Kansas 5A-6A has lots of balance
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
This week’s quarterfinal games in Kansas 5A and 6A feature some rematches along with two teams that are meeting for the first time this season.
The balance has been shown in both brackets with three of the eight No. 2 seeds earning wins in the first round. This round the matchups are just as even with any team having a good chance to advance to the seminfinal round.
St. Thomas Aquinas at Blue Valley
The Saints have been the most balanced and consistent team in the Metro in Kansas 5A this season. They have scored at least 26 points in every game except the season opener where Aquinas topped Blue Valley Northwest 10-6 in a driving rainstorm.
Along the way the Saints have beaten five playoff teams, including the teams on the other side of the bracket, Blue Valley West and Bishop Miege. The only team to send the Saints home a loser was Blue Valley in Week No. 6, but it took a late touchdown and two-point conversion to do it.
The Saints have a balanced offense that relied on all-purpose back Nick Williams when the season started but has now become more balanced with the emergence of quarterback Danten Cosentino.
The Tigers counter with a team that has been up and down but has won four of its last five games. Blue Valley is one of the most playoff tested teams in the Metro. This senior class has seen a 6A semifinal, 5A championship and 5A title game in their four years.
Blue Valley West at Bishop Miege
The Stags pulled have ridden a roller coaster all season and now seem to be rounding into form. Miege opened the playoffs with an impressive 41-23 win over Mill Valley who was riding an eight game winning streak coming into the post season.
Mill Valley never had a chance to be a part of the game as the Stags jumped on them early and never looked back.
This week Miege will need that same type of intensity when they host the hottest team in the bracket, Blue Valley West. The Jaguars have won five straight and have been impressive doing it. In that streak they have won their games by an average of just under 23 points.
Miege coach Jon Holmes said his team is going to have to be ready to play right away and not spot West a big lead like it did the first time these two teams played.
“Our goal at the start of the season was to be playing now and here we are in week two of the playoffs,” Holmes said. “I think the one thing for us the first time was we showed we could move the ball on them. We did that early but we had some turnovers and penalties that killed some drives. Against a good team like West we can’t do that.”
Olathe East at Lawrence Free State
These teams know each other well even if they haven’t met this season. The Firebirds come in as the No. 1 seed, fresh off an impressive win over Olathe North.
The Hawks may not sport the gaudy 9-1 record like Free State, but they have been as good as anyone in the last five games. East has won all five to stand at 6-4 and coach Jeff Meyers knows his team is going to be challenged by this year’s edition of the Firebirds.
“This is the best Free State team I’ve seen since they opened the school,” Meyers said. “They are good in all three phases of the game, just like I felt like we’ve been playing lately. They’ve got a quarterback that is balanced, but I think he is as good as anybody in the league.”
Both teams like to run first, but the Hawks will want to try to control the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of Free State quarterback Kyle McFarland. The dual threat QB makes the Firebirds go and is one of the top signal callers in the Metro.
McFarland also has plenty of other weapons and a big offensive line that could be the difference in this game.
Shawnee Mission West at Lawrence
This is a rematch from the first game of the season when West somewhat surprised a lot of people with a 20-14 win at Lawrence. Both teams have only lost once since that time each at the hands of Free State.
The Vikings feature the Sunflower League’s leading rusher in Bret Sterbach and a defense that has been stingy all season. West opened the playoffs with an impressive 34-14 win over Blue Valley Northwest and the Vikings haven’t really been tested since a week No. 4 18-8 win over Olathe East.
The Lions come in very tested, outlasting Gardner-Edgerton 34-32 in the first round. Lawrence will need another big game from Brad Strauss if it wants to extend its season.
Excelsior Springs Tigers
Turner Golden Bears
Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars
Appleton City Bulldogs
Seneca-Nemaha Valley Raiders
Blue Springs Wildcats
Missouri Military Academy
Royal Valley Panthers
Pleasant Ridge Rams
Lafayette County Huskers