Boasting two state champions and a third state finalist a year ago, the Eastern Kansas League can lay claim as the best football league in the state.

But what makes the EKL so good isn’t necessarily the top-end programs like last year’s state champions, Miege (4A) and Aquinas (5A).

No, it’s the league’s depth, which has been proven in the past with Blue Valley North (2017) and Mill Valley (2016) winning state titles while not even sniffing the league crown that season, each champs with four losses.

The EKL’s depth was on full display this week with a pair of stunning upsets, a close call and big inter-state victory.

First, the upsets.

There may not be a bigger shocker this year than St. James Academy’s 28-27 upset of Class 4A No. 1 Miege on Thursday night. The Thunder went into the game 1-2 with losses to Mill Valley and Blue Valley West, but held Miege to just 20 rushing yards in the game and rallied from down 27-14 to pull off the stunner.

“I am just so happy and proud of the group of guys that we have on this team,” St. James coach Tom Radke said. “It was a team win from the coaches, players and training staff. We have been battling a lot of injuries and illnesses the past couple of weeks, so the resilience that was shown by this group was legendary. A win like this for the program has been bubbling for some time now and this group decided that tonight was going to be the night.”

Radke lauded the defensive play of Jake Holton and Cade Lautt with Lautt’s performance at fullback (53 yards, 2 rushing TDs) also key to the win. Thunder quarterback Jack Moellers threw for 216 yards and a touchdown to Brady Feldman.

While St. James was pulling off its epic win, Blue Valley West was continuing its potential breakthrough season. Just 3-6 last year, the Jaguars edged Blue Valley North 25-18 in double overtime, winning on Riley Cummings’ 5-yard run in the second OT.

The Jaguars then made a defensive stand to preserve the win.

“Our defense did a great job all night and really gave us a chance to win,” West coach Josh Koerkenmeier said. “Our offense finished with a physical running game and Riley just wears people out over the course of the game.”

Cummings finished with 141 yards and three touchdowns.

On Friday, Class 5A No. 1 Aquinas, meanwhile, got a stern test from 1-2 Mill Valley, needing a third-quarter touchdown run from Tank Young to pull out a 28-21 win.

And to top it off, Blue Valley, just 4-5 a year ago, went across state lines and beat Missouri powerhouse Rockhurst 21-14 to move to 3-1.

Despite its loss, Miege stayed No. 1 in Class 4A with the only change in that classification coming with Tonganoxie (4-0) replacing Goddard at No. 5 after the Lions lost their second straight.

In Class 6A, No. 2 Topeka High was stunned in the final second by Junction City, which grabbed a 48-41 upset on a touchdown with .04 seconds left. The Trojans drop out of the top five with Junction City moving in at No. 4.

Lawrence leap-frogged Olathe North to go to No. 2 with North falling 24-21 to Columbine (Colo.), which is ranked No. 1 in Colorado.

In Class 5A, Carroll falls out of the rankings after its 21-0 loss to 6A No. 1 Derby, replaced by unbeaten Maize South, which comes in at No. 5.

In Class 3A, Andale is the new No. 1 after two-time reigning champion Sabetha saw its 23-game winning streak end with a 40-32 loss to No. 3 Marysville. Marysville moves up to No. 2, Hayden jumps from 4 to 3 and Sabetha drops to No. 5.

In Class 1A, No. 1 Smith Center handled No. 2 Plainville, dropping the Cardinals to No. 4. Olpe and Sedgwick each move up a spot with Sedgwick leading No. 5 Ell-Saline 15-0 in the second quarter of a game suspended until Monday.

 

BEST OF KANSAS PREPS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RANKINGS

SUPER 10

Team ... record

1. Derby (1) ... 4-0

Panthers hold Carrroll to 132 total yards in 21-0 shutout

2. Aquinas (2) ... 4-0

Saints survive tough test from Mill Valley, 28-21

3. Wichita Northwest (4) ... 4-0

Grizzlies rack up 530 yards of total offense in rout of West

4. Lawrence (8) ... 4-0

No hangover for Lions after upset of Gardner in Week 3

5. Olathe North (6) ... 3-1

Eagles fall to Columbine, No. 1 team in Colorado 24-21

6. Gardner-Edgerton (9) ... 3-1

Trailblazers rebound nicely after loss to Lawrence

7. DeSoto (10) ... 4-0

Wildcats averaging 61 points per game this year

8. Junction City (NR) ... 4-0

Last-second TD pass gives Jays upset of Topeka High

9. Topeka High (5) ... 3-1

Thomas’ 256 yards, 3 TDs not enough to fend off Junction City

10. Maize (NR) ... 4-0

Eagles soar past Newton 44-7 for fourth straight blowout

 

CLASS 6A

Team ... record

1. Derby (1) ... 4-0

2. Lawrence (4) ... 4-0

3. Olathe North (3) ... 3-1

4. Gardner-Edgerton (5) ... 3-1

5. Junction City (NR) ... 4-0

Others — Blue Valley 3-1, Blue Valley West 3-1, Dodge City 4-0, Free State 3-1, Manhattan 3-1, SM Northwest 4-0, Topeka High 3-1.

Notes — Junction City and Topeka High combined for nearly 1,110 yards of total offense, but it was a late defensive stop that proved to be critical. Junction City stuffed the Trojans on fourth down near midfield to get the ball back in a tied game with 36 seconds left and got the game-winner on Andrew Khoury’s 22-yard TD pass to Ethan Alcorn with .04 seconds left for the 48-41 stunning upset.

 

CLASS 5A

Team ... record

1. Aquinas (1) ... 4-0

2. Wichita Northwest (2) ... 4-0

3. DeSoto (4) ... 4-0

4. Maize (5) ... 4-0

5. Maize South (NR) ... 4-0

Others — Carroll 2-2, Eisenhower 3-1, Emporia 3-1, Great Bend 2-2, KC Schlagle 3-0, St. James Academy 2-2.

Notes — For just the second time in its existence, Eisenhower beat cross-town rival Goddard, nipping the Lions 21-20. Mason Turney caught the game-winning TD pass with 1:13 left in the game, giving first-year Tiger coach Darrin Fisher a victory over the school where he was an assistant a year ago. It was Turney’s second game-winning catch in two weeks, also pulling the feat in last week’s 20-14 win over Andover.

 

CLASS 4A

Team ... record

1. Miege (1) ... 3-1

2. McPherson (2) ... 4-0

3. Paola (3) ... 4-0

4. Andover Central (4) ... 4-0

5. Tonganoxie (NR) ... 4-0

Others — Buhler 4-0, Chanute 3-1, Goddard 2-2, KC Piper 3-1, Louisburg 2-2, Pittsburg 3-1, Spring Hill 2-2, Winfield 3-1.

Notes — Even with its loss, Miege remains atop the 4A standings, simply based on the fact that no other 4A team has proven to be able to even hang with the Stags. Will someone challenge this year? McPherson has reloaded nicely and has a staunch defense, while Paola and Tonganoxie have run rough-shod over foes unfortunately won’t square off for the Frontier League title.

 

CLASS 3A

Team ... record

1. Andale (2) ... 4-0

2. Marysville (3) ... 4-0

3. Hayden (5) ... 4-0

4. Scott City (4) ... 4-0

5. Sabetha (1) ... 3-1

Others — Caney Valley 3-1, Cheney 3-1, Colby 4-0, Columbus 4-0, Frontenac 4-0, Halstead 4-0, Hesston 4-0, Holton 3-1, Jefferson West 4-0, Prairie View 4-0, Wamego 4-0, Wichita Collegiate 4-0.

Notes — Two-time reigning 3A champion Sabetha saw its 23-game winning streak come to an end with a 40-32 loss to No. 3 Marysville. Atreyau Hornbeak ran for 192 yards and five touchdowns, including three in the first half that staked the Bulldogs to a 20-0 lead. Sabetha got within six in the third quarter and eight early in the fourth, but couldn’t complete the comeback to lose for the first time since falling to Nemaha Central in district play in 2017.

 

CLASS 2A

Team ... record

1. Hoisington (1) ... 4-0

2. Humboldt (2) ... 4-0

3. Garden Plain (3) ... 4-0

4. Silver Lake (4) ... 4-0

5. Southeast-Saline (5) ... 4-0

Others — Belle Plaine 4-0, Cimarron 4-0, Conway Springs 3-1, Ellsworth 4-0, Lakin 4-0, Maur Hill 3-1, Riley County 2-2, Riverside 3-1, Rossville 2-2.

Notes — While some of the usual suspects are off to their traditionally good starts, there’s a surprise 4-0 squad in 2A this season. Belle Plaine ended a 42-game losing streak last season when it went 4-5, but hasn’t posted a winning season since 2011. But the Dragons not only are 4-0 this season, but didn’t allow a point until this week’s 41-22 win over Cherryvale.

 

CLASS 1A

Team ... record

1. Smith Center (1) ... 4-0

2. Olpe (3) ... 4-0

3. Sedgwick (4) ... 3-0

4. Plainville (2) ... 3-1

5. Ell-Saline (5) ... 3-0

Others — Centralia 3-1, Jackson Heights 2-2, Jefferson North 4-0, LaCrosse 4-0, Lyndon 4-0, Northern Heights 4-0, Troy 2-2, Valley Heights 4-0.

Notes — Four of the top five played each other this week with No. 1 Smith Center taking on No. 2 Plainville and No. 4 Sedgwick facing No. 5 Ell-Saline. Smith Center forced four turnovers and pulled away from a 14-7 halftime lead to breat Plainville 40-14, the Cardinals playing without standout Jared Casey, who broke his hand against TMP-Marian last week. Sedgwick and Ell-Saline, meanwhile, saw thier game supsended until Monday with Sedgwick up 15-0 early in the second quarter.

 

EIGHT-MAN DIVISION I

Team ... record

1. Canton-Galva (1) ... 4-0

2. St. Francis (2) ... 4-0

3. South Central (3) ... 4-0

4. Madison (4) ... 4-0

5. Victoria (5) ... 4-0

Others — Chase County 3-1, Clifton-Clyde 4-0, Hodgeman County 3-1, Leoti 4-0, Maranatha 3-1, Ness City 4-0, Oberlin 3-1, Pratt-Skyline 4-0, South Gray 3-1, West Elk 4-0.

Notes — No. 4 Madison figured to get its first real test of the season when fellow unbeaten and high-powered Maranatha came to town. Sure enough, the Bulldogs were. Maranatha jumped out to a 16-0 lead and still led 52-38 late in the third quarter. But Madison rallied and got three straight scores — including a pair of TD runs from Hunter Engle — to go up 60-52 and then answered a Maranatha touchdown with Engle’s third TD run of the night, taking a wild 68-58 win.

 

EIGHT-MAN DIVISION II

Team ... record

1. Hanover (1) ... 4-0

2. Osborne (2) ... 4-0

3. Axtell (3) ... 4-0

4. St. Paul (4) ... 4-0

5. Frankfort (5) ... 4-0

Others — Beloit-St. John’s 3-1, Hutch Central Christian 3-1, Logan-Palco 3-1, Otis-Bison 3-1, Rock Hills 3-1, South Barber 3-1, Thunder Ridge 4-0.

Notes — Hanover broke the eight-man state record for consecutive wins, getting its 42nd straight victory with a 46-0 win over Blue Valley-Randolph. But tests await the Wildcats with No. 3 Axtell coming in Week 6 and No. 5 Frankfort in Week 8. Axtell’s Quinn Buessing is having another monster season as he pursues the state’s career TD and passing yardage record, while Frankfort has spread out its production in its 4-0 start.