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

Hodgeman County (7-0, 4-0) at Ness City (5-2, 3-1)

A win by Hodgeman County seals the district championship while a Ness City win could either mean a district title or a three-way tie going to points. A Ness City loss could potentially drop the Eagles to a fourth seed. In all scenarios, points likely will come into play to determine seeds.

The Eagles are coming off a 62-14 win on the road against Kiowa County last week. Ness City is 2-1 at home after the season-opening loss to Central Prairie League and state power Claflin-Central Plains. In both its losses, the Eagles have brought it down to the wire, most recently dropping a 16-14 decision to Spearville. In the loss to Central Plains, the Oilers scored two touchdowns late to make it a 16-point game.

Already, the Eagles will make their third straight playoff trip under the new format, but a win would mean a first district championship since 2014. That season, the Eagles defeated Hodgeman County, 50-48, in overtime at Ness City. Ironically, Ness City also lost by two points that season to Spearville.

 La Crosse (3-4, 1-1) at Ellis (2-5, 1-1)

The winner here will be the two seed behind Plainville in Class 1A, District 6. while the loser will be the No. 3 seed.

Oakley already has wrapped up the No. 4 seed, while Plainville is the district champion, regardless of what happens in their matchup Friday.

In a rare occurance, La Crosse and Ellis will meet up for the second time this season. Ellis won the first meeting Sept. 21 in La Crosse, 44-34, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

The Railers are led by senior Cade Lewis, who has nearly 50 more offensive touches than another player on the roster. The senior has 105 carries for 530 yards and has four rushing scores, while catching 12 balls for 169 yards and another score. The Railers lost 41-0 to Plainville last week on the road, while La Crosse lost at home to the Cardinals, 35-0. That game, though, was called at halftime due to the weather.

The winner of Friday’s contest will be at home in Week 9, while the loser will have to travel.

Smith Center (6-1, 2-0)at Ell-Saline (6-1, 2-0)

The winner claims the Class 1A District 5, while the loser will be the runner-up. Smith Center, just like in its 2-1A title campaign a year ago, has not often been challenged outside of its loss to 2A power Phillipsburg. The Redmen defeated Plainville by 11, but has since blown out its last three opponents — with two shutouts. The Redmen have four shutouts on their schedule, similar to last season when they handled Ell-Saline 54-0 in the regular-season finale.

A plethora of backs have combined to put up Smith Center’s 2,166 rushing yards and 31 scores. Most notable have been senior Colby Benoit and senior Ethan Peterson, who have more than 600 rushing yards each and a combined 21 rushing scores.

Both teams already have wrapped up a home game in Week 9 under the new format.

 TMP-Marian (2-5, 1-3) at Ellsworth (1-6, 0-4)

Three teams are vying for the fourth spot in the playoffs out of Class 2A, District 8, and though it’s unlikely, TMP-Marian could still make the cut even with a loss Friday to Ellsworth. All they would need for that to happen is a blowout loss by Minneapolis at unbeaten Phillipsburg, then stay within five points of Ellsworth in a loss. However, a TMP-Marian win guarantees the Monarchs play in Week 9 — so long as Minneapolis falls to the juggernaut Panthers.

TMP got to this point by defeating Minneapolis 14-7 last week, and owns a 14-7 win against Ellis from Week 2. In between those games, however, the Monarchs have just six points and were shutout three straight games. TMP has just 34 points all season.

Thunder Ridge (5-2, 3-1) at Osborne (6-1, 4-0)

Both teams have secured their Week 9 spot in Eight-Man Division II. An Osborne win will mean the Bulldogs claim the district title, as would a win by Thunder Ridge. However, a loss by the Longhorns could drop Thunder Ridge to the four seed depending on what happens elsewhere. A Thunder Ridge loss would mean four teams are vying for the final three spots. However, a Thunder Ridge win would mean Osborne would be runner-up and then three teams would be fighting for two spots.

Osborne’s potent offense is nothing short of spectacular, especially considering the fact most of its games end by halftime or early in the third quarter. The Osborne run game has 2,467 yards of offense, mainly from four players. Darrien Holloway leads the way with 85 carries for 894 yards and 17 scores, while older brother Darnell Holloway — the team’s QB — has 68 carries for 770 yards and 18 scores. A freshman, Mason Schurr has 57 carries for 536 yards and seven scores.

The Bulldogs have not had a game last past the third quarter since they lost to Hoxie 52-30 in Week 2. Prior to that, the Bulldogs outlasted Hill City 88-76 in a shootout.

Since the loss to Hoxie, however, Osborne has surrendered just 20 points and has recorded shutouts the last two weeks.

Thunder Ridge, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013 and was just 2-7 a season ago, has made a resurgence to relevancy under the guidance of former Longhorn standouts Joel Struckhoff, Blane Hrabe and Dillon Coomes, all of whom were a part of Thunder Ridge’s unbeaten run at a state championship in 2011.