a load of athletes and is a team to watch. ...The top half of the GWAC will likely produce a 3A contender in the West between Holcomb, Hugoton, and Scott City. ...Wellsville looks the part of a 3A contender on the East.
2. Nemaha Central
4. Silver Lake
Not going to overreact to Kingman’s loss to Cheney, even though the Eagles were unable to score in the game. Cheney is really good and we think Kingman is going to be back in the thick of things come the postseason. …This is a deep classification, Hoisington, Southeast of Saline, Beloit, and Rossville look like they have teams equipped to make noise in the postseason. Humboldt, Council Grove, and Osage City may also be a factor.
1. St. Mary’s Colgan
3. St. Marys
4. Smith Center
Inman and Olpe suffered lopsided losses to top opponents and fall out of the Top 5. …Colgan sprinted out to a 21-6 lead against rival Frontenac in the second quarter and carried it all the way to the 10:26 mark of the fourth quarter where a flurry of scoring pushed the score to 27-20 by the 9:36 mark. The Panthers held off the Raiders down the stretch to secure the win. Cooper Simmons and Tucker Harrell looked the part of Kansas Pregame coverboys. …Sedgwick looked explosive in their dominant win over Hutch-Trinity on Thursday night and junior QB Corey Crumrine looked like an All-State selection. …Defending 1A champion St. Marys suffered a one touchdown loss to 2A power Rossville and the next two weeks at Rock Creek and at home against Silver Lake will also be a tough matchups, but the schedule will leave the Bears ready for the 1A slate with Kyle Schenk’s team likely to be heavy favorites in four of the final five contests, though a Week 6 road trip to Jefferson County North is one to watch. …Smith Center stayed just ahead of a talented and experienced Phillipsburg team and won the tough MCL matchup 28-20 behind 142 yards rushing from Luke Franklin. Kharson Montgomery and Luke Franklin each recovered a fumble. …Marion posted one of the biggest wins of the week with a 46-22 outburst against Inman. …Jeff County North exploded for 62 points in a shut out of Pleasant Ridge …Wabaunsee got a little battle from Troy early but pulled away behind 138 rushing yards from Wyatt Wurtz and an explosive performance by Miguel Hernandez. Tate Deever is 12 tackles from 300 for his career. …Losses by Oakley, Conway Springs, Hutch-Trinity, and Olpe leave us wondering if this classification is all that deep, but time will tell.
8-Man, Division I
1. Wichita County
3. West Elk
Difficult to evaluate Wichita County after their Week 1 shutout of Wheatland-Grinnell. The Thunderhawks have low numbers and were hit hard by graduation the last three years. Even so, we have high expectations for the Indians and they should get a better test this week against Elkhart, but a road trip to Hoxie next week should really provide some detail about the level of this year’s WC team. Against the Thunderhawks a number of players saw action and senior Wyatt Gardner had a nice night offensively, but it was the sophomore and junior class that recorded the most significant statistics. Junior standout Khris Hermosillo carried the ball three times for 84 yards with all three carries going for touchdowns. Sophomore Zane Gerstberger carried the ball 10 times for 48 yards and completed a pass for 14 yards. Sophomore Cashton Young led the team with four tackles. The top four tacklers were non-seniors. Juniors Khris Hermosillo, Juan Tapia and Tadyn West each recorded a sack. The Indians were without senior Christopher Michel on the offensive and defensive line, but reports indicate he’ll return later this season. …Lyndon looked the part of the best team in the eastern half of 8-Man I in dominating Lebo. Tanner Heckel paid immediate dividends after moving from Inman throwing for 161 yards and three touchdowns on six of eight passing and added 42 yards and another score on five carries. Jalen Massey needed just five carries to generate 128 yards and three more scores. He also led the team with nine tackles. Daxten Miller added a pair of sacks. …Creyo Koop picked up right where he left off last fall rushing for 171 yards and four touchdowns on just five carries as West Elk won 70-8 though the next two weeks are likely to present a stiffer challenge than the opener with the Week 3 game at Central-Burden likely a good gauge of where the Patriots stand in the 8-Man I pecking order. Junior QB Trace Haag complete both his passing attempts for 33 yards and a score against Udall Friday night. Sophomore Garett Usry made an INT on defense and five different players recorded a sack. …Quinter got a quality win over Sharon Springs-Wallace Co., 30-28, in double overtime. …Meade narrowly survived a much improved South Central team and has another test this week against a Hodgeman County team that looks good with a healthy Owen Reece. …Overall it’s hard to determine the depth of this classification. Little River squeaked by Canton-Galva in a game featuring a couple teams that were hit hard by graduation. Burlingame and Madison weren’t challenged in Week 1. Cair Paravel lost to DII power Axtell, but competed well and could be a factor in District 2. Central-Burden lit up the scoreboard against Sedan. Hoxie was dominant in Week 1 while Hill City lost to Osborne, though being without QB Aiden Amrein midway through the first half likely made an impact. The toughest part of South Sumner’s schedule is in their final three weeks of the season. Moundridge and Clifton-Clyde posted impressive victories. Lincoln is a much improved team in spite of their loss to Sylvan-Lucas to open the year. District 2 and District 6 again appear to be the two toughest in the state.
In-depth looks at DII and 6-Man later today or tomorrow.
8-Man, Division II
5. Sharon Springs-Wallace Co.
Axtell began their quest for a third consecutive DII title by extending their winning streak to 27 straight games with a 60-44 victory over an experienced Cair Paravel team. Junior Brandon Schmelzle took over the reins at QB from Isaac Detweiler and made an immediate impact rushing for 92 yards and two scores, passing for 55 yards and another TD, and adding a kick return touchdown. He also grabbed a pair of interceptions on defense. Eli Broxterman added 95 yards rushing and three touchdowns on just nine carries. Axtell scored 14 points in each of the first two quarters and 16 apiece in each of the second two quarters while the Lions exploded for 22 points in each of the second and third quarters but were held scoreless in the first and fourth. QB Jase Pavlik had a big night for the Lions completing 23 of 32 passes for four touchdowns to go with 72 yards rushing on 12 carries, but the junior also threw two interceptions. Axtell enters Week 2 as a heavy favorite against Hartford but, a Week 3 game with Clifton-Clyde could pose a challenge. …Osborne looked impressive in their win over Hill City in spite of playing without senior quarterback Doak Guttery, who missed the game while recovering from a surgery earlier this summer. Junior Dalton Garman was more than adequate filling in completing five of nine passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 70 yards on 19 carries. Senior Nathan Goheen and junior Hunter Howell each caught a TD pass. Goheen led the team with 12 tackles and two sacks. …Kinsley posted a program defining victory over previously third-ranked Victoria, 20-14, thanks to 103 yards rushing from Conner Chamberlain, 81 yards rushing from Cason Lemuz, and a pair of touchdown passes from Peyton Schmidt. The Coyotes scored what would end up being the winning touchdown on a 58-yard Kaden Arensman fumble return in the third quarter. …Sylvan-Lucas looked impressive in dispatching a much improved Lincoln team 36-24 thanks in large part to the additions of several transfers from the recently closed Wilson High School. Returning Sylvan-Lucas athletes Lane Homewood, Brody Batchman, Drayse Walter, Matthew Lawson, and Layne Buttenhoff all had great games for the Mustangs while Teagan Thrasher, Connor Charvat, and Cade Brokes were among the Wilson transfers that made an immediate impact for the Mustangs. With nearly 40 kids out for football this season, including more than a dozen additions from Wilson, coach Ben Labertew appears to have a contender on his hands. …Sharon Springs-Wallace County fell in double overtime to fourth ranked DI Quinter, 30-28, but the Wildcats boast experience and physicality and appear poised for success in the second year under Kyle Feller. …Much like Division I, DII is hard to pick this year. Canton-Galva fell 42-40 to DI power Little River, but both teams were hit hard by graduation and it’s difficult to know if the Eagles have the pieces to replace players like Garrett Maltbie, Jett Vincent, and TJ Koehn. Senior Lane McMannis looks that part of a top 8-Man player and will lead the Eagles in a District 2 schedule that appears very manageable. District 8 is loaded and with Bucklin, Dighton, Hodgeman County, and Minneola all looking like top teams in Division II. The quartet of teams all feature some of the best quarterback play in DII. District 7 has a similar story with South Barber, Stafford, and South Central – in spite of their close loss to Meade in Week 1 – all possible challengers to likely favorite Kinsley. Frankfort opened with a quality win over Chase County and could be a team to watch in DII as well.
4. Northern Valley
Ashland upended Cunningham 32-22 in a rematch of the 2022 6-Man title game. AHS lost to the Wildcats twice last season, to open and close the season. The Blue Jays appear to have the depth to capture the second ever KSHSAA 6-Man championship though games with Cheylin in Week 3 and Ingalls in Week 8 are likely to give us a bit more insight. …Cheylin opened with a blowout victory over a consistently successful Cheyenne Wells, Colo., program and look like a potential challenger to Ashland, as long as they stay healthy. Back-to-back games against Ashland in Week 3 and Northern Valley in Week 4 are likely to be difficult tests. …Cunningham suffered the 10-point loss to Ashland and could have what it takes to defend their 6-Man title against the Blue Jays come November. …Northern Valley saw little resistance from Southern Cloud in Week 1 but should get a tougher test this week against Tescott. … Waverly opened with a dominant win over Southern Coffey Co. The Week 4 matchup at Centre is likely the toughest on the 2023 Bulldog schedule.