The sub-state championship round is here with four area teams one win away from making it to the state championship from Class 2A to Eight-Man Division II.
It seems old hat for three of them, while one area team is making just its second eight-man sub-state championship appearance.
Hoisington (9-2) at Phillipsburg (11-0), 7 p.m.
The Phillipsburg Panthers have been on a tear, dominating teams all season long up until last week’s 25-24 thriller against Conway Springs. It was the most points the Panthers had given up all season, and also the fewest points it scored.
On paper, Friday night’s game in Phillipsburg should go the Panthers’ way. After all, Phillipsburg handed Hoisington a 51-21 loss Oct 12, jumping out to a 41-0 lead. The Cardinals, though, have won four straight since and are coming off a 30-0 win against Hutchinson-Trinity.
The Panthers, led by a bevy of weapons — among them being quarterback Trey Sides, running backs Treylan Gross, Cha’Ron Ellis and Nathan Moon and receiver Ty Sides — are looking to make the school’s second state championship.
This is the fourth time since 2014 the Panthers are playing for a sub-state championship. Only one of those appearances — 2015 — resulted in a win, and Philipsburg went on to claim the 2-1A state championship.
This is only the second trip in school history to the sub-state round for Hoisington, the last resulting in a loss to 2016. The Cardinals have never appeared in a state championship game.
Plainville (9-2) at Smith Center (10-1), 7 p.m.
The players the last three years for the Smith Center Redmen and Plainville Cardinals have changed. Not much else has.
For the third straight year, the Mid-Continent League foes are meeting up to decide which one will represent the MCL in the state title round.
In 2016, Plainville won 14-0 to send the Cardinals to the state title game for the first time in three decades. Last season, Smith Center made short work of the visiting Cardinals, 51-0, en route to a 12-1 mark and 2-1A state title.
Earlier this season, Smith Center captured a 21-10 win in Plainville, setting up the tone for Friday night’s sub-state showdown.
Since that loss, Plainville hasn’t suffered defeat, and only once has been truly tested, when it had to hit a late field goal to defeat Ell-Saline 31-28. Last week, though, Plainville had to hold off a late surge by Elkhart to pick up a 29-13 win to set up the rematch.
Smith Center, on the other hand, has been dominant. Outside of a 42-14 loss to Phillipsburg and a 15-8 win against Ell-Saline in which they had four turnvoers, the Redmen haven’t had a contest within 34 points. The closest game was last week’s 61-27 road win against Sedgwick.
With a win Friday, Smith Center could make its 13th state championship game in school history, and is playing in the sub-state round for the 21st time.
Plainville is playing in the semifinals for the ninth time, looking to make its fourth state title game.
Smith Center’s patented run game is led by Ethan Peterson and Colby Benoit. The duo combines for more than 2,100 yards on the ground and 35 rushing scores, part of Smith Center’s onslaught of 3,648 rushing yards and 52 scores. The defense has been equally as impressive, racking up 56 tackles for loss with three players recording at least seven. The Redmen also have 24 sacks.
Plainville’s backfield duo of quarterback Jordan Finnesy and Jared Casey has combined for 1,836 rushing yards and 26 scores, while Finnesy has gone to the air much more this season. The junior has completed 95 of 172 passes for 1,444 yards and 18 scores (six interceptions). He has spread the ball around well with five different receivers with at least 11 catches. Kobe Spiess leads the way with 27 catches for 413 yards and six scores.
Eight-Man Division I
St. Francis (11-0) at Claflin-Central Plains (11-0), 2:30 p.m. Saturday
St. Francis is playing in the sub-state round for just the second time as an eight-man program. The last came in 2016 when the Indians ended up runner-up to Osborne in the state title game in 2016.
The Indians have survived a tough slate in Eight-Man Division I this season and go up against a top-ranked Central Plains team that has been nothing short of stellar.
The Oilers have allowed just 28 points all season and had a string of eight straight shutouts. That ended last week when Central Plains went on the road and put up a 54-6 win against defending Eight-Man Division I state champion Hoxie. Central Plains averages 49 points per contest, compared to St. Francis’ 46.
Central Plains — a combination of Claflin and the former Quivira Heights — is looking for just its second trip to a state title game as an eight-man program. The last resulted in a state title in 2014. The Oilers had lost in the state quarterfinals the last three years.
Eight-Man Division II
Dighton (9-2) at Osborne (10-1), 7 p.m.
The fact Dighton is in the sub-state title round is not all that surprising. Dighton made a run to the state title round two seasons ago and lost to powerhouse Hanover. However, what might be surprising is the fact Dighton boasts just nine players and has survived a 9-2 run to the semifinal round.
The Hornets lost their two games early, dropping a 38-12 game against Hodgeman County and a 54-20 game against St. Francis. The Hornets, however, rolled through their Division II slate, with no game closer than last week’s 44-36 thriller against Otis-Bison, a game that came down to an interception in the waning seconds. It was just the second loss suffered by Otis-Bison this season in a dominant run through Division II, save for a tie at halftime with Kiowa-South Barber.
Osborne, since falling 52-20 to Hoxie in Week 2, has enjoyed the same run of success. Since then, The Bulldogs have posted at least 48 points in every game, and have surrendered no more than 22.
Osborne has proven it can beat teams in a variety of ways, but the most effective have been the run game combo of Darnell and Darrien Holloway. The quarterback/running back duo has 2,636 rushing yards and 55 rushing scores, while Darnell Holloway has thrown for 815 yards and 12 scores. Three of those have gone to Darrien Holloway, who has 215 receiving yards. Kade Miller, a sophomore on the state title team in 2016, has 430 receiving yards and seven scores to go along with 215 rushing yards and three scores. Freshman Mason Schurr also proves to be a good punch with 765 rushing yards and 11 scores.
He scored the game’s first TD last week when Osborne disposed of previously unbeaten South Barber 54-8.
Miller also leads Osborne’s defense with 99 tackles and four for loss.
Osborne is looking to make its fourth state title game — third as an eight-man program — and is playing in the sub-state round for the seventh time in school history. The previous five trips have all been in eight-man and all have come since 2010.