It’s finally time for football! After weeks of practice, teams across Topeka and the state of Kansas get to line up against somebody in a different colored uniform and do some hitting as the 2017 season gets underway tonight. Each week, I’ll do a short preview of each city contest, including our Game of the Week. For the first week of games, that’s the matchup at Hummer Sports Park between Hayden and Topeka High.
HAYDEN (0-0, 0-0 Centennial League) at TOPEKA HIGH (0-0, 0-0) (LIVE ON COUNTRY LEGENDS 106.9 FM)
Game In A Sentence: Two programs with lofty goals for 2017 link up for what should be an intriguing contrast of styles on offense.
Matchup To Watch: HAYDEN LINEBACKERS vs TOPEKA HIGH RB KY THOMAS. After a brilliant freshman campaign, Thomas is geared up for an encore behind one of, if not the best offensive lines in the Centennial League. Hayden’s linebackers must be gap-sound and sure tacklers tonight, and the good news for them is that in Brent Peavler and Brandon VanBecelaere they have two outstanding and heady players who always seem to find themselves around the ball.
Did You Know: Both of these teams are ranked in the Sports In Kansas Super 25 preseason poll. The Trojans are 15th and the Wildcats rank 21st.
TOPEKA WEST (0-0, 0-0) at SEAMAN (0-0, 0-0)
Game In A Sentence: A new era of Charger football begins against a Viking squad that leapt to new heights under a new head coach in 2016.
Matchup To Watch: TOPEKA WEST WR CHRIS ELLIS vs SEAMAN DEFENSE. Ellis is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the city and new head coach Ryan Kelly will want to get the ball in his hands as often as possible. He’ll be a challenge for a Viking defense that lost seven starters from last season.
Did You Know: Topeka West’s last winning season came when Kelly was a senior starter at QB in 2005. The Chargers went 5-4 that year and haven’t won more than three games in a season since.
HIGHLAND PARK (0-0, 0-0) at WASHBURN RURAL (0-0, 0-0)
Game In A Sentence: Rural hopes to build on a breakout 2016 campaign starting with their home opener against a Scots team fighting to be competitive.
Matchup To Watch: HIGHLAND PARK QB JAISHAUN SPICER vs WASHBURN RURAL FRONT SEVEN. Scots coach Faron Kraft believes Spicer has the mental toughness needed to have a good season under center for his squad. He’ll face a stern test against Rural’s stout defensive front, anchored at linebacker by Jack Hamilton.
Did You Know: Washburn Rural is hoping for back-to-back seasons of 6+ wins for the first time since 1995-96. They went 7-4 last year.
MANHATTAN (0-0, 0-0) at SHAWNEE HEIGHTS (0-0, 0-0)
Game In A Sentence: Last year’s Centennial League champs head to Tecumseh to begin the T-Birds final season in the league.
Matchup To Watch: MANHATTAN QB TALON CLAUSSEN vs SHAWNEE HEIGHTS DL CADE HOLMES. Claussen makes his first start, filling the shoes of the outstanding Ian Trapp under center for the Indians. Holmes is the standout on the line for a T-Bird defense that hopes to frustrate Claussen into mistakes.
Did You Know: A Jason Swift-coached Shawnee Heights team has never beaten Manhattan (0-11).