High marks for MHS, area football teams

By Steve Sell
September 25, 2018

I don’t think I would have made a good teacher because I would have been too tough of a grader.

I wouldn’t hand out “A’s” like they were candy. In my classroom, you would have to earn it. There would be no teacher's pets on my watch.

But in grading the midterms of McPherson High and the area football teams I cover, it would be hard to give out any low grades so far.

It wasn’t that long ago when it was a struggle for our areas teams. But turnarounds abound, with this year Canton-Galva and Inman certainly engineering a winning culture. Winning breeds winning and hopefully these schools continue on their current path.

In fact, no prep football team I cover has a losing record. McPherson High and Smoky Valley have blazed to 4-0 starts, Canton-Galva, Inman and Little River are 3-1, while Moundridge and Hesston are 2-2.

• McPherson High — A 4-0 start was not unexpected. I knew if the Bullpups survived defensive-minded Salina South in the opener, they would be perfect at what is now the midway point of the eight-game regular season.

The Bullpups seemingly get better every week, the mark of a good team. I had no doubt they would flourish offensively and other than the first half against Salina South they have moved the ball at will.

But the defense has been beyond ferocious in what was supposed to be a rebuild. The front four, especially, is causing nightmares for opponents and the young lions at linebacker, all underclassmen, have exceeded expectations. I’m still waiting for the secondary to be tested as it hasn't faced a quality passer, but so far it has held up nicely.

If MHS can survive against arch-rival Buhler on the road Friday, it will finish 8-0 because Augusta, Rose Hill and Circle have a combined two wins.

• Grade — A.

• Smoky Valley — I worried going into the season about the Vikings replacing the likes of Shrine Bowler Kyle Anderson, as well as players like Riley Odell and Brett Heitschmidt.

But coach Tim Lambert’s team has been overwhelming, except for a narrow escape against Nickerson. It plays very physical, with the offensive and defensive lines ruling up front.

The Viking defense has been nails, giving up just two touchdowns on the year. It held high-scoring Hesston off the board and All-Stater Parker Roth to just 14 yards rushing. Haven didn't even have positive yards for the game, finishing at minus-13.

The Vikes shouldn’t have much trouble this week with Clay Center, but back-to-back slugfests with Chapman and Halstead loom. Rock Creek should be an easier game in Week 8, but it has played Smoky tough in the past.

• Grade — A.

• Canton-Galva — Things didn’t start well for the Eagles with a lopsided loss to Little River, but it’s been smooth sailing ever since. And remember, there's nary a senior on the team, so what you see this year will be the same team next year.

C-G’s offense has caught fire since starting the year down 20-0 in Week 1. Landon Everett is putting up insane numbers as triggerman of the no-huddle attack. The defense is still a work in progress, but it just has to hold the fort while the offense scores unabated.

The schedule sets up favorably. The potential stumbling block is Week 7 at home against Solomon, but C-G rates a good chance to finish the regular season 7-1.

Grade — A.

• Inman — Coming off an 0-9 season, I thought the 2018 opener could set the tone for the Teutons.

Down 30-10 to Belle Plaine in the third quarter, they came back to win in overtime.

An expected loss to powerful Trinity followed, but the Teutons have put it in an extra gear the last two weeks and Matt Ramey was All-World last week with a 350-yard, 7-touchdown performance.

The next 4 weeks will certainly test the Teutons. I think they’ll probably go 2-2 as Ell-Saline and Sedgwick will be difficult.

Still, from where they came from, it’s certainly been a turnaround season.

• Grade — A.

• Little River — The Redskins raced to three decisive wins, then saw where the bar is set in 8-Man football.

They hung tough early, but Central Plains methodically dominated the rest of the way.

Still, 3-1 at the halfway point is what I saw they would be. Pratt-Skyline, Macksville and Moundridge should all be competitive games coming up with St. John a probable walkover.

I’m really curious about the Week 8 game with Moundridge. Should be a dandy.

Grade — B +.

• Moundridge — The Wildcats are 2-2, with the losses to respected programs Bennington and Solomon. 

The second half looks competitive, with St. John the sure thing, while Macksville and Little River are toss-ups, with Central Plains lurking in Week 7.

The Wildcats have adjusted nicely to the 8-Man game and have shown a penchant for playing better in the second half of games. It would be interesting if they could put two halves together.

Grade — B.

• Hesston — I had to grade the Swathers on a bit of a curve since so much of their season was predicated on Cameron Cox and Parker Roth.

Cox finally played his first game last week against Smoky Valley, so he was understandably rusty, not to mention he was operating against a Viking defense that has been tough as a frozen steak. Roth missed Game 3 with a concussion and was obviously not still in top form last week.

Hesston is 2-2, but it's been its wont in recent years to start slow and come on strong. When it made the state title game in 2016, it started the year 2-3, so I won't give up on them.

When looking at the second half, it's a tough stretch with Halstead, Rock Creek and Chapman, with Week 8 perhaps a breather with Clay Center.

Hesston won't be in the playoff talk when talking about the loaded Class 3A, but it will still be a tough out.

Grade — B-minus.