By ISAAC DEER
Seven Shawnee County high school football teams will continue their 2021 seasons on Friday with playoff contests.
Washburn Rural will host Free State in Class 6A, while Seaman will host Blue Valley Southwest and Shawnee Heights will travel to Mill Valley in 5A
Hayden will host Rock Creek in a 3A contest while Rossville will host Nemaha Central and Silver Lake will travel to St. Marys in 2A.
Cair Paravel will host Wichita Home School in a KCAA playoff game.
Here's a look at all seven games involving county schools:
FREE STATE (7-2) at WASHBURN RURAL (8-1)
FREE STATE -- This Free State offense has been a stellar unit under the leadership of coach Kevin Steward. The Firebirds have averaged 33.4 points a game this season. The Firebirds most notably defeated Mill Valley, 41-20, handing the Jaguars their only loss of the year. The last meeting between the Junior Blues and Firebirds was in 2016, with Free State taking a 17-14 victory.
WASHBURN RURAL -- The Junior Blues have one of the most complete teams in the area. The defense has allowed 20 or more points only once this season (Seaman). The offense is led by sophomore Branton DeWeese, who has excelled in his first season as the Junior Blues' quarterback. Sophomore JC Heim has been impressive at running back while senior Robby Bolin is a top-notch receiver for Rural, which earned a share of the Centennial League championship.
BLUE VALLEY SOUTHWEST (3-6) at SEAMAN (6-3)
BLUE VALLEY SOUTHWEST -- Similar to 2020, Blue Valley Southwest did not have a perfect regular-season record this year. Last year the Timberwolves finished the regular season 1-5 and this year they finished 2-6. The Timberwolves made a substantial playoff run last year, defeating Emporia and Seaman in the 5A playoffs before losing to powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. The Timberwolves returned some key starters that contributed to the playoff run last year, including Zach Atkins, Jake Laurie, and Aiden Morgan.
Atkins has hauled in 60 receptions with 785 yards and seven touchdowns this year. Atkins had a career game against Seaman in 2020 when he had seven receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Morgan is leading the team in solo tackles (43) and is second on the team in total tackles (72). Morgan had 13 total tackles in the postseason win against the Vikings last season. Two-way player Laurie is having a stellar season for the Timberwolves. Laurie is the team leader in total tackles (73) and has played a pivotal role in the Southwest ground game, carrying the ball 89 times for 420 yards, and scoring eight touchdowns. In last week’s contest against Leavenworth, Laurie carried the ball 21 times, for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Under center for Southwest is sophomore Dylan Dunn. Dunn took over the quarterback role after Tanner Curry graduated and despite not getting a single snap last year, Dunn has had a very productive season for the Timberwolves, throwing for 1,811 yards and 14 touchdowns and compiling a completion percentage of 62.1.
SEAMAN -- Despite injuries to key contributors, the Vikes finished the regular season campaign with a 5-3 record under first-year coach Jared Swafford and opened the playoffs with a 57-6 win over Emporia. Last season the Vikings were knocked out of the playoffs by Blue Valley Southwest in their first playoff game after finishing the regular season 7-1.
Seaman’s offense had 312 yards through the air and 134 yards on the ground in the rout over Emporia while the Viking defense had a season-high five sacks.
Leading the high-powered offense is senior quarterback Camden Barta, who has taken this Viking team under his wing after the departure of Reid Cowan. Barta has thrown for 1,911 yards and 21 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Barta totaled 405 all-purpose yards along with his five touchdowns in the victory over Emporia.
Viking receivers Casen Stallbaumer, PJ Vargas and Brody Gormley have been consistently breaking away from defensive coverage, combining for 99 receptions, 1,549 yards and 20 touchdowns on the year.
Seaman's running backs have been plagued by injuries this year, with sophomore Jack Bloom carrying much of the load in the last few games. The sophomore has carried the ball 59 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns.
When the Vikings have won this year, the defense has only allowed 5.3 points a game. Callen Barta leads the team in interceptions with five, while Braden Colley is the team leader in tackles with 66 stops and Bryson Vawter is right behind Colley with 64 tackles.
SHAWNEE HEIGHTS (5-4) at MILL VALLEY (8-1)
SHAWNEE HEIGHTS -- Senior running back Jarin Sanders has carried the ball 190 times for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns while senior quarterback Callan Carver has thrown for 1,031 yards, with Hayden Moore and Jacob Malcolm part of a productive receiving corps.
Over Heights' four-game winning streak, the T-Bird defense has only allowed a total of 27 points. \
MILL VALLEY -- Coach Joel Applebee has never had a losing season with the Jaguars. Applebee has been Mill Valley's coach since 2010 and has three state titles on his resume. Junior quarterback Hayden Jay has a 4 to1 touchdown to interception ratio with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Jay has thrown for 1,618 yards while senior running back Reice Kennedy has carried the ball 114 times for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Mill Valley’s defense is led by Mikey Bergeron and Truman Griffith. Bergeron leads the Jaguars in tackles (63) while Griffith leads the team with seven sacks.
ROCK CREEK (6-3) at HAYDEN (8-1)
ROCK CREEK -- Rock Creek’s losses on the year were against teams who are still alive in the postseason. The lowest point total the Mustangs have put up this year was 14 against undefeated Rossville. Rock Creek won its first playoff game last Friday against Bishop Ward, 34-17. Coach Shane Sieben has led this team to success this year with a young team. Quarterback Dalton Whitworth is well over the 2,000-yard and 30-touchdown mark for the Mustangs this year. Whitworth broke the school record for yards and touchdowns, while Ethan Burgess, Yanci Spiller and Daegan Vinduska are key receivers.
HAYDEN -- Hayden's lone loss came against 5A Seaman. Hayden had its way with Hiawatha last Friday night in a 49-0 romp. The Wildcats rushing attack has been solid all year and ran for 334 yards against Hiawatha behind the Wildcats' talented offensive line. The Wildcats had one close victory this year, defeating Bishop Ward, 31-28. In Hayden’s other victories, the Wildcats have blown opponents out by a 346-60 total. Quarterback Gavin Arnold and backs JC Cummings and TL Thompson have been solid for Hayden.
NEMAHA CENTRAL (7-2) at ROSSVILLE (9-0)
NEMAHA CENTRAL -- Coach Michael Glatczak has led Nemaha Central to a 7-2 record in his first season. The Thunder are currently on a four-game winning streak, taking decisive wins over Maur Hill Prep, Riverside, Republic County and Pleasant Ridge. Nemaha Central put up an astounding 207 points in just that four-game span.
ROSSVILLE -- In the last three meetings between these two teams, Rossville has won two out of the three. The one loss propelled Nemaha Central to defeat Norton in the 2019 state championship game. After winning the state championship in 2020, Rossville is hungry for another title, which would be the Bulldawgs' fifth state title since 2014.
Rossville has had to go without star quarterback Torrey Horak the last two and half weeks after Horak suffered an upper-body injury during the Silver Lake victory. Corey Catron has stepped in for the Bulldawgs in a big way after switching from running back. Catron helped lead his team to victory in a back and forth contest against Silver Lake three weeks ago and has led Rossville to victories the past two games by a 107-6 margin.
Rossville is a ground and pound team, but they have found production from its receivers. Kade Perine leads the team in receiving yards with 380 and Tagen Kipps is second on the team with 205 yards. Despite Catron’s ability to get the job done through the air, he has had an impactful season on the ground. Catron has carried the ball 105 times for 788 yards and 15 touchdowns.
SILVER LAKE (7-2) at ST. MARYS (5-3)
ST. MARYS -- The Bears opened their season with tough games against stalwarts Riley County, Silver Lake and Rossville. The Riley County loss was by a field goal, Silver Lake’s win was determined by one point, and Rossville had their second closest win margin of the year against the Bears. After the Week 3 loss against Rossville, the Bears haven't lost again. They have currently won five in a row. In the five-game streak, the Bears have put up 228 points on the board. The defense has only allowed 31 points.
SILVER LAKE -- The 7-2 Eagles' two losses against Riley County and Rossville were determined by a touchdown. The air attack provided by Daigan Kruger and Co. has been scorching hot. Kruger has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,592 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Receivers Gannon Remer and Kamryn Kaniper have a combined 645 yards with 14 touchdowns. The air attack last week against Pleasant Ridge was the best passing display for the Eagles all year -- 261 passing yards spread around with five touchdowns.
EIGHT-MAN KCAA PLAYOFFS
WICHITA HOME SCHOOL (4-3) vs. CAIR PARAVEL LATIN (9-0)
At Highland Park
WICHITA HOME SCHOOL -- Wichita has found its stride lately, winning hree straight games, including a 40-29 win over Kansas City East Christian Academy. Wichita is 3-1 on the road this year.
CAIR PARAVEL -- Undefeated Cair Paravel faced Wichita Home School back on September 10, taking a 50-0 win as Wichita was unable to get a single first down on the Lion defense. Senior quarterback Carter Brian completed 71.4 percent of his passes along with three touchdowns. Evan Will had 77 rushing yards along with three touchdowns. Special teams played a big factor in the 50-point victory as Max Colombo had five returns for 233 yards.
Cair Paravel has outscored KCAA opponents, 494-58 while Brian is having a historically great year. He’s thrown 42 touchdowns without an interception. Brian has put up 1,758 yards with a quarterback rating of 152.5.
Noah Hastert, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound tight end, has 35 receptions for 667 yards and 18 touchdowns. Jachin Bonura, Simon Everhart and Max Colombo have also been torching defenses all year, combining for 958 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns.
The defense for the Lions has been as stellar as well. The defense is led by Ian Brian, Noah Collins and Hastert and has compiled 22 team sacks, 11 interceptions and 69 tackles for loss.