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Through the Uprights: Mike Lavieri 11/26Photo Credit: Mike Lavieri

We made it – championship weekend. Congratulations to all of the teams that have stayed the course and made it this far.

The Kansas season, while having a few hiccups due to COVID-19, went relatively smoothly, even in the playoffs, which can’t be said for the other side of the state line, which saw state contenders such as Rockhurst and Odessa forfeit because of COVID.

Typically, I’d discuss how my preseason predictions and my pre-postseason predictions were wrong (only my Mill Valley pick is holding up) and who I’m picking in the title games and why, but before we do, I want to give thanks.

This has been a trying year for so many and my condolences go out to those who lost loved ones and their jobs. Nothing about this year has been normal and even things we’re accustomed to have changed.

I am thankful for the parents, coaches and administrators for creating safe environments for the student athletes; for giving them a platform to showcase their talents so that one day they might be able to play at the next level.

I know the decisions to cancel games or limit fans in the stands weren’t easy, but necessary, and I am thankful for your guidance in trying to keep everybody safe and healthy.

I am thankful for this year’s student athletes. Being a teenager isn’t easy and being one during a global pandemic – I can’t imagine what that’s like. You listened to adults and acted responsibly, which allowed this season to go on.

It gives me a lot of hope for the future as these young men showed their leadership by not being selfish and put their teams before the individual. After big wins coaches urged their players to lay low and not gather and celebrate. It would have been easy to blow off those orders, but these players listened because they knew the season could have been taken away from them at any moment.

I hope you all safely enjoy your Thanksgivings – whatever that may look like next year – and the games this weekend.

In 6A, it’s hard to pick against Derby, but Blue Valley North has built a sustained product. Junior quarterback Henry Martin is following in Graham Mertz’s footsteps and I think the Mustangs squeak past the Panthers, 31-27.

The dynasties of Derby and Bishop Miege over the past decade have been impressive and Joel Applebee can close the gap if his Mill Valley team can win its fourth Class 5A title in six years. I said all year long that this is the best team in Kansas and it will have to get past the highflying offense of Wichita Northwest in a rematch of last year’s title game. I expect this to be high scoring, but for Mill Valley to come through, 45-42.

In Class 4A we’ll see a new champion as St. James knocked off Bishop Miege last week. I know I’m supposed to be unbiased, but I am a big Tom Radke fan. He is one heckuva coach and an even better person. For that very reason, I’d love to see the Thunder top McPherson, 28-27.