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 teams from the Mid-Continent League in a clash from Class 3A, District 14.
Norton (6-1, 1-0) at Phillipsburg (7-0, 1-0)
The classic Mid-Continent League rivalry game likely also will decide the Class 3A, District 14 championship and runner-up. With wins last week, the Panthers and Bluejays have separated themselves from Russell and TMP-Marian. Phillipsburg has steamrolled its opponents this season, including last week’s 81-33 rout of TMP-Marian in Phillipsburg. The Panthers posted 429 rushing yards in that contest, pushing its season total to 2,452 on the ground. That has come from 11 different ball carriers in the Panthers’ run-heavy flex-bone attack. The Panthers’ closest game this season was a 23-0 Week 2 win at MCL foe Smith Center. That happens to be the only team Norton has lost to. The Bluejays suffered a 43-0 loss to the Redmen in Week 4, but since have rolled to three straight wins.
Outside of the loss, Norton has outscored its opponents 250-71, giving up 34 in a three-point win to open the season against Class 4A Division II Goodland. Norton opened district play last week with a 31-7 victory on the road against Russell.
Norton seniors Jace Ruder and Tevin Petrie have fueled the Bluejay offense with 759 and 948 rushing yards, respectively. Earlier this season, Ruder also became the MCL’s all-time passing leader. He now has 68 completions for 819 yards and nine scores with just three interceptions. He also has 11 rushing scores, while Petrie has 12. Norton has spread the ball to 10 different receivers, with Kade Melvin leading the way with 20 catches for 338 yards.
In last season’s meeting, which decided the district title, Phillipsburg jumped on top early with John Gower returning the opening kickoff for a score in a 36-13 win for the Panthers.
Russell (4-3, 0-1) at TMP-Marian (2-5, 0-1)
At four wins, Russell already has doubled its win total from a season ago, and TMP continues to put up big numbers on offense. The two sit in the back of the district that includes Phillipsburg and Norton, but the winner of Friday’s Military Appreciation Night at Lewis Field Stadium will keep its hopes alive for a postseason berth while the loser likely would be eliminated.
TMP won last year’s meeting in Russell 33-14, one of only two wins the Monarchs picked up in the first season under coach Jason Cauley. TMP quarterback David McFarland continues to be one of the best in the state, coming off a performance last week in the loss to Phillipsburg where he passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns, but did have four interceptions.
Hays High (2-5, 0-1) at Abilene (2-5, 0-1)
Just as in 3A, District 14, the winner of this game stays in the hunt at the bottom of the district, while the loser likely will be eliminated and play for pride in Week 9. Last season’s 23-12 win by Hays High in Abilene was one of only two victories for the Indians and kept HHS in the hunt for the playoffs. But the Indians fell at Wamego the following week. Each team has struggled this season, while Abilene has posted stronger numbers offensively. Abilene opened district play with a 28-27 overtime loss to Wamego, while Hays High was blitzed by district favorite McPherson 48-6 in Hays.
Hunter Brown fuels Hays High’s offense with 274 passing yards, three passing TDs and six interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 251 yards.
Sylvan-Lucas (6-1, 2-1) at Thunder Ridge (2-5, 2-1)
Sylvan-Lucas suffered its first loss 46-6 on the road last week to Northern Valley, while Thunder Ridge suffered its first district loss with a setback against Lakeside. Still, the Longhorns sit 2-1 and in third place in Eight-Man Division II, District 5. A win by the Longhorns would move them into second place behind Northern Valley. A loss by the Mustangs also would put Sylvan-Lucas in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row despite having the best overall record in the district — the only team last season to have a winning record.
The Longhorns, meanwhile, have more wins than they have had the past two years combined. Thunder Ridge was 0-8 last season and 1-7 the year before, but owns wins against Stockton and Wilson in district play this season. Thunder Ridge’s 0-4 start came against teams now sitting a combined 23-5.
Solomon (5-2, 2-1) at Logan-Palco (5-2, 1-2)
Two teams in a loaded Eight-Man Division I, District 4 will fight to keep their playoff hopes alive, while each still will need a little help. Logan-Palco has suffered two losses in district play, but both losses have come against the two best teams to date — Victoria and Osborne. Solomon has claimed wins against Bennington and Lincoln. The host Trojans are looking to avoid another two-loss season where they miss the playoffs, and the only way to help that is with a win.
Last season, one of those two losses was against Solomon, a 56-34 setback. Solomon went on to take the second spot in the district behind Osborne, then lost in the first round to eventual sub-state runner-up Burlingame. Logan-Palco’s David Thompson leads the Trojans with 942 yards on 112 carries and has scored 17 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Riley Allen has 388 rushing yards with seven scores, and has thrown for 303 yards with four TDs.