While this is the second round and regional playoffs for some, there are a lot of Butler County teams still involved, five if when include Remington. The Broncos have a tough game, as do most of the teams this week.
There’s a unique opportunity brewing in Butler County. If all four remaining teams can win, we’ll have an all-county quarterfinals between Augusta-Rose Hill and El Dorado-Andover Central. Now, that would be a wild time.
Arkansas City (3-6) at Andover Central (7-1)
Massey Ratings point spread and over/under: Central -21.5; O/U 45.5
The Jaguars took care of business last week as they dispatched of Great Bend with ease. While they get a little tougher opponent, it’s nothing the Jaguar defense can handle, as they did two weeks ago 37-6 in Ark City.
"Playing a team twice in one year is tough, and beating a team twice in one season is very challenging," Andover Central head coach Derek Tuttle said. "Ark City is very well coached, and they’ll certainly present some wrinkles that will challenge our team."
It’s been about the defense this season. While last year it was Xavier Bell and Matt Macy catching all over everyone, this season it’s been about the defense and many different players have stepped up.
"We have a number of kids who started as underclassmen last year on defense," Tuttle said. "The experience and development has helped our defense move towards consistency and balance."
They’ve done so by becoming the best rush defense in Class 5A, only allowing 69.1 yards per game. The next closest is allowing 100 yards.
Gabe Welch leads the Ark City Bulldogs in passing, which they’ll do a lot of. He was a turnover bug in their loss two weeks ago to Central. We may see more of that in this one.
Central has not allowed an opponent to score in double digits since their 14-12 loss to Valley Center.
"The kids understand pretty well how we must be at our very best each week because other teams are going to bring everything possible," Tuttle said. "The Valley game was certainly a lesson in that regard, but I certainly compliment our seniors and leaders in the resolve that they’ve shown week in and week out."
Prediction: Andover Central 41, Arkansas City 7
Augusta (4-5) at McPherson (8-1)
Massey Ratings point spread and over/under: McPherson -27.5; 57.5
The Orioles are doing a lot while facing a lot of adversity and they know it but not making any excuses for it. That attitude is while they’ve advanced to the second round for the second straight season.
"I don't know if we’re doing anything other than preaching the never give up attitude," Augusta head coach Jason Filbeck said. "Doesn't matter how bad things get you still have a chance to fight."
They’ve made up for a rough start, rolling off some big wins, including last week’s 50-8 win over Ulysses. It is the first time Augusta has scored 50 points since beating Chanute 56-0 in 2016.
"I like that our kids are now embracing the idea that we have to beat people with a style that exudes toughness," Filbeck said.
They’ll have to do that if they’re going to topple McPherson on the road. The two met just two weeks ago with the Bullpups winning 32-14. It doesn’t help that Augusta is 0-6 all-time against McPherson.
"Last time we played Mac we did a good job defensively, until late in the game," Filbeck said. "What we need to fix is playing better offensively and kicking game to give our Defense a rest."
The game was close until late when McPherson used some big plays and made the margin of victory wider than the actual game.
"We hope to get those things fixed and be in another close battle," Filbeck said.
Jett Hand has been a large part of the comeback by Augusta. The senior has really started to look comfortable in the quarterback position. He has almost 300 yards of total offense last week in the win over Ulysses and gave any praise to his offensive line and teammates as a good quarterback would.
It is never tough to make a quarterback change but the Orioles made the change after the Coffeyville loss and went through some growing pains. Seven weeks later, Hand looks like he’s played the position for four years.
"Hand has done a good job managing the game and throws the ball pretty well," Filbeck said. "As we open up the passing game with Jett, we have flexibility to play Hunter [Anderson] at slot where he is thriving and on defense.
Anderson who caught a touchdown in the win over Ulysses has stepped up in multiple ways in other positions.
"He is a versatile kid who we need to get on the field," Filbeck said.
For now, Augusta will take their season on the line to McPherson and hopefully return for a win. With all of the injuries and everything this season, they know how tough they are.
"Would we like to have a time machine and start the season with a couple re-dos? Probably, but we are at least in the playoffs and we are a tough out for anyone we play," Filbeck said.
Prediction: McPherson 30, Augusta 20
Buhler (5-3) at Rose Hill (6-3)
Massey Ratings point spread and over/under: Buhler -5.5; 50.5
Don’t tell the Rose Hill Rockets they’ve won six in a row. All they care about is the next game coming up.
"Our goals at the beginning of the season were to go 1-0 every practice, every week, and every game and get a winning record and home playoff games," Rose Hill head coach Lee Weber said.
After beating rival Mulvane for the second time this season, they get another home game, something the Rockets haven’t experience in nine seasons. They are appreciative of even having home games, with all the restrictions going on.
"The home field advantage in the playoffs is tremendous even with COVID-19 attendance restrictions," Weber said.
For the Rockets, who started 0-3 it was about simplifying and taking it one day at a time. They needed that taste of winning. After almost beating Collegiate in Week 3, they were on the door step and since then, they’ve blown the door down and moved past it.
"This group needed a taste of winning so it became addictive," Weber said. "We are really cognizant of holding a standard of how we need to practice and play every day. Plus, our kids have been very adaptable and coachable."
There are issues with special teams. No, not actual issues but personnel issues as they may be without Teagan Cobb and Zach Hoang, their two kickers due to the state soccer tournament match taking place at the same time in Wichita.
"This will be one of the first games where we may have our full squad minus one season ending injury," Weber said. "We may be without our kickers Teagan Cobb and Zach Hoang."
Now, the Rockets will take all of their momentum, their win streak and their reward? The Buhler Crusaders.
"Buhler is definitely a high quality football team and a tradition rich program," Weber said. I think the obvious thing that they bring to the table is an ability to run the ball really well that Buhler mindset of having been in big playoff games before and expecting to win those."
Led by Sam Elliott, one of the state’s top rushers, regardless of class, Buhler doesn’t do a lot of things and they don’t care that you know. Coach Steve Warner has his game plan installed and the Crusaders are just going to to run it and run it again.
Elliott has rushed for 1,533 yards in eight games and has scored 24 touchdowns. He’s ran for at least 135 yards in every game but the first one, an 89-yard performance against Goddard.
While the lore of Buhler remains as they’ve been one of the best teams in the AVCTL for a decade or more, the Rockets are confidence and know they have more than just a chance to win this game.
That said, our players don't have a history with this team," Weber said. "So, we can go into this game not with some preconceived notion that they are ’better’ than we are."
Buhler is still beatable, too. They’ve lose three games this season and even Wellington, a team with a sub.-.500 record beat them by double digits only a couple of weeks ago.
"One thing that helps our kids is that we have seen Wellington beat Buhler on film," Weber said. "That game gives our guys some confidence in how you have to play to win against Buhler."
Prediction: Buhler 28, Rose Hill 26
Wamego (5-4) at El Dorado (5-2)
Massey Ratings point spread and over/under: Wamego -10.5; 51.5
The El Dorado Wildcats have been here before. It’s really nothing new to them, even this season with all of the positive articles written by multiple publications. They are still the underdog.
"We like being the underdog," El Dorado head coach Wes Bell said. "We’ve been there before and we know what it takes to win."
They do. They’ve been doing it all season as they’ve turned the momentum around for El Dorado football, that had seen two decades of unfortunate play. It’s fun to play good football and it has all started with their defense.
While Zach Wittenberg is garnering all the offensive spotlight, it’s the defense that has done it by a unit, not to say the offense hasn’t, but the defense is a different person night in and night out. Whether it is Dez Stitt, Connor Clausing, Gavin Bell, or a host of other players that have made big time plays all season long.
"Not sure we have one player on that side of the ball that really scares anyone as an individual player, but we have a UNIT of kids that play very hard and compete," Bell said.
That drive to compete has pushed El Dorado’s defense to the No. 2 defense in Class 4A. They allow only 206.6 yards per game, only five yards per game behind No. 1 Paola. El Dorado is sixth in passing and third in rushing.
Wamego is fully aware of their ability to stop the run and how good the Wildcat defense is. They provide a tough out for El Dorado.
The Wamego Red Raiders come into the game ranked sixth in rushing in Class 4A, rushing for 244.2 yards per game. Which in stark comparison to El Dorado’s 352.9 yards per game, is still tough.
They’ve done it playing some of the tougher opponents in the state, too. While you can only play who’s in front of you, they’ve done it by playing Paola, Bishop Miege, and Fort Scott, three top teams from the East side of the state.
"Our schedule is what it is, we play some tough teams but they have played a much tougher schedule facing both Paola and Bishop Miege," Bell said.
The Wildcats are ready for Wamego or should we just say Hayden Oviatt? The sophomore literally does it all for the Red Raiders. He accounts for 75 percent of their total offense.
Some opponents have tried to beat El Dorado by going over the top and Oviatt has the arm and the receivers to stretch the Wildcat defense.
"They have a very good offensive scheme,they play very hard on defense, and have some talented players on both sides of the ball," Bell said. "We will have to have our A-game for sure to match their skill."
Win or loss against Wamego, it’s a season of fun for El Dorado. They’ll leave it all on the field and leave no excuses when they win or lose.
Though, a win could send El Dorado into the quarterfinals and the town into a frenzy.
"We are enjoying every moment we get together, which is what is making this one of the funnest seasons of my career," Bell said.
Prediction: Wamego 21, El Dorado 20