Tonight’s Missouri district playoff games and Kansas regional playoff games
1 Will anything prevent a Blue Springs-Rockhurst rematch next week?
In the third week of the season, Blue Springs had its way with Rockhurst in a two-touchdown victory. The Hawklets, though, have played some of the best football in the state during a seven-game winning streak, while Blue Springs has lost only one game this season. The teams appear destined to meet a week from today with a district title on the line, but Liberty and Raymore-Peculiar would like to disrupt those plans. Liberty will travel to Blue Springs for a rematch of a Sept. 21 loss. It played Blue Springs tough for a half in that matchup before the Wildcats pulled away late in the third quarter. Raymore-Peculiar is certainly no slouch. It will take an impressive 7-3 mark into tonight’s game with Rockhurst.
2 Mill Valley faces test of legitimacy
Just how good is Mill Valley? That’s perhaps the most intriguing question that will be answered tonight in Kansas Class 6A and 5A. The Jaguars’ track record the last four postseasons isn’t stellar. In 2008, a one-loss Mill Valley team opened with a win against Sumner Academy before running into Bubba Starling and Gardner Edgerton in the quarterfinals, the first of four straight playoff losses. A year later, St. Thomas Aquinas dispatched the Jags in the first round. Losses to Shawnee Heights teams with losing records followed the next two seasons. But Mill Valley, 8-1, seems to be a different team. The Jags devastated the Kaw Valley League and haven’t been seriously threatened since a season-opening loss to Class 6A power Manhattan. Hosting a hyper-talented but underachieving 4-5 Bishop Miege squad, Mill Valley can prove it’s ready to be a postseason force.
3 How much better are the Hawks?
Teams change over time and nobody hopes that is more true than Olathe East, 5-4, which rides a four-game win streak into the Class 6A playoffs tonight against SM East, 7-2, at the College Boulevard Activity Center. The Hawks — whose rallying cry all season has been “State for Nate,” in honor of Nate Trinkle (He died in a July car accident.) — got rocked 41-21 on Oct. 5 by the Lancers but have been playing much better defense and more efficient offense ever since. Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas, 8-1; Lawrence Free State, 8-1; and SM West, 8-1, are simply trying to avoid massive upsets against Lansing, 3-6; Olathe North, 3-6; and BV Northwest, 5-4, respectively.
4 Undersized Lawrence must adjust, stop Wrench
Lawrence Free State provided the formula for bottling up Brad Strauss and a potent Lawrence offense last week — clog the middle and set the edges wide against the undersized Chesty Lions. Of course, Strauss and company, who went 7-2 this season, undoubtedly worked on some countermeasures during the week and hope to be more effective and explosive tonight against streaking Gardner Edgerton, 6-3, which has won five in a row entering its first-ever Class 6A playoff game. That still leaves the problem of stopping Trailblazers junior Traevohn Wrench, who hasn’t rushed for fewer than 190 yards over the last seven weeks and topped 300 yards in all three district wins.
5 Centennial League surprises?
The last few years, the Centennial League flexed its muscle in postseason play, which should have BV West, 7-2, and Blue Valley, 5-4, on high alert. The third-seeded Jaguars host Topeka-Seaman, 5-4, tonight at the BV District Activity Center and will be heavy favorites, powered by dual-threat quarterback Ryan Ralston and the EKL’s second-leading rusher, Conley Wilkins. That doesn’t mean BV West can relax, while coach Eric Driskell’s Tigers must find a way to fix a leaky run defense and get more physical at the point of attack or their season will end tonight at Shawnee Heights, 5-4.
| The Star’s Tod Palmer and Sam McDowell contributed to this report.