The Cheney Cardinals did it again. And remarkably, the sequel nearly replicated the original’s script.
Five weeks after digging out of a first-half hole to stun four-time reigning Class 3A champion Andale and end its 57-game winning streak, Cheney spotted the visiting Indians a 24-point lead in Friday’s 3A semifinal rematch. In front of an estimated crowd of 6,000, the top-ranked Cardinals rallied over the final 2½ quarters for a 28-24 victory to earn their first state championship berth.
Junior quarterback Josh Burdick’s 15-yard touchdown pass to senior Gavin Maass with 2:18 remaining completed the comeback for Cheney, which improved to 12-0 and will play fellow unbeaten Hayden, a 42-14 semifinal winner over Holton, for the 3A title on Saturday in Hutchinson.
Burdick completed 32 of 51 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Jackson Voth, who scored the game-winning touchdown and made a key defensive play in overtime in the teams’ first meeting, caught 19 passes for 142 yards and scored twice. He also foiled a fourth-down screen pass by Andale that set up the Cardinals’ winning drive.
“Way too similar,” Cheney coach Shelby Wehrman said of his team’s stirring rally, which closely mirrored the Cardinals’ revival after they trailed Andale 22-0 in the Oct. 13 game before winning 36-30 in overtime. “Why does it have to be this way?”
Andale, which lost for just the fourth time in seven seasons under coach Dylan Schmidt, dominated the first quarter and early minutes of the second. Sophomore Sam Harp hit junior Bo Kaiser for a 74-yard touchdown on the game’s fourth play. The Indians added to their lead with Harp’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Gage Prosser on a fourth-and-4 play.
After Cheney’s Grady Kuehn missed a 23-yard field goal in the opening minute of the second quarter, Harp rolled left two plays later and dashed 74 yards for a score and added the two-point conversion to make it 24-0.
“We had all kinds of wrinkles in based on what they did last time,” Schmidt said. “I thought our guys were getting off the ball. It looked like Andale football, and so I liked how we were rolling.”
Cheney’s comeback in the first meeting started with a late first-half touchdown drive. This time, the Cardinals got on track with a 20-play, 76-yard march that took more than nine minutes. Voth’s 2-yard touchdown run cut Cheney’s deficit to 24-7 at halftime.
“It felt very similar,” Voth said. “Going into the locker room, we were fine. We always say we’re a second-half team. Now do I wish we were a first-half team? Absolutely. But we went in there and there was no hanging heads because we know we’re resilient.”
Cheney, which ran 80 plays to Andale’s 39, took more than 5½ minutes off the clock with a 14-play drive to start the second half. Burdick’s 1-yard sneak cut Andale’s lead to 24-14.
The Cardinals got their first big break on Andale’s ensuing drive when senior Weston Hill jarred the ball loose from Harp and Cheney’s Drew Tolar recovered. Cheney then launched another marathon drive, converting on four fourth-down plays, the last of which was a roughing-the-passer call on the Indians.
Burdick and Voth hooked up for a 5-yard touchdown that completed the 19-play, 82-yard drive and cut the Cardinals’ deficit to 24-21.
Cheney got the ball back on its own 35 with 4:19 remaining after Voth thwarted Andale’s fourth-down screen pass. Burdick and Voth connected on three short passes that helped move the ball to Andale’s 33. On the next play, Andale was called for a late hit out of bounds after Burdick scrambled for 3 yards.
With the ball at Andale’s 15, Burdick hit Maass in the left flat, and the senior slipped a tackle on his way to the end zone to give Cheney its only lead of the game.
Andale’s final possession ended in four plays. Harp, who passed for 100 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 128 yards and a score, was unable to connect with Prosser on a fourth-down pass, setting off Cheney’s celebration.
“There was only one thing I challenged them at halftime with,” Wehrman said. “They’re winning like they are because they have more intensity, more drive. They’re playing like they want it more. Do you guys want it?
“I said if you guys want to win this game, you’ve got to figure it out. And they did.”
6A DERBY 29, WASHBURN RURAL 28
Derby’s hiatus from the 6A championship game ended at one season as senior Grady Jesseph booted a 25-yard field goal on the final play to knock off previously unbeaten Washburn Rural.
It was the second straight game-winning kick for Jesseph, whose 26-yarder with 37 seconds remaining lifted the Panthers over Manhattan in the quarterfinals.
Jesseph’s latest game-winner was a redemption kick after he missed a 23-yard attempt with 1:34 remaining and Derby trailing 28-26. But the Panther defense provided another opportunity, and Jesseph’s kick from the left hashmark sent Derby (11-1) to the title game for the ninth time in 11 seasons.
Quarterback Braxton Clark completed 23 of 33 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns for the Panthers, who trailed 28-13 in the fourth quarter after Rural’s Lafayette Thompson scored on a 30-yard run. Derby’s rally began with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Clark to Colton Ruedy.
Clark and Ruedy connected again on a 24-yard score that cut Rural’s lead to 28-26, but Derby missed the two-point conversion. Jesseph’s second-chance kick capped a 16-point fourth quarter for the Panthers.
Ruedy finished with nine receptions for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Derek Hubbard added 134 yards on 18 carries as Derby finished with 469 yards of total offense.
Thompson had a pair of touchdowns for Rural, which finished 11-1.
6A GARDNER EDGERTON 35, BLUE VALLEY 3
For the second straight year, Gardner Edgerton emphatically punched its ticket to the Class 6A state championship game with a dominating semifinal performance.
A year ago, the Trailblazers rolled past Olathe Northwest 56-7. On Friday, it was Blue Valley on the opposite end of a 35-3 Gardner victory.
After falling down 3-0 in the first quarter, Gardner completely controlled things the rest of the way. Bravin Powell got the Trailblazers on the scoreboard on a 3-yard run in the second quarter and then hit Randy Singleton for a touchdown with 38 seconds left in the half.
Singleton was finished, picking off a Blue Valley pass on the Tigers’ next offensive play, returning it for a touchdown to put the Trailblazers up 28-3 at halftime. Gardner tacked on a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to finish off the win.
The Trailblazers improved to 11-1 and are one win away from the program’s first-ever state title. Gardner fell 21-20 to Manhattan in double overtime in last year’s championship game.
Blue Valley’s upset run through the playoffs came to an end as the Tigers finished the season 7-5.
5A MILL VALLEY 48, BLUE VALLEY SOUTHWEST 47
With a fifth straight trip to the Class 5A state championship game in jeopardy, Mill Valley entered the fourth quarter trailing Blue Valley Southwest by two touchdowns and playing without the team’s top offensive weapon, senior running back Tristan Baker.
Senior quarterback Daniel Blaine and the Jaguars said no problem.
Blaine scored the final of his five touchdowns on the final play of the game, diving into the end zone for a 7-yard rushing touchdown as time expired to earn a 48-47 victory over the Timberwolves.
Blaine also scored a 13-yard rushing touchdown early in the quarter to pull his team within five points.
Blue Valley Southwest senior quarterback Dylan Dunn led his team on a six-minute drive after that. The Timberwolves nearly iced the game and looked like they would deny the Jaguars their chance at five-peat.
But Mill Valley’s defense forced Blue Valley Southwest into a fourth down at the Jaguars 34-yard line. The Timberwolves looked like they might attempt a field goal try after letting the clock run down as far as possible. But when they returned to the field following their final timeout, it was Dunn and the offense that returned for the fourth down try.
Dunn threw deep down the left sideline for the second straight play, but the Jaguars were able to deny the Timberwolves a first-down catch on both to get the stop.
With the help of a late-hit penalty on the Timberwolves defense, Mill Valley quickly marched down the field to set up a goal line opportunity in the final minute. Blaine had a touchdown run called back, eventually putting Mill Valley on a third and goal from the 6-yard line with 11 seconds remaining.
Blaine rolled out to the left, but ended up getting taken down to the ground in the process of throwing the ball. Blue Valley Southwest’s sideline begged for the refs to call the Jags’ QB down, but the play was ruled as an incomplete pass.
Now with three seconds remaining, the Jaguars opted for a similar QB rollout to the right side. This time, Blaine never hesitated as he decided to call his own number and take off toward the end zone. He saw his path narrow with a couple Blue Valley Southwest players closing in on him, but he found just enough room to dive past them and slide into the end zone.
When Blaine rolled over and raced the ball above his head, a sea of Jaguars players converged on top of him to celebrate the walk-off touchdown, sealing the team’s fifth straight state semifinals victory.
Blaine, who also scored two touchdowns in the first quarter to get the Jaguars out to an early two-score lead over Southwest, finished with 124 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He went 3 of 7 in the passing game for 98 yards and a passing touchdown.
Senior wide receiver Cooper Schreiber hauled in the one touchdown pass, taking his one catch 66 yards to the end zone, which gave the Jaguars a 21-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Baker led the team with 204 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, despite leaving the game with a leg injury a few minutes into the third quarter. The Jaguars lead 35-34 at that point.
Senior defensive back Walt Midyett led the Jaguars in tackles with 12 while junior defensive end Jayden Woods and sophomore defensive lineman Hayden Heller both recorded sacks.
For the Timberwolves, Dunn threw for 490 passing yards and five passing touchdowns with no interceptions.
5A KAPAUN MT. CARMEL 42, EISENHOWER 39
Kapaun held off a late charge by Eisenhower to earn its first 5A championship game berth since 1987 and ended the Tigers’ best season in their 12-year history.
Senior workhorse Omari Elias carried the ball 43 times for 259 yards and four touchdowns for the Crusaders, the No. 1 seed in 5A West. Kapaun (11-1) steadily built its lead to 42-17 early in the fourth quarter before Eisenhower rallied with a pair of Derek Morgan touchdown passes – one to Lucas Dickman and one to Canyon Meyer – and a 5-yard run by Dickman with 1:08 to play.
Kapaun recovered an onside kick to end the comeback.
Elias scored his first touchdown on a 5-yard run less than 3 minutes into the game and Kapaun never trailed. Henry Chrisman added a 5-yard touchdown run and Elias scored from the same distance late in the first half as the Crusaders led 21-10 at the break.
The Crusaders, who stretched their winning streak to nine games, built their margin with Elias’ TD runs of 32 and 7 yards in the third quarter, and a 51-yard scoring pass from senior Dylan Hamilton to Jackson Daniels with 11 minutes remaining.
Hamilton completed 5 of 8 passes for 127 yards.
Eisenhower, which won its first seven games of the season and finished 10-2, used its balanced offense to roll up 467 yards. Morgan completed 14 of 24 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns. Carter Pabst caught five passes for 119 yards and two TDs, and Dickman ran 30 times for 176 yards.
4A ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 42, TONGANOXIE 14
Aquinas earned its first state championship game appearance since winning the 2018 Class 5A state title, turning in a dominant first-half. The Saints led 42-0 at halftime before going scoreless in the second half.
Gianni Rizzi, who missed a big chunk of the season with an injury, returned with a bang, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. He had TD runs of 8 and 18 yards in the first quarter to get the Saints off to a fast start, his first score set up by a Tonganoxie fumble deep in its own territory.
Aquinas turned another Tonganoxie turnover into a touchdown when Cooper Wortman returned an interception 9 yards for a score early in the second quarter. That ignited a 28-point second quarter for the Saints with Cole Richardson and Gavin Middendorf each busting long TD runs – 57 yards for Richardson and 31 yards for Middendorf. Aiden Skinner mixed in a 14-yard TD pass to Joe Loughman.
Tonganoxie avoided the shutout with 14 fourth-quarter points, getting a 33-yard touchdown pass from Trevor McGraw to Isaiah Holthaus and Holthaus returning a punt 40 yards for a score.
The Chieftains finished the season 9-3 while Aquinas improved to 9-3.
4A ANDOVER CENTRAL 26, WAMEGO 7
Meeting in the playoffs for the third straight year, Andover Central avenged last year’s postseason loss to the Red Raiders with a convincing 26-7 road victory. It was the second time in three seasons the Jaguars topped Wamego in the semifinals, also beating the Red Raiders in 2021 to reach the 4A state title game for the third time in five years.
The previous two trips ended with runner-up finishes, to Bishop Miege in 2019 and to St. James Academy in 2021.
Andover Central clamped down on Wamego’s offense, holding the Red Raiders to just 67 yards rushing and 230 yards overall. The Jaguars only gained 283 yards in the game, but the defense was big, not only holding Wamego’s potent offense in check, but forcing four turnovers.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Andover Central took a 14-0 halftime lead on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Jace Jefferson to Landon Kitterman and a 3-yard Mason Archibald scoring run. After Wamego got its lone score on a 12-yard Thomas McIntyre run, the Jaguars answered with a 2-yard TD run from Archibald in the third quarter and a clinching 30-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson to Jace Adler in the fourth.
Jefferson threw for 170 yards with Kitterman having 119 yards receiving.3A TOPEKA HAYDEN 42, HOLTON 14
Finn Dunshee didn’t get a crack at Holton the first time Hayden met their Wildcat rivals in district play, missing the contest as he sat out six games with a knee injury.
He more than made up for it in Friday’s semifinal rematch.
Dunshee took his first carry of the game 65 yards for a touchdown and finished with four touchdowns overall as Hayden cruised to the state championship game for the first time since 2016. Dunshee ran for 129 yards overall and had Hayden’s first three touchdowns, also scoring on runs of 3 and 4 yards in staking the Wildcats to a 21-0 lead.
After being stymied on its first two drives, Holton finally got some life on a 57-yard scoring run by Bodie Dillon. But Hayden immediately responded with a 60-yard kickoff return touchdown by Jensen Schrickel.
Dillon scored on a 3-yard run to close Holton within 28-14 at halftime but Holton didn’t score in the second half and Hayden got a 28-yard touchdown pass from Connor Hanika to Schrickel on a screen pass and a 30-yarder from Hanika to Dunshee to finish things off.
Hanika threw for just under 100 yards and Hayden held Holton to just 156 yards.
2A NEMAHA CENTRAL 17, SABETHA 7
For just the second time all season, Nemaha Central found itself behind in a game, going down 7-3 to Sabetha in the first quarter after a 67-yard run by Colin Menold set up a 2-yard TD run by Chase Frey.
But the Thunder got a pair of short touchdown runs from Carter Hajek in the second quarter for a 17-7 halftime lead that held up after a scoreless second half.
Nemaha Central had shut out Sabetha 28-0 in their Week 8 meeting, the Thunder’s seventh straight shutout in a string of eight such games. The Thunder didn’t get a second shutout of their rivals in the semifinals, but still held Sabetha to just 242 total yards, including 196 on the ground.
Hajek finished with 226 yards rushing for the Thunder, who have won 25 straight games and are the defending 2A state champions.
Menold ran for 109 yards for Sabetha, which finished 10-2 – both losses coming to Nemaha Central.
2A HOISINGTON 30, NORTON 21
Hoisington knocked off its second straight undefeated opponent, pulling away from Norton in the final quarter.
The game was tied 21-21 before Hoisington scored the final nine points of the game, getting a touchdown with six minutes left to take the lead for good.
Tony Moore ran for 174 yards and threw for 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Teron Kraft ran for a touchdown. The Cardinals got a huge 75-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jason Robinson as time expired in the first half to tie the game 7-7.
Norton quarterback Eli Jones threw for 255 yards and a touchdown.
CONWAY SPRINGS 34, MEDICINE LODGE 19
Conway Springs’ single-wing rushing attack proved to be too much for Central Plains League counterpart Medicine Lodge this season.
After rolling up 438 yards in the teams’ regular-season meeting, Conway Springs churned out 469 yards to advance to a state championship game for the first time since it won the 3A title in 2011. Senior Brayden Kunz ran 39 times for 279 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinals won their 10thconsecutive game.
Isaac Winter added 135 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and also scored on an 84-yard kickoff return for Conway Springs. The Cardinals shut out Medicine Lodge in the second half, avoiding the drama they experienced when they held off the Indians 40-34 in their first matchup.
Winter’s 13-yard run less than two minutes into the game started the scoring for Conway Springs. Medicine Lodge answered late in the first quarter with a 68-yard touchdown pass from Ke’Veon Ruiz to Durham Nittler, but Winter took the ensuing kickoff and dashed down the left sideline to help the Cardinals regain the lead.
Kunz, who ran for a season-high 322 yards against Medicine Lodge in late September, helped Conway Springs build a 28-13 lead with scoring runs of 4 and 15 yards. His final touchdown – a 3-yard run – in the third quarter capped the scoring for both teams.
Ruiz completed 15 of 33 passes for 306 yards – his second 300-yard game of the season against the Cardinals. He had two touchdowns and two interceptions. Derrek Randels caught eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown for the Indians, who were trying to reach a state title game for the first time since 1987.
JEFFERSON COUNTY NORTH 20, ST. MARY’S COLGAN 13
Jefferson County North advanced to the first state championship game in program history, rallying from a 13-0 deficit to knock off No. 1 and previously undefeated Colgan.
The Panthers went up 13-0 early in the second quarter, getting a 9-yard touchdown run from Tucker Harrell in the first quarter and a 15-yard scoring run from Cooper Simmons in the second quarter.
But the Chargers shut down the Panthers the rest of the way, holding Colgan to just 165 total yards. North also came up with three turnovers with Connor Keirns picking off two passes, including one late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Ethan Noll got Jefferson North on the board with a short touchdown run just before halftime and a two-point conversion pass from Grady Noll to Connor Keirns made it 13-8 at halftime. A muffed punt early in the second half set up a go-ahed 2-yard touchdown run by Grady Noll and then North engineered a 13-minute drive spanning the third and fourth quarters capped by an 11-yard TD pass from Grady Noll to Calvin Manville on fourth down.
Grady Noll ran for 117 yards and Ethan Noll added 72 on the ground. The Chargers were 9 of 18 on third-down conversions and 4 oof 4 on fourth-down conversions.
Colgan finished the season 11-1.
EIGHT-PLAYER DIVISION I
LYNDON 52, CAIR PARAVEL 6
Lyndon made program history, reaching its first-ever state championship game with a dominating semifinal victory over a Cair Parevel team also looking for its first championship game berth.
The 12-0 Tigers had beaten Cair Paravel 58-30 earlier this season, but completely dominated the rematch. Lyndon led just 8-6 early in the first quarter, but shut out the Lions the rest of the way and ended the game via the 45-point mercy rule just 14 seconds into the second half on a 45-yard run by Jalen Massey.
It was Massey’s fourth touchdown of the game. He also started the scoring on a 3-yard run an caught a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes from Tanner Heckel on connections of 26 and 27 yards. Massey had a combined 162 yards rushing and receiving.
Heckel threw for 141 yards and the two touchdowns and also ran for 97 yards and two scores, touchdown runs of 1 and 5 yards in the first quarter as Lyndon led 22-6 at the end of the first period.
Lyndon’s defense came up with four turnovers, Casten Wirth returning one of his two interceptions 20 yards for a touchdown.
Cair Paravel ended the season with a 9-3 record.
WICHITA COUNTY 64, ELL-SALINE 28
Defending state champion Wichita County earned a shot at a second straight title with a romp past Ell-Saline, ending the Cardinals’ 10-game winning streak.
The Indians, meanwhile, are on a 25-game winning streak with Friday’s semifinal win one of only four games this season that went the distance. Wichita County has scored at least 50 points in 11 of 12 games and Friday’s 64-point outing was its seventh game of 60 or more this season.
Wichita County got it going quickly with three straight touchdowns to start the game, with a TD run and catch by Cashton Young sandwiching a 16-yard TD run by Wyatt Gardner. Ell-Saline’s Marshall Johnson ended the Indian run with a 43-yard TD pass to Joe Hiechel, but Wichita County answered with a 14-yard scoring run by Khris Hermosillo.
After another 41-touchdown pass from Johnson, Wichita County got TD runs from Gardner and Hermosillo to take a commanding 48-14 halftime lead.
Ell-Saline finished the season 10-2.
8-MAN 2 SOUTH CENTRAL 42, VICTORIA 20
South Central was unfazed by the 14-0 hole it found itself in against traditional power Victoria.
The Timberwolves scored the game’s next 28 points and stayed in control in the second half, securing their first trip to a state championship game.
South Central’s pressure up the middle and off the edge caused havoc all night for Victoria, which threw five interceptions and lost three fumbles.
“They kicked us right in the teeth (early). We bend but don’t break,” South Central coach Brett Westrup said. “Our guys have fought a lot of adversity this year. Nobody’s given us a chance all year. The boys kept working, kept fighting, kept plugging.”
Junior quarterback J.T. Prusa had a hand in all six touchdowns for the Timberwolves (9-3). Prusa ran for four scores and threw TD passes to Gavin Uhl and Isaiah Jellison.
Uhl helped ignite the Timberwolves by making a tremendous one-handed grab for a 39-yard touchdown catch to make it 14-6 with 2:35 left in the first quarter. South Central then seized the momentum when Jack Herd’s interception and return set up a 18-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Jellison, with Prusa running in the two-point conversion to tie it.
South Central largely dominated from there. The Timberwolves went in front for good after a 50-yard touchdown run from Prusa. South Central then came through with a fourth-down stop and pushed the lead to 28-14 on a 1-yard plunge from Prusa that was set up by a 16-yard catch by Uhl.
Victoria’s Seth Schwien made a spectacular catch for a 13-yard touchdown with 39 seconds left before halftime, but South Central kept the Knights out of the end zone in the second half, with Prusa adding two more touchdowns runs to help the Timberwolves pull away.
South Central will meet two-time reigning champion Axtell (12-0) in the Eight-Player Division II state championship game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Newton. The Eagles have the longest current winning streak in the state at 38 games.
Victoria finished 9-2.
8-MAN 2 AXTELL 52, FRANKFORT 6
The second meeting between Twin Valley League rivals Axtell and Frankfort went remarkably similar to the first as Axtell’s defense shut down Frankfort’s potent offense and the Eagles were efficient on offense, ending the game in the third quarter for the second time this year.
Landon Schmitz got Axtell going with a 65-yard touchdown run on the Eagles’ first possession. Brandon Schmelzle followed with a pair of touchdown runs of 2 and 15 yards and Eli Broxterman added a 3-yard scoring run as Axtell led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.
A pair of Schmelzle TD runs of 4 and 9 yards pushed the lead to 44-0 before Frankfort got its lone score of the game on Brock Armstrong’s 7-yard run at the end of the half. Schmelzle ended it early in the second half with his fifth TD run of the game.
He finished with 88 yards rushing and 141 passing, pacing a 351-yard night by the Eagle offense. Frankfort managed just 132 total yards with Wes Anderson throwing for 73.
Axtell extended the state’s longest active winning streak to 38 straight victories and will take on South Central as its looks to finish off a third straight undefeated state title.
Frankfort finished 9-3, two of its three losses to Axtell.
6-MAN CHEYLIN 66, ASHLAND 27
A monster game from Cheylin star Logan McCarty helped the Cougars race past Ashland and into the state championship game.
McCarty threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 118 yards and two TDs as Cheylin remained perfect at 12-0, beating Ashland for the second time this season.
Brady Ketzner and Pablo Bermudez enjoyed big receiving nights, with Ketzner hauling in seven passes for 176 yards for two touchdowns and Bermudez making four grabs for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
McCarty also intercepted two passes for the Cougars. McCarty, Ketzner and Bermudez each had nine tackles.
Cheylin will face reigning champion Cunningham (11-1) in the championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday in Dodge City.
Ashland, a state runner-up last year, finished 10-2.
6-MAN CUNNINGHAM 52, TESCOTT 6
Defending six-player champion Cunningham easily put itself in position for a second straight crown, finishing off Tescott by halftime of their semifinal.
Dagim Reed's 26-yard field goal supplied the victory-clinching points for the Wildcats, who have surrendered just 12 points since an opening-week loss to Ashland.
The Wildcats scored on their first offensive play and led 32-0 at the end of the first quarter. Senior fullback Jack Ruckle ran for two touchdowns and junior Luke Albers finished with a pair of TDs, one on a 46-yard pass from junior Will Wegerer.
Carter Peters scored on a 5-yard run for Tescott.