skip navigation

Crabtree's Take, Nov. 17

By Jeremy Crabtree, ESPN, 11/17/16, 12:00PM CST


ESPN's Jeremy Crabtree previews playoff games!

810 Varsity Live
+Log on to @810Varsity on Twitter at 6:15 p.m. Friday night for a special playoff edition of 810 Varsity Live with Tim Spoerl and Jeremy Crabtree. The guys will be streaming from our 810 Game of the Week – SM East at Blue Valley – and will have an in-depth breakdown of the Kansas 6A semifinal with special guests from both schools. They’ll also be available to answer any of your questions about the big game or any other of the key matchups across the city. Remember to log on to @810Varsity on Twitter at 6:15 Friday night.


Game of the Week – No. 5 SM East (10-1) at No. 1 Blue Valley (11-0)
Kansas Class 6A sub-state (semifinals)
The game months in the making is finally here. After almost an entire season of buildup, top-ranked Blue Valley hosts SM East in a battle of two of the most dominating teams in the Sunflower State.

Blue Valley has blown through the Eastern Kansas League, the most competitive league in the state, without too many hiccups and winning games by an average of 27.5 points. And outside of a bad half of football against Rockhurst and a one-point victory over Gardner-Edgerton in the playoffs, SM East has been just as dominating, winning games by a margin of more than 40 points.

The key in this game will be to see which team can slow the other’s offense down, even if it’s just a  little bit.

The Tigers have put up 4,951 yards of total offense, average more than 450 yards a game and have a balanced attack highlighted by quarterback and Simone Award semifinalist Matt Dercher. The 6-foot, 167-pound senior quarterback has thrown for 2,717 yards and 30 touchdowns with only four interceptions, and he has plenty of weapons to work with, including Otis Taylor Award semifinalist Harrison Van Dyne at receiver and 1,300-yard rusher Will Evans.

On the flip side, the Lancers’ attack has been even more unstoppable with more than 5,500 yards of total offense and almost 500 yards a game of total offense. SM East uses a stable of offensive playmakers like Nigil Houston, Milton Braasch, and Sunflower League player of the year Trevor Thompson to light up the scoreboard. The Lancers have been so good on offense they’ve only punted the ball 11 times all season.

The one difference between the two teams is that Blue Valley has played a little bit better defense this season and only gives up about 15 points a game. However, the only time Blue Valley faced an option attack like they’ll see Friday night was against St. Thomas Aquinas late in the season, and the Saints were able to put up 35 points on them with a backup running back and a banged up quarterback. That being said, the Tigers still won that game by two touchdowns, so it’ll be important for the Lancers to find a way to slow down the Tigers on offense somehow. 


Missouri Class 6 finals
Kirkwood (11-1) vs. Blue Springs (11-2) 7 p.m. Friday at Faurot Field 
Kirkwood has won 11 straight since dropping its season opener to Chaminade. It defeated Rockhurst 24-17 in last week’s semifinals by playing tremendous run defense, and the Pioneers will need to do it again this week if they want to beat a Wildcat team that is running all over opponents. 

Blue Springs’ running game has racked up 1,209 yards and 23 touchdowns and the offense is averaging 47 points in four playoff victories. Running back Michael Warmack has caught fire after missing the first five games of the season, dynamic junior running back Jaylen Ivey has returned after an ankle injury and the offensive line is playing its best ball of the season.


Coach Kelly Donohoe feels his team is peaking at the right time, and it’s hard to disagree. Yet, this still might be one of his best coaching jobs ever, considering all the injuries and distractions they’ve had to go through all season. Kirkwood will be tough, but look for the Wildcats to capture their third state championship since 2012.


Kansas 5A substate
No. 19 Mill Valley (7-4) at No. 17 St. Thomas Aquinas (8-3)
Both teams have caught fire the perfect time, but it’s Aquinas that enters as the hotter team. The Saints have won their three playoff games by an average of 30 points and quarterback Will Swanson and running back Drew Hicks have been unstoppable during that stretch. Last week against No. 2 seed Topeka Seaman, Hicks rushed for 131 yards on 11 carries and two scores, while Swanson had 253 yards of total offense and three total touchdowns. Mill Valley, the defending Class 5A state champions, has been up-and-down this season, finishing with a .500 record in its first year in the EKL, but the Jaguars have now won four straight and are rolling in the playoffs behind the play of quarterback Brody Flaming, wide receiver Ben Hartman and linebacker Josh Winscott. 

The two teams met earlier this season with Aquinas winning 40-33 on a last-second touchdown pass. The second round should be just as competitive and could go either way, as the winner will have likely found just enough defense to slow down their opponent’s high-octane offense.


Missouri Class 5 semifinals
No. 6 Staley (10-2) at St. John Vianney (7-5) 7 p.m. Friday at Vianney

The Falcons have been riding the hot hand of running back Julian Ross, another Simone Award semifinalist, and he’s put Staley on his back. Last week against a good Park Hill South team, Ross had 180 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and he has 439 yards and eight scores in three playoff games. He’ll be expected to carry the load again this week against a Vianney team that entered the playoffs with a losing record before reeling off three wins to reach the semifinals. The Falcons should be able to end that winning streak and advance to next week’s championship game in Springfield.

Kansas 4A-DI substate
No. 14 Basehor-Linwood (11-0) vs. No. 4 Bishop Miege (10-1)
The question all season long has been whether somebody would be able to beat Bishop Miege in the Class 4A-DI ranks, and Basehor-Linwood will be the toughest test the Stags will face in the playoffs. The Bobcats have several playmakers on both sides of the ball, including quarterback and Fontana Award semifinalist Justin Phillips and receiver-defensive back Eric Scott, that makes this an intriguing matchup. Basehor has outscored its opponents 511-135 and have yet to play a close game, but it has yet to face an opponent that’s on the same level as Miege. The Stags have the most dynamic offense in the city, led by Simone Award semifinalist and Missouri receiver commitment Jafar Armstrong, and Fontana semifinalists Carter Putz and Landry Weber. It’s been a magical season for the Bobcats, but look for the Stags march on to the state championship game.