No easy victories in Bobcats’ district
Throughout the state of Kansas this week, high school football teams will be fighting for their postseason lives in district matchups.
But the battle to advance to the playoffs might not get much tougher or more competitive than the one beginning Friday night right here in northeast Kansas.
Class 4A’s District 2 features four Kaw Valley League teams with postseason aspirations and the early-season success to bolster confidence. Basehor-Linwood, Bishop Ward, Piper and Tonganoxie all enter district play with winning records.
Their combined win-loss total: 19-5.
“It has to be one of the toughest if not the toughest districts in 4A this year,” said Bishop Ward coach Greg Duggins. “It’s hard to visualize any team having a distinct advantage over any other team as we enter the district.”
Piper coach Tom Radke said this season feels much different than 2008, when the same four schools fought for two playoff spots and Basehor-Linwood and Ward advanced.
“It is funny — last year our district was not very tough, but this year all four teams are deserving of making the playoffs,” Radke said. “All of us had young teams last year, and this year we all have some really good senior leaders.”
Indeed, talented upperclassmen have made each squad successful in 2009.
Basehor-Linwood (5-1) has a four-year starter at quarterback in senior Brandon Leppke, and junior linebacker Chandler King leads the team in tackles.
Bishop Ward (5-1) has two senior running backs — Cole Muder and Alex Orel — who have been eating up chunks of yardage and scoring touchdowns all season long. They are helped out by fellow seniors Dallas Shalz and Zach Beggs, who anchor both the offensive and defensive lines for the Cyclones.
For Piper (4-2) speedy senior quarterback Jasper Sanders gives opposing defensive coordinators nightmares as he is capable of breaking long runs for scores or hitting senior tight end Jamal Jarrett or senior wide receiver Mark Marshall, among others, with spirals. On the other side of the ball, senior defensive tackle Joe Bauswell anchors the Pirates’ line and senior free safety Russ Robinson makes plays in the secondary.
Although Tonganoxie’s biggest playmaker has been junior quarterback Jeremy Carlisle (16 rushing touchdowns, three passing scores), the Chieftains (5-1) also rely on some talented seniors. Running backs DJ Lindsay and Jeremie Maus bring speed and strength to the THS ground attack. Defensively, senior defensive linemen Jason Espeland and Dane Gonser lead the team in tackles for loss.
Tenth-year Tonganoxie coach Mark Elston said with so much talent between the teams there is no clear-cut favorite in the district and any of the four schools could come out on top when the regular season ends the last week of October. The competitiveness of all four teams, he added, should keep things interesting.
“If you win the first one, you know you need to win the next two to be district champs,” Elston said. “If you lose the first one, you still have a legit shot at being district champs because each team can knock off the others. There are no gimmies.”
Basehor-Linwood coach Steve Hopkins said with four talented, winning teams, any two could make it to the postseason.
“It is going to be tough, to be honest with you,” Hopkins said. “We will have four good teams in our district and all are basically 0-0. The playoffs start this week and step one is Friday.”
District play kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, when Tonganoxie travels to Basehor-Linwood and Bishop Ward plays host to Piper.
— Chris Wristen and Nick Bratkovic contributed to this report.