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Five Storylines to Watch for in KSHSAA Football Playoffs


By Brad Hallier


The speculation and scenario guessing can stop, and the calculators can be put away. Postseason football has arrived in Kansas.

The brackets were released Saturday morning by KSHSAA. Here are five storylines to watch for.

Class 4A West again is wide open

Who is the favorite to play for the state championship in Class 4A? On the eastern side, it is two teams – Bishop Miege and St. Thomas Aquinas, who incidentally would play each other if they win their first-round games.

But on the western half, it again is wide, wide open.

Is Wamego the favorite? The Red Raiders were state runner-up last season and enter the postseason as the top seed.

How about Buhler? The Crusaders are the No. 2 seed and won six in row, with losses to Andover Central and McPherson opening and ending the regular season.

Andover Central established itself as the early favorite, but lost three in a row midseason to Goddard, Eisenhower and Salina Central. But the Jaguars have beaten Buhler, Maize and Valley Center. But as the six seed, the Jaguars have a tough road ahead.

Don’t ignore fourth-seed Wellington and seventh-seed McPherson.

We all want to see “the rematch” in Class 3A, but pump the brakes a bit

It was maybe the game of the regular season, when Cheney stopped Andale’s 57-game winning streak with a thrilling 36-30 overtime win on Oct. 13. There are very few people outside the other teams in Class 3A Districts 5, 6, 7 and 8 who wouldn’t pay to see a semifinal rematch in Cheney.

But hold your horses a bit. Class 3A is loaded, man. Let’s first look at Andale’s path. After a first-round game with Hugoton, Andale would most likely travel to play at 7-1 Scott City, whose only loss was to an Oklahoma school. After that could be a quarterfinal rematch with 7-1 Wichita Collegiate, which Andale beat 28-7 earlier this season.

Cheney’s path is a touch more manageable, but even a second-round home game with 6-2 Holcomb doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, as Holcomb’s only losses are to Scott City and 5A Liberal. After that could be a quarterfinal matchup with 7-1 Clay Center.

Most of us want to see the rematch, and most of us would bet on it happening. But there are some tricky matchups for both Andale and Cheney along the way.

Cunningham is a strong favorite to play for the 6-man title, but against who?

The consensus has been there almost all season. The top five teams in 6-man football have changed a bit in the various rankings, but it’s clear that Cheylin, Ashland, Cunningham, Waverly and Northern Valley are the top five.

Cunningham is the reigning 6-man champion and is the favorite to get back to Dodge City from the eastern half of the bracket. To play who?

That’s where it gets fun. Cheylin has been the consensus No. 1 since an early win over Ashland, which beat Cunningham. There’s also a good Northern Valley team in the mix.

There’s one team in the western half of 5A that can beat Kapaun

And that would be Hutchinson. The Salthawks have the defense and the offensive style that can grind out postseason wins. The only thing is there are several teams in 5A West that can beat Hutchinson, including Maize South (Hutchinson’s probable second-round opponent). Don’t forget, the only 5A team that played Avery Johnson and Maize close last year before the state championship game was Hutchinson.

Kapaun is a heavy favorite to make it to the state championship game. The Crusaders are tested and their offense is a juggernaut, plus coach Weston Schartz is one of the best around. But if any team can hang around and spur the upset, it’s Hutchinson.

2A West bracket with a new look

For most of this season, the favorites appeared to be Ellsworth, Kingman and Norton. Entering the playoffs, it appears the favorites are Southeast of Saline, Norton and Garden Plain.

Southeast of Saline reloaded after last year’s semifinal loss to Kingman, and is undefeated, just like Norton. But, hey, let’s talk about Garden Plain.

Garden Plain was 4-5 last season under new coach Todd Rice, who installed the flexbone offense. It was tough at times.

This year, Garden Plain has been one of the most improved teams in the state. The Owls’ only loss is to a Cheney team that the Renwick school district knows all too well. Garden Plain also has quality wins over Conway Springs, Medicine Lodge, Centralia and Kingman, four teams whose records are 25-7. With Gage Lee being one of the premier running backs, and the defense being a hard-hitting, fundamentally sound unit, Garden Plain could go far.