By Blake Chadwick
After a season unlike any others, this last week of playoff high school football provided some normalcy as Derby, Wichita Northwest, Arkansas City, Andale and Hanover returned to state title games.
Derby is still dominant.
Despite losing two regular season games, including its first AVCTL loss since 2014. Despite two canceled games due to Covid-19
But the Panthers (8-2) proved Friday they weren’t done writing their chapter of the Derby legacy by advancing to the Class 6A title game with a 62-27 win over Junction City. The Panthers ended Junction City’s nine-game winning streak.
Coming into the game against Junction City, the Panthers knew that if they wanted to win, they would have to throw the first punch, and that is exactly what the Panthers did.
Except the Panthers also kept their foot on the necks of the Bluejays like so many Derby teams of the past.
“We knew that if we brought the intensity, the rest would take care of itself,” senior quarterback Lem Wash said.
The dangerous backfield of Wash and sophomore Dylan Edwards continued to wreak havoc for opposing teams as the two got onto Junction City early.
Edwards scored the first touchdown after the Derby defense forced a Bluejay punt.
Wash ran for four touchdowns and threw for one. He had 265 rushing yards on 32 carries while also completing 7 of 11 passes for 120 yards.
Edwards also had himself a day as he had four touchdowns again, adding a few more exclamation points to his stellar sophomore season. He finished with 252 rushing yards.
“It feels unreal man. This team has been through so much adversity and for us to be going where we are going is amazing,” Wash said about returning to the state championship game.
This win against Junction makes it six straight championship appearances, and a potential three-peat on the way.
The Panthers will play the Blue Valley North Mustangs (7-2) on Nov. 28 at Olathe’s College Boulevard Activity Center. Derby’s lone loss in the title game in the past eight seasons was to BV North in 2017.
In the 5A playoff bracket, the Wichita Northwest Grizzlies faced off against their west-side rivals, the Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles.
The game lived up to its hype as the Grizzlies (10-0) beat Carroll 41-21 to advance to their third straight Class 5A title game.
But early in the game, they found themselves down 14-0 to the Eagles.
The Grizzlies needed some production quickly.
“We started to trust each other and play fast. We knew that if we played to our abilities we would pull out with the win,” senior safety Todric McGee said.
And trusting each other is exactly what the Grizzlies did.
With the score tied at 21 at the half, Northwest scored 20 points and shut out Carroll.
The Grizzlies walked proud into the middle of the field for their celebration.
“This means a lot to me,” McGee said. “To get to play one last game with my brothers after we thought we wouldn’t have a season is a great feeling.”
The focus now is to win that ring.
Northwest will play the Mill Valley Jaguars (8-2) on Nov. 28 at Pittsburg State. Mill Valley beat Northwest in 2019.
Arkansas City finished the regular season 2-6 but is on its way to the Class 4A state championship game after edging McPherson 28-27. It’s Ark City’s first title game since 1986.
The Ark City Bulldogs (6-6) have won four straight and are red hot.
Ark City’s Wyatt Bahm scored the final two touchdowns of the game, including a 56-yard rushing touchdown. Bahm and the Bulldogs took McPherson, the favorites, down to the wire.
Devon Watkins sealed the win with the game-winning interception on the five-yard line with 2.5 seconds to go.
Ark City will play St. James Academy (7-4) on Nov. 27 at Gowans Stadium in Hutchinson. St. James beat Bishop Miege in overtime. Miege had won six straight state titles.
Andale goes to work again in Class 3A as the Indians dismantled the Spartans on their way to a 49-0 victory and will look to win their second straight title.
Andale’s Eli Rowland rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns, as he also returned two punts for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Noah Meyer added two rushing and a passing touchdown to balance out Rowland’s workload.
The Indians (11-0) will play Perry-Lecompton (11-1) in the 3A state championship game on Nov. 28 at Gowans Stadium in Hutchinson.
Rossville (12-0) will take on Hoisington (12-0) for the Class 2A state championship game on Nov. 28 at Salina District Stadium. Hoisington beat Beloit 26-0 to advance to its first title game.
Olpe will take on Oakley on Nov. 28 at Fort Hays State in the Class 1A state title game.
Little River will face Leoti on Nov. 28 at Newton’s Fischer Field for the 8-man I state championship game. Little River is playing in its 10th championship game but first in 19 seasons.
Hanover and St. Francis will also square off in the battle of unbeatens in the 8-man II state title game on Nov. 28 at Newton’s Fischer Field. Hanover has won five championships.
Derby 62, Junction City 27
BV North 30, Olathe North 20
Derby (8-2) vs. BV North (7-2)
Title game: Nov. 28 at College Boulevard Activity Center, Olathe
Wichita Northwest 41, Bishop Carroll 21
Mill Valley 41, St. Thomas Aquinas 7
Wichita Northwest (10-0) vs. Mill Valley (8-2)
Title game: Nov. 28 at Pittsburg State
Arkansas City 28, McPherson 27
St. James 36, Bishop Miege 35, OT
St. James Academy (7-4) vs. Arkansas City (6-6)
Title game: Nov. 27 at Gowans Stadium, Hutchinson
Andale 49, Wichita Collegiate 0
Perry-Lecompton 22, Holton 9
Perry-Lecompton (11-1) vs. Andale (11-0)
Title game: Nov. 28 at Gowans Stadium, Hutchinson
Hoisington 26, Beloit 0
Rossville 31, Nemaha Central 19
Rossville (12-0) vs. Hoisington (12-0)
Title game: Nov. 28 at Salina District Stadium
Oakley 9, Inman 0
Olpe 14, Lyndon 12
Olpe (12-0) vs. Oakley (10-2)
Title game: Nov. 28 at Fort Hays State
Little River 48, Madison-Hamilton 24
Leoti 58, Hoxie 6
Little River (10-2) vs. Leoti (12-0)
Title game: Nov. 28 at Fischer Field, Newton
Hanover 74, Frankfort 26
St. Francis 44, Victoria 22
Hanover (10-0) vs. St. Francis (11-0)
Title game: Nov. 28 at Fischer Field, Newton