Wide margins of victory were the norm in the six-man quarterfinals last week, with three of the four games being decided by at least 42. Only Stratton/Liberty’s 72-43 victory over Branson/Kim fell below that mark. With the top four teams in the bracket advancing to this weekend’s semifinal round, the contests are expected to be significantly closer. The games for this round are listed in bracket order.
#4 FLEMING WILDCATS (11-0) AT #1 KIT CARSON WILDCATS (10-0)
Fleming enters the semifinal round averaging just under 58 points a game, the lowest per game output of the four teams left standing. The Wildcats scored a 66-6 victory over North Division rival Prairie last Friday, Kade Comstock hit on eight of 15 passes for 128 yards and three scores, with Eric Resendiz (4/79/2) and Chris McAnally (3/29/1) being his favored targets. Brandon Williams and Charles Hobbs each rushed for two touchdowns, and Nolan Japp added one score on the ground in the fourth quarter. Brady Kuntz was credited with a safety, an interception returned for a TD, and half of a sack, while leading the Wildcats with nine tackles. Peter Betley got credit for the other half of that sack.
On the season, Comstock has thrown for 893 yards and 22 touchdowns, with only two interceptions. Williams leads the offense with 1118 yards and 23 touchdowns in the ground game, while Hobbs (568 yards, 8 TD) and Chris Goss (427 yards, 7 TD) have combined for close to 1000 yards. Resendiz is clearly the top target for Comstock, as his tallies of 27 receptions, 401 yards, and 13 touchdowns all nearly match the next three receivers in each category. Defensively, Williams is tops with 111 tackles, with Kuntz (91) nearing the century mark. Kuntz also has a team-high 5.5 sacks, followed by Betley with 4.5. Fleming’s defense has recorded 38 takeaways this season, with Resendiz responsible for eight of them. Comstock and Williams each have six, and Goss has five. Kuntz is a weapon in the return game, taking five kicks back for touchdowns.
Kit Carson’s offense comes into this round averaging right at 59 points a game, and last week’s 69-14 win over Eads marked the fifth time this season the Wildcats have scored at least 60 points in a contest. They had 40 on the board in the first quarter. Joe Bryan and Jayden McCombs-Farmer each had a pair of rushing touchdowns for Kit Carson in that victory, with Bryan posting a team-leading 94 yards in the ground game. McCombs-Farmer also caught a TD pass from Cordell Farmer. Defensively, he was one of the standouts, recording three sacks and a 30-yard fumble return for a score. The Wildcats would return three of four recovered fumbles for touchdowns, with Bryan and Sullivan Farmer being the other two with a scoop-and-score on the day. Kit Carson nearly had as many yards on fumble returns (159) as Eads had on offense (177).
Sullivan Farmer has been the primary passer for the Wildcats, throwing for a team-high 626 yards and 14 touchdowns against only two interceptions on the season. Cordell Farmer (159 yards, 2 TD) and Brett Mayhan (83 yards, 4 TD) have been effective in their limited attempts. Four different ball carriers have gained more than 350 yards on the season, led by McCombs-Farmer with 954 yards and 22 touchdowns. Bryan (461/7), Paul Mitchek (390/7), and Cordell Farmer (360/3) complete the group. McCombs-Farmer is the leading receiver on the year, checking in with 16 receptions for 322 yards and nine touchdowns, while Cordell Farmer has added 12 catches for 226 yards and six TDs. Those two also lead the defense, with 83 and 77 tackles, respectively. The defense has registered 36 takeaways, with Bryan securing a team-best six. Sullivan Farmer and Cordell Farmer each have five. The Wildcats have a total of 12 non-offensive touchdowns so far.
The two squads of Wildcats met in the quarterfinals last season with Kit Carson picking up a 54-22 victory. Comstock had a good day throwing the ball, hitting 19 of 26 passes for 218 yards and two scores, with one pick, but Fleming could not get the ground game established. They only managed to gain 63 yards on 26 attempts. Meanwhile, Kit Carson had no such issues, as Bryan piled up 267 yards and four TDs, and the team tallied 330 yards and six scores on 34 attempts. Kuntz showed his explosiveness in the return game, taking a kick back 75 yards for a touchdown. The programs also met 25 years earlier, in the first round of the 1993 state playoffs. Fleming won that meeting 45-20 and went on to finish second in six-man.
#2 STRATTON/LIBERTY KNIGHTED EAGLES (10-1) AT #3 CHEYENNE WELLS TIGERS (10-1)
The top scoring offense in the classification topped 70 points for the third time this season, as Stratton/Liberty posted a 72-43 victory over Branson/Kim last week. Zeke Craig tossed a pair of TD passes, both to Trevor Frank, tallying 177 yards on six of eight passing. Frank averaged 32 yards on his four receptions, and added 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Jaret Lichty led the Knighted Eagles with 169 yards and four touchdowns rushing, and the junior also returned a kick-off for a touchdown. Defensively, he recorded a game-high 22 tackles, 19 of them solo. Charlie Clapper joined Frank and Craig with a dozen stops apiece, and Braden Wedel was perfect on his nine PAT kicks. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Knighted Eagles, as they lost three fumbles and allowed 449 yards (236 passing, 213 rushing) to the Bearcats.
Craig has completed just under 70% of his passes on the season, throwing for 664 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception since the first game of the year. Despite missing that first game, Lichty has rushed for 1433 yards and 29 touchdowns, and Frank has been a solid complement, recording 1042 yards and 18 TDs. Clapper has made the most of his opportunities, adding 616 yards and 12 scores on only 40 carries. Frank is the top receiving option, hauling in 16 passes for 335 yards and eight TDs, with Tyler Hase (10/123/2) being the only other player in double figures in receptions. Lichty (107) and Frank (98) have combined for more than 200 tackles, and Alex Cruz has five fumble recoveries and two kick returns for touchdowns. Wedel has 23 touchbacks on kickoffs and is 52 of 64 on PATs.
With four games this season having scored at least 70 points, Cheyenne Wells has an offense that is second only to this week’s opponent. The Tigers, who average more than 59 points a game, led North Park 48-8 through three quarters last week and finished with a 56-14 victory. They saw their rushing game stymied by the Wildcats, totaling only 58 yards on 17 attempts, but the passing game rose to the occasion. Kyle Nelson threw for 194 yards and four TDs, and Quade Pelton added 52 yards and a score through the air. Cade Mitchek and Preston Hernandez each had two receiving touchdowns, and Pelton added a touchdown as a receiver and a runner. He led the squad with 53 rushing yards. While Mitchek (21 tackles, one interception) and Pelton (19 tackles, one interception) combined for 40 stops and two picks, Dillon Ball might have made the biggest impact for the Tiger defense. The sophomore had 13 tackles, three sacks, and a fumble returned for a touchdown. Like his opposing kicker in this week’s semifinal, Pelton was perfect on his PAT kicks, nailing all seven of his tries.
Nelson is closing in on a 1000 yard season as a passer, entering the contest with 967 yards and 21 touchdowns, and Pelton has added 436 yards and 11 TDs. Mitchek is the team leader in receptions, posting 28 catches, 558 yards, and nine touchdowns. Hernandez has turned 10 of his 16 catches into touchdowns, while Pelton and Evan Worley each have more than 10 catches and 200 yards, and both have five touchdowns. Pelton (1213 yards, 24 TD) and Mitchek (887 yards, 19 TD) have a combined 2100 yards and 43 touchdowns as runners. Six Tigers have at more than 60 tackles, led by Pelton (168) and Mitchek (102). Worley (90), Nelson (73), Hernandez (67), and Ball (66) round out the group. Mitchek has recorded seven of the team’s 34 takeaways, while Pelton and Hernandez each have six. The Tigers have scored 11 non-offensive touchdowns, six on fumble recoveries (four by Ball).
This is the third time in the last four years that the Knighted Eagles and Tigers have met in the semifinals. Cheyenne Wells won 64-30 in 2016 and Stratton/Liberty returned the favor the following year, 46-14. The winning team went on to finish second each time. If Kit Carson wins, the Wildcats would host the title game next Saturday, regardless of how this game turns out. However, if Fleming wins the top half of the bracket, the winner of this contest would be the host.