Ulysses (3-4) at Abilene (4-4)
Perhaps no other school in the state has endured more negative effects from the recent re-classification guidelines than the Ulysses Tigers. As the only Class 4A school on this side of the state, Ulysses has had a rough time even scheduling opponents. This year’s regular season schedule included Pittsburg, and trips to Labette County and Abilene.
They had just three homes game, and played just seven games total. Playing one game fewer than the maximum may have ended up hurting the Tigers entering the Class 4A playoffs, which begin Friday at Abilene — a re-match of a game from a week earlier.
The Tigers are the ninth seed in the West at 3-4, while Abilene is the eighth seed at 4-4. If Ulysses had an eighth game, and they won it, the Tigers could be as high as the fifth seed in the West based on point differential.
Regardless, now the Tigers have to hit the road to face the Cowboys for the second week in a row. Abilene got the 26-21 win in that one, intercepting Ulysses’ halfback pass at the goal line in the waning moments.
The Tigers are averaging 24.7 points per game and allowing 28.4. They’re helmed by senior quarterback Devin Walker, who is throwing for 158 yards per game. Abilene is managing just 18.4 points per game and allowing 26. The Cowboys are led by senior running back James Mayden’s 125.5 yards per game on the ground.
Beloit (5-3) at Hugoton (4-4)
Thanks to a 14-7 win over Holcomb in the regular season finale, the Eagles play host to Beloit at 7 p.m. Friday in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
Beloit, stuck behind both Scott City and Colby in District 8, is on a two-game winning streak and sports an offense scoring 32.3 points per game. The Trojans are led by a strong running attack, helmed by Tate Ahlvers’ 89 yards per game.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have perhaps hit another gear on offense with the return of Dawson Kerbow, who had broken his ankle earlier in the season before returning and running for 195 yards vs. Holcomb last week.
SW Heights (2-6) at Phillipsburg (8-0)
The Mustangs have a tall task in front of them in No. 3-ranked and undefeated Phillipsburg in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
The Panthers have yet to play a game decided by fewer than 28 points, as they’ve averaging 48.3 points per game and allowing fewer than 10.
Senior running back Treylan Gross leads the way with 123.3 rushing yards per game. The Mustangs, meanwhile, are led by quarterback Efren Mercado’s 1,039 rushing yards this season — 129.9 yards per game.
Meade (3-5) at Syracuse (4-3)
The Meade Buffaloes have four runners averaging between 40 and 80 yards per game on the ground, with Jarrett Stapleton leading the way with 79.0 yards per game and 11 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Syracuse is led by seniors Edgar Gonzalez (85.3 ypg, 6 TDs) and Reece Hart (63.4 ypg, 5 TDs).
Both teams enter the game fresh off a blowout win, as Meade routed Sublette, 49-14, while Syracuse dusted Stanton County, 38-8.
Sublette (0-8) at Elkhart (7-0)
Friday’s Class 1A state playoff game in Elkhart matches up the winless vs. the undefeated, as the Larks take on the Wildcats. The game is also a re-match from Sept. 14, when Elkhart blew out Sublette, 68-28.
Elkhart quarterback Lane Whisennand is a dynamic offensive threat, as he’s rushing for 187.6 yards per game, the sixth-best mark in the state of Kansas. He’s racked up 1,313 rushing yards on 122 carries, a 10.8 yard-per-carry average.
But Whisennand’s arm is also a threat — he’s completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 92.4 yards per game, with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.