Esch KSHSFB Index | Quarterfinals recap and state semifinal projections for all 6-4A teams
The quarterfinals of the Kansas high school football playoffs are in the books and the Esch Index predicted the winner of 11 games correctly and one incorrectly. That’s an accuracy of 91.7% and brings the season average to 75.9%.
Week 12/Semifinal projections
Last season, the Index projected the correct winner in five of the six state semifinal matchups.
The 6A West final features a Week 1 rematch between top-seeded Manhattan and second-seeded Derby. The Indians are projected to defeat the Panthers again, this time by a point less than they did so earlier this season.
The 5A West final features a rematch of one of last season’s quarterfinal matchups. Maize is projected to defeat Hays once again, clinching its second straight state final appearance. The 5A East final features the defending state champion (Mill Valley) and a newcomer in 11th-seeded Blue Valley Southwest.
4A East is an all-private school final, while the 4A West final features two different teams from last season. St. Thomas Aquinas and Wamego are projected to meet in the state final.
The full slate:
Olathe Northwest 14 @ Gardner-Edgerton 24
Brett’s Pick: Gardner-Edgerton to win, Olathe Northwest to cover
For my money, this is the toughest semifinal matchup to pick out of this entire slate. Gardner-Edgerton had its ups and downs during the regular season just as Olathe Northwest did, and both of these squads are flying with confidence. As the Index suggests, Gardner-Edgerton’s defense will be the difference, but Olathe Northwest will do enough to stay within the 10-point spread.
Derby 33 @ Manhattan 35
Brett’s Pick: Manhattan to win and cover
An injury to Derby’s starting quarterback, Brock Zerger, throws this one in Manhattan’s favor in a matchup that would otherwise be a straight toss-up. The senior made nearly (if not the same) damage on the ground as Notre Dame-pledge running back Dylan Edwards this season. But now, Derby is one-dimensional — and that’s enough for Manhattan to clinch a trip to state.
Blue Valley Southwest 20 @ Mill Valley 35
Brett’s Pick: Mill Valley to win and cover
Blue Valley Southwest has taught me a valuable lesson with its playoff run: never underestimate the Eastern Kansas League effect (thanks, Adam Sullivan). And while it’s been fun — albeit frustrating — to watch, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Blue Valley Southwest can keep up with juggernaut Mill Valley. The defending state champions will head back to Pittsburg with a three-score victory.
Hays 25 @ Maize 30
Brett’s Pick: Maize to win and cover
After watching the Hays ground game and defense in person, it’s easy to see why it’s rolled so many opponents this season. However, I’m a firm believer that Maize is the best team in Kansas — and likely the only one in 5A that can contain (or even stop) that Hays rushing attack. The front seven and passing attack for Maize will overwhelm Hays, setting up a rematch for the 5A state title.
St. Thomas Aquinas 35 @ Bishop Miege 31
Brett’s Pick: St. Thomas Aquinas to win, Bishop Miege to cover
Bishop Miege won this matchup in the regular season, but it just feels like St. Thomas Aquinas has kicked it into a different gear at the right time, especially after avenging the regular-season loss to St. James Academy last week. It’ll be a back-and-forth affair and Bishop Miege will keep it within the four-point spread, but St. Thomas Aquinas will keep the home squad at arm’s length.
McPherson 28 @ Wamego 35
Brett’s Pick: Wamego to win, McPherson to cover
Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve been a staunch Wamego believer throughout these playoffs. I’m also a believer in the Index, so this pick works out perfectly. McPherson’s only loss is to 6A Junction City and I expect the road team to occasionally lead Wamego throughout the night. But, in the end, this just seems to be the year for quarterback Hayden Oviatt — and his team will find a way to win.