The good news for Smoky Valley’s Vikings is that they qualified for the Class 4A Division II football playoffs.
The bad news is their reward is a Friday trip to Andale, which has been the prohibitive favorite since Day One to win the state championship as the Indians have nine straight victories, including wins over Division I playoff teams Buhler and McPherson.
Game time is 7 p.m.
The Vikings take a 5-4 record into the contest while the Indians’ only close game came early in the season against Wichita Collegiate, 34-28. Since then, it’s been Steamroll City.
Smoky Valley has been led by versatile quarterback Cole Norberg, who has rushed for 1,412 yards and 16 touchdowns. Aaron Taylor has added 420, while Kaj Sjogren has seen his time increase due to an injury to Taylor and averages nearly 6 yards a carry.
Greg Elvin and freshman Riley O’Dell have been the defensive leaders with 72 and 71 tackles, respectively. Brandon Archuleta has three interceptions, while Norberg is one of the state’s top defensive backs.
Andale relies on a pounding ground game, with Hank Eck the rushing leader as he has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark.
The winner plays the winner of Concordia and Pratt the following Friday.
• Trinity Catholic at Hesston — This promises to be one of the best first-round matchups in Class 3A on Tuesday.
The Swathers rolled through the regular season undefeated at 9-0 and no team played them within single digits. Hesston’s Grant Raleigh has had a sensational year with more than 1,000 yards both rushing and passing. He pounded out 178 yards on the ground and threw for 238 last week in the district championship game against Southeast of Saline. He has a terrific trio of receivers in Tyler McCartney, Scott Duerksen and Zach Esau.
Trinity is 8-1, its only loss coming in its final game to district champion Halstead, 24-21.
Hesston must find a way to slow down the Celtics’ David Thibault, who ran for a touchdown and returned kickoff for another score last week. Elias Jasso-Cardenas is another threat out of the backfield and the offense is directed by Brendan Miller, who scored Trinity’s other touchdown, which at the time gave it a 21-8 lead, only to see the Dragons breathe fire with a huge comeback.
The winner of this game plays Saturday against the winner of Wichita Collegiate and Conway Springs, maybe the other most high-profile game of the night.
• Little River at Pratt Skyline — The Redskins routed Solomon on the final night of the season to claim the No. 2 spot in their district.
Little River takes a 6-3 record into the game, while Pratt Skyline is 8-1.
The game features two terrific runners, Grant Harvey for Little River and Dustin Weber for the T-Birds. Harvey rushed for more than 200 yards last week against Solomon, while Weber has 1,396 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season.
Neither team throws it a lot, so it should be a game that’s decided in the trenches.
The winner plays the winner of Oberlin-Ness City on Saturday.