And then there were three. Only three city schools are still playing on following Week Nine’s action. The Trojans, T-Birds and Wildcats carry the banner for Topeka into the next round of games. We’ll preview them here, plus take a look at a bonus game we’ll be bringing you on the air on Saturday from Class 3A…
GARDEN CITY (7-2) at TOPEKA HIGH (8-1) (LIVE on Country 106.9)
Game In A Sentence: The Buffaloes make the long trek to battle the Trojans, who seek a return to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2013.
Key To The Game: Can the Buffaloes keep up? The Trojans come in averaging over 50 points per game and nearly 500 yards of total offense per contest. Garden City averages just 22 points per game, but with a pass-oriented offense led by senior quarterback Garret Doll, they have the potential to strike quickly. They’ll need to strike often unless their defense can do what no defense other than Manhattan’s has managed to do this season: keep Ky Thomas and company in check.
SHAWNEE HEIGHTS (7-2) at ST. JAMES ACADEMY (7-2)
Game In A Sentence: The T-Birds seek to keep their dream season alive.
Key To The Game: Can Shawnee Heights control the line of scrimmage? Thunder running back Jack Petz has carried for over 1100 yards this season. The T-Birds defense was strong against the run all season, led by stalwart defensive linemen Cade Holmes and Connor Hicks. If they can keep the Thunder from dominating possession, the Heights offense will get their own opportunity to move the ball with their own tough rushing attack.
PRAIRIE VIEW (5-4) at HAYDEN (5-4)
Game In A Sentence: Wildcats enter the postseason hot, hoping to duplicate last season’s run in the 4A-II playoffs.
Key To The Game: Can Hayden finish drives? The Wildcats didn’t have any trouble moving the ball against any of their district opponents, but left several points on the field when drives stalled out in the red zone. In the playoffs, the importance of each possession magnifies, so Hayden will have to get better as the field shrinks and make sure they cash in their scoring chances.
SILVER LAKE (10-0) at NEMAHA CENTRAL (10-0) (LIVE on 580 WIBW and FM News 104.9 – Saturday, 4 pm)
Game In A Sentence: A matchup worthy of a state final, the winner immediately becomes the favorite in Class 3A.
Key To The Game: How much does experience matter? Silver Lake is the most ‘been there, done that’ program in 3A, with their history of deep playoff runs and state titles under head coach CJ Hamilton. The Thunder are the upstarts, with last year’s run to a semifinal their deepest in a generation. That run included a win over Silver Lake, of course. It feels like it might be Nemaha Central’s time, but the Eagles will be out for revenge from last year with several returning starters on both sides.