Each week, the HDN will pick five games to highlight as the 2017 prep football season rolls on. This week features two of the best in Eight-Man Division I, District 4 as playoff mainstays.

Victoria (5-1, 2-0) 
at Osborne (5-1, 2-0)

This game has the feel of a clash of the titans in Eight-Man Division I, District 4. Victoria will make the trip to Osborne, carrying a 5-1 record and back-to-back wins to open district play, while Osborne has done the exact same thing. The only difference is Victoria’s mark has come against a slightly tougher slate, aside from the fact each team already has played arguably one of the best teams in the district, and beat Logan-Palco. Victoria defeated the Trojans 50-26, while Osborne won last week in rainy conditions at Palco, 44-10.

Victoria and Osborne have combined for 19 eight-man playoff appearances with Victoria making 14 and winning three eight-man state championships. Osborne’s have all come in the last seven seasons. The Bulldogs made the switch to eight-man in 2010 and have made five playoff appearances since — two have resulted in undefeated state championships and the other three have resulted in state semifinal appearances.

Victoria missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 14 years, but each are in prime position to make a run back to the postseason. The winner of Friday night’s game could end up being the district champion, which gets a home game in the first round of the Eight-Man I playoffs.

The Bulldogs are led by its backfield trio of senior Denton Schurr, junior quarterback Darnell Holloway and sophomore Darrien Holloway. The three have combined for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground through six games and 34 rushing TDs. And the Holloways missed one game, a game where Schurr had nearly 500 yards on the ground and seven scores. Darnell Holloway also has shown the ability to throw the ball with 328 passing yards and four touchdowns to three interceptions.

Victoria, on offense, counters with its own backfield trio of quarterback Cooper Windholz and running backs Cooper Pfanenstiel and Collin Kisner, both seniors. Kisner last week in a win against previously unbeaten Bennington, had 128 yards and 17 carries and scored three rushing TDs.

Ellis (2-4) at La Crosse (4-2)

At least on paper it would seem Plainville is the favorite to win Class 2-1A, District 7. Either one of Ellis and La Crosse could have something to say about that, but if that holds true, Friday night’s game in La Crosse could mean a playoff spot.

The Leopards are the hotter team right now having won their last four games after a rough 0-2 start. The closest game in that span was a 31-26 victory against previously undefeated and Class 3A Ellsworth. La Crosse has won its last two contest by a score of 108 to 20.

Ellis has struggled against a brutal MCL schedule that included losses to undefeated juggernaut Phillipsburg and 5-1 Smith Center.

For La Crosse, sophomore quarterback Hunter Morgan has found a groove, completing 30 of 48 passes for 568 yards and eight TDs with just one interception. He also has 50 carries for 215 yards on the ground to go along with four scores. Senior Zak Brown leads the ground game with 63 carries for 411 yards and nine scores.

Ellis’ offense all runs through senior Joseph Eck. The dual threat is 19 of 50 for 225 yards with four TDs to four interception, and leads the team with 447 rushing yards and eight scores.

Sylvan-Lucas (6-0, 2-0) at Northern Valley (4-2, 2-0)

Last season, Sylvan-Lucas was the only team to Eight-Man Division II, District 5 to finish the regular season with a winning record. Yet, the Mustangs still were left out of the playoffs after suffering district losses to Lakeside and Northern Valley.

Northern Valley had the second-best record overall in the district a season ago, yet also missed the playoffs due to losses to Stockton and Lakeside — the two playoff qualifiers.

In 2017, Sylvan and Northern Valley are the only two teams in the district with a winning record thus far and seem to be the favorites to enter the Eight-Man II playoffs. Friday’s game could decide which team gets a home game, and which is traveling in the first round.

The two teams have put up a plethora of points in a variety of ways. Sylvan-Lucas averages 53 points per contest while Northern Valley has averaged 43 despite two losses.

Senior quarterback Caden Kinderknecht fuels the Huskies’ offense. He has 100 carries for 777 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also has completed 32 of 68 passes for 472 yards with eight scores and four picks. In addition, junior Nick Stutsman has 66 carries for 505 yards.

Dighton (6-0, 2-0) 
at Otis-Bison (5-1, 2-0)

A brutal schedule in Eight-Man Division II, District 6 kept a quality Otis-Bison team out of the playoffs a season ago. That schedule included a rough loss on the road to Dighton where the Cougars seemed to have control late but threw an interception in the end zone, leaving the door open for Dighton to grab the victory. The Hornets ended up winning the district and played in the Eight-Man Division II state championship game. Otis-Bison, however, had just three losses, but stayed home.

This season, the Cougars — with just 14 players — have been on a mission. Otis-Bison’s 5-1 mark includes a two-point win against Victoria, and a 70-24 blitz of Sharon Springs-Wallace County in district play. Dighton upended Wallace County 20-8 last week.

Otis-Bison’s lone loss came in Week 3, a 36-12 loss to perennial Eight-Man I contender Claflin-Central Plains, but since then the Cougars have outscored their last three opponents 142-44.

Blake Bahr and Anton Foust lead the Cougars’ scoring attack. Bahr has 44 carries for 511 yards and 12 TDs, while Foust has 58 carries for 435 yards and seven TDs.

Last year’s Otis-Bison record included playing the three toughest district teams on the road, so the Cougars have them all at home this season — games against Wallace County (a win), Dighton and upcoming against Jetmore-Hodgeman County, which is 5-1 heading into Friday’s contest in Sharon Springs.

McPherson (5-1) 
at Hays High (2-4)

Hays High’s defense has been solid despite a 2-4 mark against much larger schools. This will be the first game in Class 4A since Hays High lost 29-8 to open the season against Scott City. Hays High’s WAC slate includes two 5A and two 6As, sandwiched around a loss to Class 5A Valley Center (5-1).

Hays High allowed just seven points in a 7-3 loss to Garden City at home, while giving up just 12 points last week to Dodge City.

However, scoring has been hard to come by. The Indians have just 17 points combined in their last three games, but are 2-0 when they score 20 or more. The four losses, Hays High has had single-digit scoring.

McPherson, coached by former Fort Hays State University safety Jace Pavlovich and former TMP-Marian head coach and FHSU running back John Montgomery, brings a 5-1 mark to Lewis Field Stadium for the Indians’ homecoming and Class 4A Division I, District 8 opener.

The Bullpups won last year’s contest 48-14 in McPherson, part of an eight-game winning streak. McPherson’s only loss this season was a 9-0 setback to Maize South (5-1). Outside of that, McPherson has outscored opponents 208-42 with shutouts in two of its last three contests.

Senior quarterback Hunter Brown is a catalyst for anything Hays High will do offensively. He has 212 passing yards and leads the Indians with 241 rushing yards and seven combined touchdowns.