Coach: Ryan Cornelsen, third season, 14-9
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Top players: Braden Archer, LB, 6-0, 210, sr.; Canyon Maldonado, QB-LB, 6-3, 180, sr.; Peyton Pendergrass, WR-DB, 6-1, 180, sr.; Brody Smith, RB, 5-10, 175, jr.; Josh Rivas, OT, 6-6, 335, sr.
Notes: The Salthawks feature one of the state’s top prospects in Rivas, who has committed to Kansas State. Smith surpassed 1,000 rushing yards as a sophomore, while Archer and Pendergrass are experienced defenders. Hutch will be looking to improve on a 2015 season that fell short of the lofty standard set in recent years.
Schedule: Sept. 2, Olathe East; Sept. 9, at Newton; Sept. 16, at Salina Central; Sept. 23, Derby; Sept. 30, Eisenhower; Oct. 7, at Salina South; Oct. 14, at Campus; Oct. 21, Maize; Oct. 28, Playoffs.
Coach: Michael Hall, 11th season, 54-46
Top players: Bryce Franco, DL, 6-0, 205, sr.; Tristan Harder, OL, 5-10, 235, sr.; Sumjai Kounnavong, DB, 5-10, 160, sr.; Isaiah Veal, DL, 6-1, 192, sr.; Dylan Wentzel, RB-WR, 6-0, 165,sr.
Notes: The Mustangs averaged 35 points and 418 yards last season, but only return two starters from their offense. Wentzel will inherit some of the carries of departed back Dalton Peters, while Harder is a key piece of an otherwise inexperienced line. Veal, who received All-Class 5A honorable mention, brings sprinter’s speed to a defense that returns three starters.
Schedule: Sept. 2, at Andover; Sept. 9, Arkansas City; Sept. 16, Hutchinson; Sept. 23, at Campus; Sept. 30, Newton; Oct. 7, at Derby; Oct. 14, at Maize; Oct. 21, Salina South; Oct. 28, Playoffs.
Coach: Sam Sellers, seventh season, 47-27
Top players: Devin Johnson, WR-CB, 5-11, 167, sr.; Casey Lanoue, QB-FS, 6-0, 161, jr.; Tanner Raubenstine, WR-FS, 6-3, 167, sr.; Demaj Smith, FB-DE, 5-10, 205, sr.; Justin Sullivan, QB-LB, 6-1, 198, sr.
Notes: Salina South returns seven starters after a puzzling season that came on the heels of three consecutive 10-win campaigns. Lanoue’s athleticism and toughness earned him a shot to direct the Cougars’ option offense, while Sullivan led South in tackles (109) in his first year as a starter. He is part of a talented group of linebackers.
Schedule: Sept. 2, Valley Center; Sept. 9, at Carroll; Sept. 16, at Campus; Sept. 23, Maize; Sept. 30, at Goddard; Oct. 7, Hutchinson; Oct. 14, Derby; Oct. 21, at Salina Central; Oct. 28, Playoffs.
Coach: Braden Smith, fourth season, 7-20
Top players: Dylan Cook, OL, 5-10, 255, sr.; Brock Dowler, QB, 6-3, 200, sr.; Mason Flower, RB-LB, 5-10, 180, sr.; Malik Lolar, WR-DB, 5-9, 170, sr.; Jacob Nelson, OL-DL, 5-10, 265, jr.
Notes: The deck quickly stacked against the Bulldogs last season when Dowler sustained a broken collarbone in the second game. Ark City scored 42 points in an opening victory, but just 87 in its final eight games. Cook, an all-league center, is back to lead a solid offensive line.
Schedule: Sept. 2, Campus; Sept. 9, at Salina Central; Sept. 16, Valley Center; Sept. 23, Winfield; Sept. 30, at Maize; Oct. 7, at Goddard; Oct. 14, Newton, Oct. 21, at Eisenhower; Oct. 28, Playoffs.
Coach: Steve Warner, 11th season, 97-24
Top players: Jake Burkhart, C, 5-11, 220, sr.; Jack Goertzen, FB-LB, 5-11, 175, sr.; Lawson Schultz, OL-DE, 5-10, 225, jr.; Brendan Webb, DE, 6-4, 205, jr.; Ethan White, QB-DB, 5-9, 150, sr.
Notes: League and district restructuring has loaded Buhler’s schedule with six opponents that combined to finish 52-17 last season. But despite several key graduation losses, the Crusaders should hold their own with a defense led by Goertzen, an all-league selection in 2015. White will bring a different dynamic to an offense that moves on without Washburn signee Jace Williams.
Schedule: Sept. 2, at McPherson; Sept. 8, at Andover Central; Sept. 16, Collegiate; Sept. 23, Maize South; Sept. 30, at Winfield; Oct. 7, Augusta; Oct. 14, Andale; Oct. 21, at El Dorado; Oct. 28, at Circle.
Coach: Jace Pavlovich, second season, 5-4
Top players: Jayse Alexander, LB, 6-0, 190, jr.; Dylan Baldwin, OL, 5-10, 210, sr.; Britton Bate, OL-DL, 6-0, 210, sr.; Casen Hoover, QB, 5-10, 190, sr.; Jack Reifschneider, WR-DB, 5-9, 180, sr.
Notes: McPherson missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons, but the ingredients for a return are present. The Bullpups return eight starters from a defense that yielded just 76 points in six games prior to district play. Hoover returns after passing for 1,154 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Reifschneider is an effective two-way player.
Schedule: Sept. 2, Buhler; Sept. 9, Maize South; Sept. 16, at Winfield; Sept. 23, Augusta; Sept. 30, Circle; Oct. 7, at Rose Hill; Oct. 14, Hays; Oct. 21, at Wamego; Oct. 28, at Abilene.
Coach: Linn Hibbs, first season
Top players: Izzy Amezcua, RB, 5-6, 160, jr.; Jacob Archer, DL, 6-1, 215, sr.; Ryan Clark, OL, 5-9, 205, sr.; Rocky Landwehr, DL, 5-9, 175, sr.; Gavin Pickering, OL, 6-0, 215, sr.
Notes: The fresh start feeling should be mutual for the Vikings and Hibbs, who enjoyed years of success at Wellington before a challenging three-year run at Shawnee Mission Northwest. Winfield returns six starters and got good late-season production from Amezcua, its top returning ball carrier, a year ago.
Schedule: Sept. 2, Augusta; Sept. 9, at Circle; Sept. 16, McPherson; Sept. 23, at Arkansas City; Sept. 30, Buhler; Oct. 7, at Maize South; Oct. 14, at Wellington; Oct. 21, Ulysses; Oct. 28, at Mulvane.
Coach: Zane Aguilar, first season
Top players: Connor Burnett, OL, 6-2, 270, sr.; Dylan Ferguson, LB, 5-10, 170, sr.; Chris Kop, RB, 6-2, 220, sr.; Cade Phelps, QB, 6-1, 185, jr.; Lukas Soria, LB, 5-9, 170, sr.
Notes: Aguilar, who helped Wellington win two state titles as a player, moves from his assistant’s role to try to lead the Crusaders back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. He’ll have an experienced quarterback in Phelps and a building block on the line in Burnett as Wellington tries to reverse a trend of late-season struggles. The Crusaders are 6-17 in October games during their postseason drought.
Schedule: Sept. 2, Clearwater; Sept. 9, at El Dorado; Sept. 16, at Rose Hill; Sept. 23, Andale; Sept. 30, at Collegiate; Oct. 7, Scott City; Oct. 14; Winfield; Oct. 21, at Mulvane; Oct. 28, at Ulysses.