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It’s the penultimate week of the 2019 high school football regular season, and league titles and playoff seedings are still very much up for grabs in this week’s critical matchups. Let’s dive in to the six games involving city squads this Friday night…

EMPORIA (4-2) at TOPEKA HIGH (5-1)
Hummer Sports Park, Topeka
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Entering the final two weeks of the season, these two teams are involved in a four-way tie atop the Centennial League, so this will be an elimination game of sorts. Topeka High has won the last seven games in this series, but that winning streak needed a last second field goal in last season’s 27-26 victory at Emporia to remain alive. Trojan star Ky Thomas became the city’s all-time leading rusher last week and will once again be counted on to carry the load offensively against an experienced and physical Spartan defense that has allowed the fifth fewest points in all of class 5A. The Spartans starters will be well rested after getting most of the night off against Highland Park last week, so they should have plenty in the tank to bring the fight to the Trojans in what should be another tight one.

KEY TO THE GAME: The Trojans thrive on the big play on offense, but they don’t live and die by it. It’s gonna be hard to come by against the excellent Emporia defense. Grinding out drives and conversions on third down will be critical for Topeka High throughout the night.

HAYDEN (6-0) at PERRY-LECOMPTON (3-3)
Mason Brunton Field, Perry

The Wildcats weren’t challenged in a win over Bishop Ward last week, but they’re in for a fight tonight against a stubborn Kaws squad who pushed Jeff West to the limit in an 8-3 loss in their most recent game. Perry-Lecompton’s three losses are to three of class 3A’s best teams (Sabetha, Holton, Jeff West) and they were competitive in all three games, so they’re better than their record. Hayden beat the Kaws 20-0 last year and will look for a repeat performance this year to all but secure a 3A District 3 top seed entering the postseason.

KEY TO THE GAME: Perry-Lecompton’s fine quarterback William Welch is a threat with his arm as much as with his legs. Pressure from the edges from the likes of Desmond Purnell, Trey Pivarnik and Jayden Rainer will be pivotal for Hayden.

HIGHLAND PARK (0-6) at WASHBURN RURAL (1-5)
Bowen-Glaze Stadium, Topeka

Washburn Rural showed a great deal of improvement in their 42-28 loss to Topeka High last week. With Cooper Carlgren finding his footing as a passer and a runner and the offensive line starting to gel, the Junior Blues look like a team who can score enough to compete with anybody they face once the 6A postseason rolls around. First, though, they want to string wins together in the regular season to improve their seeding. For the Scots, tonight isn’t about winning, but rather about improving on offense and defense to keep the final score more respectable than it has been in recent weeks.

KEY TO THE GAME: Highland Park hasn’t been shut out all season, something they haven’t been able to say at the end of a campaign since 2012. It’s a particular point of pride for a group of players that is playing for just that as their season winds down, and they’ll try and catch Rural off guard with a fast tempo to continue that streak.

SEAMAN (2-4) at JUNCTION CITY (5-1)
Al Simpler Stadium, Junction City

The Vikings snapped a four-game skid with a 45-6 win over Topeka West last week and in doing so showed what they must do moving forward to be competitive: be physical in the running game, balanced with a passing threat, and create turnovers on defense. They’ll hope for another quality outing from Reid Cowan under center, as he’s coming off one of his best games of the season, and Nathan Zeferjahn running hard between the tackles. Junction City is licking their wounds after a last-second loss to Manhattan in the Silver Trophy game last week, and they’ll look to bounce back with their own balanced offensive attack.

KEY TO THE GAME: Seaman’s defense has to do a good job setting the edge on running and passing plays so that talented running back Russell Wilkey can’t turn the corner and Andrew Khoury has to make contested throws when he rolls the pocket.

SHAWNEE HEIGHTS (3-3) at DE SOTO (6-0)
De Soto

The T-Birds are flying high with two straight wins, and their defense has been the catalyst for that success. With leaders like Reid Holthaus and Timirance Adams in the front seven, Heights has allowed just 28 total points in their three victories this year and kept Leavenworth off the scoreboard after the opening quarter in their 10-7 road win last week. Their task gets taller this week against an unbeaten Wildcat squad that is averaging over 47 points per game and allowing less than 10. De Soto can clinch the outright United Kansas Conference championship with a win.

KEY TO THE GAME: Underdogs need big, explosive plays to win games, and the connection between Hunter Wohler and Brayden Zirkle has proven to be a source of those splashy scoring plays for the T-Birds. If they hook up for a long TD early, it will serve notice to the Wildcats.

TOPEKA WEST (1-5) at MANHATTAN (5-1)
Bishop Stadium, Manhattan

The Chargers are an injury-riddled bunch heading west on I-70 for this one, and might be without the player who provided the most promising spark in last week’s game, freshman running back Xavier Alexander, who rushed for over 100 yards in his varsity debut against Seaman but is dealing with a minor injury. That will put more onus on freshman quarterback Malachi Berg to push the ball down the field and put up enough points to keep up with Manhattan’s dynamic offense.

KEY TO THE GAME: The Indians will look to pound the ball with B.J. Young against a struggling Charger defense, but West has some size and experience on the defensive line, and if that group can hold up and make some plays, they could force Manhattan into some uncomfortable third downs.

And elsewhere in the 580 Preps coverage area tonight…

Bishop Ward (0-6) at Santa Fe Trail (3-3)
Burlingame (4-2) at Madison (6-0)
Burlington (3-3) at Osawatomie (1-5)
Centralia (5-1) at Wabaunsee (1-5)
Chase County (3-3) at Valley Falls (1-5)
Clay Center (3-3) at Rock Creek (2-4)
Council Grove (2-4) at Rossville (4-2)
Hiawatha (0-6) at Royal Valley (0-6)
Holton (4-2) at Marysville (6-0)
Jackson Heights (4-2) at JCN (4-2)
Jeff West (5-1) at Wellsville (3-3)
Lawrence (6-0) at Olathe North (5-1)
Lyndon (6-0) at Troy (2-4)
McLouth (0-6) at Central Heights (0-6)
Mission Valley (2-4) at St. Marys (1-5)
Riley County (4-2) at Southeast of Saline (5-1)
Sabetha (5-1) at Wamego (5-1)
Shawnee Mission East (2-4) at Free State (5-1)
Silver Lake (6-0) at Osage City (4-2)
West Franklin (1-5) at Oskaloosa (2-4)


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