1. Derby moves closer to its true identity
One way or the other, Derby was going to discover more of its identity on Friday against Bishop Carroll in a clash of prestigious programs at Panther Stadium.
Were the Panthers closer to the team embarrassed by Goddard in a 50-20 loss in Week 2, or the team that rolled over undefeated Hutchinson 61-18 in Week 4?
“Show me which one was a fluke,” Derby coach Brandon Clark challenged his team before Friday’s game.
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Derby looked like it’s moving closer to once again becoming a championship contender on Friday, as it prevailed 54-45 over Carroll in a game every bit as wild and entertaining as the 99 points, 14 touchdowns, and 957 combined offensive yards indicate.
The win included everything Derby could want from a Week 5 game: playing in a high-level game against a quality team, overcoming in-game adversity, and ultimately coming up with more big plays in victory.
“That Goddard game, we hated that,” Derby junior defensive back Dax Benway said. “We don’t want to feel that way again.”
“We needed to show everybody that the Goddard game was a fluke,” said Derby senior tailback Brody Kooser, who finished with 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “I think we made a huge statement tonight.”
Following the victory, Derby (4-1) moved up to No. 2 in the Class 6A rankings.
2. The health of Derby quarterback Grant Adler
Since being named the full-time starter in Week 3, Grant Adler has sparked the Derby offense. In his first three starters, Adler has amassed 388 yards, 228 yards, and 283 yards with four passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns.
He has shred defenses, proving to be dangerous in the read-option game with tailback Brody Kooser and possessing the arm to connect with receivers Tyler Brown, Jack Taylor, and Michael Littleton down the field.
But the excitement surrounding the sophomore was put on hold late in Friday’s game against Bishop Carroll, as Adler exited in the final two minutes with an apparent chest injury. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby emergency room.
The early diagnosis from an x-ray was that Adler had suffered no broken bones, but he will have a follow-up CT scan on Monday. His status for this Friday’s game at Salina Central remains unclear.
“Grant had every right to be nervous playing as a sophomore against undefeated Hutch and undefeated Bishop Carroll, but he just goes back there and is nice and relaxed,” Clark said. “He’s making huge strides and we just hope he’s going to be OK.”
3. Missed chances for Bishop Carroll
Down by 16 points three separate times in its game with Derby, Carroll proved resilient and rallied to within 47-45 midway through the fourth quarter.
Carroll even had the ball back, with a chance to take its first lead of the game, but a fumble on the first play of the drive allowed Derby to capitalize on the turnover and put the game away. Carroll (4-1) committed six turnovers in its first loss of the season.
“We had all of the momentum and our kids had a lot of confidence, but ultimately turnovers are going to swing the momentum,” Carroll coach Dusty Trail said. “Emotions play such a big role in the game and it was too big of an emotional swing for us to overcome when we had that last turnover.”
Carroll’s offense gained more than 500 yards, and quarterback Braden Howell threw for 472 yards and four touchdowns. Clay Cundiff had nine catches for 164 yards, Thomas Helten had six for 148 and Joseph Holthusen had six for 131.
“Our kids are going to take this one pretty hard because they know our own mistakes really cost us,” Trail said. “Not to take anything away from Derby. They’re a great team and very well-coached, but in a game like that it’s going to come down to turnovers and they took advantage of our mistakes. Our kids are going to be disappointed, but we’ve got to use this as a positive. Our goal this year wasn’t to beat Derby. Our goal this year is still to come and we’re still working toward that.”
4. Northwest’s defense comes to play
The Northwest defense has grown tired of the narrative that it has been a liability for the team.
The unit showed what it could do as Northwest handed Kapaun Mount Carmel its first loss of the season 26-14 at Cessna Stadium. Northwest improved to 4-1 and moved up to No. 4 in the Class 6A rankings.
“I think they’re sick of people talking about (how) our defense has been weak for a couple years,” Northwest coach Steve Martin said. “Those young guys, all those guys played last year. It’s about growing up and playing hard for each other. The coaches have done a great job getting those guys ready on that side of the ball.”
Junior linebacker Josh Carter continues to be a vacuum in the middle of the field for Northwest, while linebacker Percelle Finch has also come onto the scene this season. The defensive line has been anchored by Garrett Bridwell, while the secondary includes Isaza Stewart, Jalen Smith, and Jax Reynolds.
“That was a team win and without that (defense), we wouldn’t have won,” Martin said after the Kapaun game. “In the past, we would have had to get into a 50-point shootout. We’ve got some guts and I’m just proud of those guys.”
5. Another Harvey saves the day for Campus
The play of senior Federico Harvey has received a lot of attention in Campus’ 3-2 start to the season.
But it was his younger brother, Cameron, who made sure Campus won 14-10 over Andover, as the junior came up with a game-saving interception in the end zone to prevent Andover’s go-ahead touchdown.
“What a big play in the end zone to pick that ball off; (It was a) pretty big play by him,” Colts coach Greg Slade said. “We talk to kids about how sometimes you have to step up and do things, and that’s what happened.”
Campus took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, then clung to its lead for the final 36 minutes. Quinton Hicks scored both of the touchdowns for the Colts.
But it was Cameron Harvey’s play that won a pivotal game for Campus.
“After I saw that one touchdown go by, I had to make up for it,” Harvey said. “I didn’t want to let my team down.”
6. Undefeated Andale ready to prove it
Andale has rolled to a 5-0 start under first-year coach Dylan Schmidt, outscoring opponents 203-41.
But the Indians will now have their two biggest tests of the season to date, as they will travel to Collegiate this Friday then host Buhler on Oct. 13.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to have to play our best football these next two weeks to have a shot to win,” Schmidt said. “But that’s what makes it fun as a coach and as a player. We’ll find out how good we are, for sure.”
Andale defeated Clearwater 50-0 Friday for the defense’s third shutout of the season.
“I love how hard our kids have played and I think that’s always been our identity here in Andale,” Schmidt said. “It’s been a lot of fun for us because it’s a bunch of guys that are doing it. It’s not like we just have one guy doing most of the damage. Right now we’re winning by committee and our defense is playing really well right now.”
7. Max Domnick gives Maize South’s offense balance
Maize South depends on its running game for a successful offense and the emergence of Max Domnick as the featured running back this season has allowed the Mavericks to continue that.
Domnick rushed for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Maize South’s 42-6 victory over Mulvane. The senior has 537 yards on the season with seven touchdowns.
“Max has done a good job every offseason trying to improve himself with his strength and his speed,” Maize South coach Brent Pfeifer said. “We’re seeing that pay dividends this year, I think. He’s having a good season and we’re hoping he can continue with that for us.”
Domnick’s success on the ground has opened up the passing game for Maize South, as first-year starter Ryan Grabman has thrown for 588 yards. With a quality stable of receivers in Corey Minks, Nolan Veenis, Brayden Wiens and Andrew Bliss, Maize South could have a potent offense late in the season.
“We have the potential to be a very balanced team,” Pfeifer said. “We’ve got a lot of experience back and we’re just trying to get our guys up front caught up to that level. If we can get those guys caught up to the level that our backs are at right now, then we could be pretty special.”
8. Augusta’s defense key to 4-1 start
The formula for success hasn’t altered for Augusta this season, as it has once again leaned on a stingy defense in its 4-1 start to the season.
Augusta’s offense struggled to finish in Friday’s 20-14 victory over Chanute, but the Orioles were able to win the game thanks to a defense that limited Chanute to 133 yards.
“Our coaches do a good job of breaking down the other team and lining our guys up to take away the favorite plays of the other team,” Augusta coach Jason Filbeck said. “We really focus on the hustle plays and trying to get swarming team tackles, not just have one guy out in space. We want everybody to get to the football.”
Augusta’s defense has been led by Kendall Davis, Coban Honey, Jonny Clausing, Clay Wesbrooks, Ceetyn Anderson, Jake Swink, and Tyler Smith. The Orioles will play Buhler and Maize South, two teams ranked in the top-five of Class 4A I, in the next two weeks.
9. Collegiate recommits to the running game
Outside of quarterback Cody McNerney, who does most of his damage scrambling on called pass plays, Collegiate did not have a player with more than 100 total rushing yards through four games in the season.
Mike Gehrer knew that had to change, and the coach decided to move senior Mac Copeland to the strong-side tackle for last Friday’s game against Wellington and run behind the KU commit. The result was nearly 200 rushing yards as a team with tailbacks Will Sahatijian (84 yards) and William Devore (65) posted season-high totals in yards in a 28-13 victory.
“It was very important to us to get that done,” Gehrer said. “We moved Mac and decided we were going to run behind him and he really had a big game for us. Really all of the guys up front came together and did well for us. They’ve worked hard to make improvements and they got the job done for us.”
Collegiate will play undefeated Andale this Friday.
10. Class 6A and 5A playoff picture update
The race for a top seed in the 6A West playoffs appears like it will come down to a points tiebreaker.
Garden City (5-0) will travel to Northwest (4-1) this Friday in a game that could help Garden City secure a top-two seed or create a logjam of one-loss teams. Manhattan, Topeka, Derby, and Hutchinson — all 4-1 teams — will be favored in their final three games of the season, which could mean a six-way tie if Northwest beats Garden City and all teams win out.
That means a team like Derby could drop to a fifth, sixth, or seventh seed even if it finishes 7-1. The Panthers would host the first week in the playoffs, but could go on the road as early as the West quarterfinals.
The race for the eighth seed — the last seed that guarantees a home game in the playoffs — will likely come down to Campus (3-2) and Junction City (3-2). The Colts will play a vital game against Maize this Friday. If they can manage a fourth win, then that would likely give them a leg-up on Junction City, which has Manhattan and Topeka Seaman left and a bye week.
There are only two unbeatens left in 5A West, as Goddard (5-0) and Valley Center (5-0) could be primed for a huge showdown on Oct. 13 in a game that might decide the No. 1 seed in the bracket.
A trio of 4-1 teams remain within striking distance for a top-two seed in Carroll (4-1), Kapaun (4-1) and Maize (4-1), but all three have difficult games remaining. That’s good news for a team like Heights, which has won three straight after an 0-2 start and can take a step closer to a top-four seed by beating Kapaun this Friday.