High School Sports

Taylor Eldridge blog: A look at the Class 6A football playoff picture

Derby running back Brody Kooser runs 93 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return against Carroll on Sept. 30.
Derby running back Brody Kooser runs 93 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return against Carroll on Sept. 30. The Wichita Eagle





Friday opponent

1. Derby



Campus (3-4)

Possible seeds: 1, 2, 3

Likely seed: 1

Outlook: If Derby beats Campus by 5, then Manhattan and Garden City would be mathematically eliminated from catching the Panthers for the top seed. Considering what the No. 1-ranked team in Kansas has done this season, that sounds likely.

2. Manhattan



BV Northwest (2-5)

Possible seeds: 1, 2, 3, 4

Likely seed: 2

Outlook: BV Northwest is better than its 2-5 record, so don’t assume this will be a 21-point win for Manhattan. The Indians’ chances of catching Derby are slim, so they will be in direct competition with Garden City, which plays a much tougher opponent (Great Bend) and is on the road. I think considering those factors, Manhattan will be the favorite to lock up the No. 2 seed — it can guarantee itself the No. 2 seed with a 21-point win. An upset loss would drop Manhattan potentially to No. 4, although the Indians could remain No. 2 even with a loss if Garden City loses to Great Bend and Manhattan (+131) remains ahead of Hutchinson (+103) on points.

3. Garden City



at Great Bend (7-0)

Possible seeds: 1, 2, 3, 4

Likely seed: 3 or 4

Outlook: Garden City is on a roll after back-to-back standout performances to defeat Northwest and Dodge City. Now it’s the big test: at Great Bend, undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class 5A. This game could go either way, so it’s difficult to say with certainty where the Buffaloes will finish. A win likely ensures them the No. 3, although a big win would requite peaking in on Manhattan’s score for a possible jump to No. 2. Garden City can still lose (by 5 points or less) and stay at No. 3, but a loss by more than a touchdown muddles the situation. Garden City currently leads Hutchinson by 27 points in point differential, so if Garden City loses by a touchdown or more and Hutchinson defeats Maize by a big margin then the Buffaloes could drop to No. 4. The difference between the No. 3 and No. 4 seed is huge, as the No. 3 seed would avoid potentially playing Junction City in the second round and then Derby in the quarterfinals.

4. Hutchinson



Maize (6-1)

Possible seeds: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Likely seeds: 3 or 4

Outlook: A win over Maize all but ensures Hutchinson no worse than the No. 4 seed, which would mean homefield advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. A big win over Maize would make Hutchinson scoreboard watch how Garden City fares against Great Bend. If Garden City loses by more than five points, then that opens the door for Hutchinson to potentially jump the Buffaloes for the No. 3 seed and avoid being on Derby’s side of the bracket and also playing Junction City in the second round. Right now Garden City has a 27-point advantage, so Hutchinson would likely need to push for a 21-point win if possible. If Hutchinson loses, it could either be No. 4, No. 5, or No. 6. To remain at No. 4 with a loss, Hutchinson (+103) would need Junction City to lose to Topeka Seaman and Lawrence Free State (+84) not jump it if Free State defeats Lawrence. If Hutchinson loses and Junction City wins, the Salthawks would do the same scoreboard watching of Free State to determine if it falls to No. 5 or No. 6.

5. Junction City



at Topeka Seaman (6-1)

Possible seeds: 4, 5, 6

Likely seed: 5

Outlook: It’s looking like the only way Junction City grabs the No. 4 seed, and the homefield advantage it ensures through the first two rounds of the playoffs, is if it defeats Topeka Seaman on the road and then for Hutchinson to lose at home to Maize. Without a Hutchinson loss, it’s looking like Junction City will remain at No. 5 even if it wins. A loss would muddle the picture. If Junction City loses and Lawrence Free State beats Lawrence, then Junction City falls to No. 6. But if Free State loses as well, then Junction City will stay at No. 5 even with a loss.

6. Free State



Lawrence (5-2)

Possible seeds: 4, 5, 6, 7

Likely seed: 6

Outlook: There’s still a shred of hope for Lawrence Free State to rise to as high as No. 4, but it must include a double-digit victory over a very good Lawrence team and losses from Hutchinson (vs. Maize) and Junction City (@ Seaman) on Friday. There is a possibility of all three of those things happening, but the odds of it coming together are pretty low for the Firebirds. A win over Lawrence by Free State will open the door for a possible No. 5 seed (if Junction City loses) and even No. 4 (if both lose and Hutchinson loses by double-digits). Of course, if both win, then Free State remains at No. 6. The Firebirds (+84) are likely to remain there even if they lose, as Washburn Rural (+44) is the only team that can catch them. Rural will likely get the max 21-point win over Topeka West, so Free State would only fall to No. 7 if it lost by 20 or 21 points to Lawrence.

7. Washburn Rural



Topeka West (1-6)

Possible seeds: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Likely seed: 7

Outlook: Up against an overmatched team in Topeka West, it’s looking safe to project Washburn Rural to collect the max 21-point win, which would put the Junior Blues at 5-3 with a +65 difference. There is a chance Free State loses to Lawrence and if it is by 20 or 21 points, then Washburn Rural would leap them for the No. 6 seed. But if that doesn’t happen, then it’s looking like Washburn Rural is the odds-on favorite to be the No. 7 seed and host either South or Dodge City in the first round.

8. South



@Heights (6-1)

Possible seeds: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Likely seed: 10 or 11

Outlook: A victory over Heights for the second straight year would be a turning point for South, which would lock up a share of the City League championship, but it might not be enough to host a first-round game in the playoffs. That’s because Northwest and Topeka are likely going to come away with 21-point wins, which would put Northwest at +53 and Topeka at +48 — meaning South will likely have to beat Heights by 12 to stay ahead of Topeka and by 17 to stay ahead of Northwest. So it’s possible South beats Heights and still falls to No. 10. If South loses, it will most certainly drop to No. 11 since Northwest, Topeka, and Dodge City are all heavily favored in their games to win. The Titans are looking at going on the road in the first round, likely to either Free State or Washburn Rural.

9. Northwest



vs. Southeast (1-6)

Possible seeds: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Likely seed: 8

Outlook: It’s probably safe to project Northwest for a 21-point win over Southeast, which means the Grizzlies won’t get passed. It’s unlikely Northwest can catch Washburn Rural for No. 7, but it is possible Northwest jumps South because the Grizzlies would be 5-3 with a +53 differential. That means South would not only have to beat Heights, but it would have to win by 17 points to stay ahead of Northwest. The good news is that Northwest will likely be the No. 8 seed and host in the first round; the bad news is that Northwest would potentially see Derby in the second round.

10. Topeka



Highland Park (0-7)

Possible seeds: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Likely seed: 9

Outlook: Like Northwest, it’s safe to project Topeka for a 21-point win this week over Highland Park. It’s unlikely Topeka will catch Washburn Rural or Northwest, the two teams ahead of the Trojans right now, but there is a possibility Topeka can jump South. If the Trojans win by 21, then they would be 5-3 and +48 — meaning South would not only have to beat Heights, but win by 12 points to stay ahead of Topeka. Regardless of South’s outcome, it’s looking like Topeka will likely be the No. 9 seed and go on the road to face Northwest in the first round of the playoffs.

11. Dodge City



at Liberal (4-3)

Possible seeds: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Likely seeds: 10 or 11

Outlook: Behind in points already, it’s not looking like Dodge City has a chance to catch Washburn Rural, Northwest, or Topeka here. And if South beats Heights, then Dodge City will be the No. 11 seed regardless of the result against Liberal and go on the road — likely to Free State — in the first round. If South loses and Dodge City wins, then Dodge City jumps to the No. 10 seed and would likely play Washburn Rural on the road.

12. Campus



at Derby (7-0)

Possible seeds: 11, 12, 13

Likely seed: 12 or 13

Outlook: Up against the No. 1 team in Kansas who has won by 21 points against every team it has played this season, it’s not looking great for Campus. Assuming Campus loses by 21 points, then it could potentially be jumped by West if West beats East by more than 10 points. If West loses or wins by less than 10 points, then Campus will remain the No. 12 seed.

13. West



East (2-5)

Possible seeds: 12, 13, 14, 15

Likely seed: 12, 13 or 14

Outlook: After a winless start, West has won its last two games and has some momentum heading into the East game. Since Campus is likely to take a 21-point loss to Derby, West can jump to the No. 12 seed if it wins by 10 or more points over East. If it wins by less than that, then it will remain at No. 13. If West loses, then East would jump it and the Pioneers will fall to No. 14. West is going on the road in the first round of the playoffs regardless, either to Hutchinson, Junction City, or Garden City.

14. East



at West (2-5)

Possible seeds: 13, 14, 15

Likely seed: 13 or 14

Outlook: It’s fairly simple for East: win and it is the No. 13 seed; lose and it is the No. 14 seed. Either way, the Blue Aces are going on the road in the first round of the playoffs — to Hutchinson or Garden City.

15. Southeast



Northwest (4-3)

Possible seeds: 14, 15

Likely seed: 15

Outlook: It’s safe to assume Southeast will be the No. 15 seed and likely travel to Manhattan in the first round.

16. North



at Pittsburg (4-3)

Possible seeds: 16

Likely seed: 16

Outlook: North is already locked into the No. 16 seed with a first-round road trip to Derby looking likely.