Four weeks are in the books, and now the 6A and 5A schools begin the second halves of their seasons tonight as the sprint to the postseason begins. It’s a huge Week Five in the city, so let’s break down all the action…
TOPEKA HIGH (3-1, 3-1 Centennial League) at SHAWNEE HEIGHTS (4-0, 4-0) (LIVE ON COUNTRY 106.9)
Game In A Sentence: The upstart T-Birds can clinch at least a share of the league title on their home turf against the explosive Trojans.
Matchup To Watch: TOPEKA HIGH RB KY THOMAS vs SHAWNEE HEIGHTS RUN DEFENSE. Thomas was stifled in Topeka High’s loss at Manhattan last week, gaining just 47 yards on 20 carries. But he’s still the city’s rushing leader and he’ll be hoping to break out big tonight. It will be up to Heights’ line, led by Cade Holmes, and their standout linebacker corps of Dane Terry, Tanner Buckley and Tyce Brown to slow down the super sophomore.
Did You Know: Topeka High has won seven of the last eight in this series, but most years, the games are close, including the Trojans’ last-minute 32-28 win last year.
HAYDEN (2-2, 2-2) at WASHBURN RURAL (1-3, 1-3)
Game In A Sentence: Both teams look for a momentum boost to start the second half of their seasons in one of the city’s best rivalries.
Matchup To Watch: HAYDEN WR/FS DESHAWN HANIKA vs WASHBURN RURAL WR PRESTON WILLIAMS. OK, to be fair, this isn’t exactly a head-to-head matchup, though Hanika will see plenty of Williams from the opposite side when the Wildcat senior takes snaps at safety. But these are the two best receivers in the city, with Williams exploding the last two weeks as he develops rapport with quarterback Michael Schurig. If this one ends up tight, explosive plays could be the difference, and these are the two most likely sources.
Did You Know: Rural has won three of the last four against Hayden, a sharp departure from 1997 through 2012 when the Wildcats took fourteen in a row from the Junior Blues.
SEAMAN (3-1, 3-1) at MANHATTAN (3-1, 3-1)
Game In A Sentence: It’s a league title race elimination game as the Vikings look to bounce back against the rapidly improving Indians.
Matchup To Watch: SEAMAN QB KOBE JONES vs MANHATTAN PASS DEFENSE. The Indians have gotten better against the run as the season has progressed, as evidenced by the job they did against Topeka High last week. But big plays are still there to be made against the secondary. Jones has shown promising arm talent at times for the Vikings, and if he can connect on some throws tonight, Seaman could turn those into large gains and points.
Did You Know: Forty has been a magic number for Manhattan – and a tragic number for Seaman. In the last three meetings the Indians have run up 40+ points on the Vikings in victories.
EMPORIA (1-3, 1-3) at TOPEKA WEST (0-4, 0-4)
Game In A Sentence: The offense has arrived for the Chargers; now they hope pair it with a stronger defensive outing against the Spartans.
Matchup To Watch: TOPEKA WEST QB HUNTER MCDANIEL vs EMPORIA PASS DEFENSE. McDaniel has shown great improvement the last two weeks for the Chargers, throwing for five touchdown passes after Topeka West was held scoreless in their first two games. If he can continue to show progress with his growing corps of reliable targets, the Chargers can score enough to hang in the game.
Did You Know: West’s last win over Emporia came in 2005, when current West head coach Ryan Kelly was the starting quarterback.
JUNCTION CITY (2-2, 2-2) at HIGHLAND PARK (0-4, 0-4)
Game In A Sentence: The Scots hope to show some growth on both sides of the ball against the Blue Jays.
Matchup To Watch: HIGHLAND PARK QB WILL WHITE vs JUNCTION CITY DEFENSE. White has been the best offensive weapon for the Scots this season. Tonight, due to an injury, he’ll move to the quarterback spot and hope to keep the Blue Jay defense honest.
Did You Know: A Randall Zimmerman-coached Junction City team has never lost to Highland Park.