When the 2018 Kansas State High School Activities Association football playoffs ended, it brought to a conclusion the 50th season of postseason play in the sport for the state of Kansas.
In 1969, the KSHSAA launched the first-ever state playoff system with five classifications of 11-man football and one classification for the 8-man game.
Today, there are six classifications of the 11-player game and two for 8-player schools.
In August, the KSHSAA will print it’s most recent history book, “Under the Lights: 50 Years of KSHSAA Football Playoffs,” a 240-page, four-color book that captures the five decades of Kansas’ best high school football playoffs. Readers should expect their copy in the mail on or near August 15.
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The book, compiled by long-time Kansas sports writer Brett Marshall, also includes chapters from among the top sports writers of the last half-century from the state’s major newspapers. Twelve writers, who collectively have 347 years of high school sports writing experience, chronicle the best of the best in this anthology of KSHSAA football playoffs.
“The project first was discussed last fall during the football season, and late in 2018 we were able to put together a complete proposal, an outline for the table of contents and a timeline for the project,” Marshall said. “A lot of people have made significant contributions to the book, and I think that will be reflected in the stories that are written about programs, coaches and players.
“I think KSHSAA should be commended for taking such a monumental project on, and I’ve been thrilled to be part of it,” Marshall said. “The football playoffs and I have a rich history, as my high school team of Syracuse went unbeaten in 1969 yet didn’t have a chance to compete in the playoffs. The evolution that we’ve seen over the 50 years now provides every team a chance to make the playoffs and advance to the championship game.”
Interviews with legendary coaches, Kansas’ elite players who would go on to star at both the collegiate and professional levels, will recall some of the great programs, and games from the smallest of schools in 8-man to the biggest schools in Class 6A.
The book’s early chapters brings to life how the state playoff system originated with many challenges to formulate a system that would require approval from schools of all sizes and all geographic areas of the Sunflower State.
With the Kansas Coaches Association leading the way, it took more than five years to implement what started in the fall of 1969. How did the Association overcome the challenge of appeasing all schools of all sizes?
“There have been many unknown stories uncovered through our research, and my take away on the book is that people will realize just how important the playoffs have been to the advancement of high school football in the state of Kansas. More players are recognized and recruited nationally than ever before.”
In the first year of the postseason, the KSHSAA endured three games that would forever change the way the playoff system was conducted. The Shawnee Mission North-Shawnee Mission South Sunflower League championship game proved to be the pivot point that eventually led to the elimination of what was called the tiebreaker “penetration” rule, where any playoff game that ended in a deadlock at the end of regulation would be broken by determining the team that had the most offensive penetration drives inside the opponent’s 5-yard line. That SM North earned the win by a 1-0 score will go down as historic after the two rivals played to a 0-0 standoff, eventually setting up the Indians for the first state championship victory over Wichita North.
That game, and two other playoff games, one a state championship battle, used the tiebreaker in the first year. Two years later, the penetration tiebreaker was abandoned and the 10-yard-line rule that had been the original fourth tiebreaker, became the singular system for overtimes for the next 48 years. What has become known as the “Kansas Rule,” is now utilized in 35 states and was modified and adopted by the NCAA, using the 25-yard-line as its starting point for teams.
Interviews with administrators, members of the KCA, the ad hoc committee that was charged with designing a system that would have widespread approval, are all included in this first-of-a-kind book produced by the KSHSAA. A behind-the-scenes look from KSHSAA administrators on how the playoffs have evolved through five decades will bring to light the many challenges that have seen extensive changes to the system from the first two years where only a few teams qualified for the playoffs. Today, every team has a chance to make its way through the playoffs in hopes of playing on that special Championship Saturday after Thanksgiving each November.
Nineteen chapters will tell the story of many of the state’s elite programs, focusing on legendary coaches, and players who played their way into the hearts of gridiron fans across the state. When the final page has been turned, the high school football fan will have a much better understanding of what and how the football playoffs have impacted Kansas communities, fans, schools, administrators, coaches and especially the players.
Chapter 1 – A Prelude to the 1969 Kansas playoff system
Chapter 2 – In the Beginning: Shawnee Mission North and the 1-0 1969 game
Chapter 3 – Shawnee Mission North: The Dynasty Years
Sidebar: SM West’s Miracle Win Over SM South in 1981
Chapter 4 – Wichita-Kapaun Mt. Carmel-Southeast City League Battles
Chapter 5 – Silver Lake and C.J. Hamilton’s Class 3A Dominance
Sidebar: The War on 24 – Silver Lake vs. RossvilleChapter 6 – Lawrence Lions’ Decade of Dominance
Chapter 7 – Our Boys: The Story of Smith Center’s Dynasties
Chapter 8 – Topeka’s Shining Moments: Washburn Rural/Hayden Titles
Chapter 9 – Salina Rides High: Central and South’s Big Runs of the 1990s, 2000s.
Chapter 10 – Hutchinson’s Record of 6 Straight State Championships
Chapter 11 – Legendary Coaches Reflect on State Titles
Chapter 12 – Dominance the theme in Eight-Man Divisions
Chapter 13 – Wichita City League, Derby Resurgence of the 2010s
Sidebar: Bishop Carroll’s Dusty Trail Has Special Championship Memories
Chapter 14 – Tom Young: In a League of His Own
Chapter 15 – Baldwin’s Merle Venable and the 1981 Class 4A Title
Chapter 16 – Elite Players Recall Championship Saturdays
Chapter 17 – Championship Saturday and Mother Nature
Chapter 18 – Sports Writers Recall Special Moments
Chapter 19 – The Evolution of the KSHSAA Playoff System
A six-month process of collecting playoff game scores for all 50 years, including game statistics for all state championships for all classes has allowed for the compilation of the most extensive records of the KSHSAA football playoffs. Which school owns the most championships? Who is the coach that has captured the most titles? How many coaches have won championships at different schools? The reader will find it all here in The Record Book.
The Record Book
State Championship Teams – Alphabetical List of Schools/Years Won
Most State Championships Won by Schools
Most Consecutive State Championships Won
Most Consecutive State Championship Games Played
Most State Championship Game Appearances
Highest Winning Percentage by Schools in State Championship Games
Schools That Met in Consecutive State Championship Games
Year-by-Year State Championship Game Results
Year-by-Year State Championship Sites
KSHSAA Playoff Appearances – Alphabetical Listing by School
Most Playoff Victories
Year-by-Year State Champion and Runner-Up Team Records
Overtime Games by Classification
Undefeated State Champions
Longest Winning Streaks of Playoff Era
Year-by-Year Playoff Scores (1969 to 2018)
Championship Game Statistics (All Classes)
15 Team Categories
20 Individual Categories
Kansas Preps to the NFL
What stories of the playoffs that are not told here, are still etched in the memories of players, fans, coaches, officials who witnessed them.
Many of those are re-told year after year, embellishing the greatness of teams and players of another generation who came and played before. This book does not tell every single story of every single school of every single year, but it does capture the essence of five decades of playoff football.
“Under the Lights: 50 Years of KSHSAA Football Playoffs,” is a must read for any high school football fan in Kansas and beyond.