Each week during the 2018 prep football season, The Hays Daily News will highlight five games of interest from the area.

Thursday

Wichita County (6-2) at Victoria (6-2), 7 p.m.

Victoria clawed and fought its way to a 6-2 mark against the classification’s third toughest schedule, according to preppowerindex.com. Losing to Clifton-Clyde and Central Plains (both undefeated), the Knights were rewarded with a first-round matchup against a 6-2 Wichita County team that has shown potential to beat quality teams. The Indians played to within 16 points of defending state champion Hoxie and lost 44-6 to unbeaten St. Francis.

Victoria, meanwhile, fell 32-8 to Central Plains, and 54-30 to Clifton-Clyde. The Knights also are the only team to beat Division II power Otis-Bison, a 28-14 win to open the season.

The winner will get either St. Francis (8-0) or Stockton (3-5) in the regional round.

Hill City (5-3) at Hoxie (7-1), 7 p.m.

The Hill City Ringnecks finished the regular season with three losses, all coming to teams with two losses or fewer. That included a one-point loss to perennial contender Victoria in Week 7, and 12-point loss to open the season to a potent Osborne team in a high-scoring affair, 88-76. The only other loss was to unbeaten Clifton-Clyde, a 64-14 setback.

But outside of the losses, Hill City has been nothing short of stellar, averaging 50 points per game in its five wins, and not surrendering any more than the 20 points it allowed last week in a 26-point win at Washington County. The win secured the No. 3 seed for the Ringnecks out of Eight-Man I, District 7.

The host Indians, the defending Eight-Man Division I state champion, finished runner-up in District 8 after their Week 5 loss to unbeaten St. Francis. Outside of that, though, Hoxie has virtually been untouched, save for a 36-20 win against Wichita County in Week 4. Hill City doesn’t own a win against Hoxie since 2010, though the two haven’t played each season. Hill City finished 11-2 that year, bouncing Hoxie 46-0 in Week 2.

The winner will face either Clifton-Clyde (8-0) or Trego (4-4) in the regional round.

 Thunder Ridge (5-3) at Dighton (6-2), 7 p.m.

Thunder Ridge, back on the radar for the first time since 2014, put together a 5-3 campaign that was highlighted by a a 24-14 win in Week 4 against playoff qualifier Northern Valley, a win that essentially secured the fourth spot for the Longhorns in Eight-Man II, District 5. Thunder Ridge is making its first playoff appearance since the 2014 season, and is now under first-year head coach Joel Struckhoff, the Longhorns’ former speedy running back who still owns Eight-Man’s all-time rushing lead.

Dighton, meanwhile, took home the title in District 6, going 5-0 against a somewhat lighter schedule. The Hornets are 6-2 overall with losses to Hodgeman County (38-12) and St. Francis (54-20), teams with just one loss combined. Also, Impressively, the Hornets have got it done with a roster that features just nine players.

The winner will face either Northern Valley (6-2) or Greeley County (4-4) next week.

Sylvan-Lucas (5-3) at Wallace County (3-5), 6 p.m. (CT)

Starting the season 0-3, the Wallace County Wildcats bounced back with two straight wins before dropping a pair. It’s been an up-and-down season for a program that was once synonymous with the Eight-man playoffs. Sylvan-Lucas has been close to breaking through the last several years, but always has run up against a a buzzsaw. In 2016, the Mustangs were 6-3 and just missed the playoffs, despite beating the district’s champion, Stockton, that season. Last year, the Mustangs got into the playoffs, but didn’t have enough for Otis-Bison on the road in a 60-26 loss. This year, Sylvan finished third in a district that includes 7-1 Osborne and 6-2 Northern Valley. The Mustangs stayed away from District 6 champion Dighton by beating Thunder Ridge by four points on Sept. 28.

The winner will face either Osborne (7-1) or Triplains-Brewster (4-4) next week.

Friday

Salina-Sacred Heart (3-5) at Ellis (3-5), 7 p.m.

By virtue of last week’s win against La Crosse — the second meeting this season between the two teams — Ellis earned the right to host its Week 9 game, and will take on a team that finished third in a district that includes defending 2-1A champion Smith Center and Ell-Saline, teams with a combined three losses. Sacred Heart owns wins against Ellsworth (9-7), La Crosse (37-0) and Republic County (37-6), but lost in overtime to Minneapolis and lost by just five points to Ell-Saline.

The Railers, in a less-than-daunting MCL schedule — save for a Week 1 loss to Phillipsburg — have two wins against La Crosse, and a win against Oakley. All three wins have come since Sept. 21 after Ellis started the season with three straight losses, beginning with a 52-12 loss to Phillipsburg. The Railers also lost by a touchdown to Thomas More Prep-Marian.

The winner Friday will take on either Smith Center (7-1) or Oakey (3-5) next week.