By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The St. Mary’s-Colgan Panthers know this isn’t the same Humboldt Cubs team they faced a year ago.
It’s not the same team they beat 43-0 at Hutchinson Field, and it’s definitely not the same team that finished the season winless.
Rest assured, a much improved Humboldt (8-2) is set to face Colgan (7-3) in the second round of the Kansas Class 3A playoffs at 6 tonight at Hutchinson Field in Pittsburg.
“They’re a talented team,” Colgan coach Chuck Smith said. “I remember them from all the athletes they had in track last year. Watching them on film, I thought their quarterback did a nice of picking his receivers out. They’re a good football team.”
Humboldt coach K.B. Criss said the school has always had athletes but that it hasn’t always been able to get them to go out for football.
“This is the first year we’ve had really big interest in football,” Criss said. “They’ve really bought in. They’re really starting to enjoy it.
“We had some good athletes who solely focused on one or two sports. We got them to come out for football and get interested. It has been a pleasure to watch them develop as football players.”
Tanner McNutt, who was the state’s top finisher in the 800 meters and medaled in four events at the state meet, has developed into Humboldt’s top receiver with 27 catches for 695 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nathan Whitcomb, a pitcher who led the Cubs to a third-place finish at state baseball last year, now directs the Humboldt offense and has passed for almost 2,300 yards and 31 touchdowns. Noah Thornbrugh, a 6-foot-6 post who produced 17.2 points per game for the basketball team, has become a key target with 20 receptions for 477 yards and nine touchdowns.
“They started getting involved last year and we took our lumps,” Criss said. “We had to play Lyndon, Colgan, Olpe, Caney Valley and Neodesha. We had a very tough schedule, but it made us better in the end. It’s been kind of a neat story.”
Humboldt’s only losses have been 33-23 to Neodesha and 56-27 to Caney Valley. The Cubs are coming off a 48-6 first-round playoff win against Central Heights.
The Panthers also bring a different team than the one that shut out Humboldt last year. Colgan entered this season with only one starter returning from last year’s 2-1A state semifinal team.
However, Criss said he isn’t expecting anything different from the Panthers.
“Colgan’s Colgan,” he said. “They’re a very talented and well coached team. They’re athletic. They’re smart.”
The Panthers lost consecutive games to Frontenac and Girard midway through the season but have won four of their past five, including a 34-20 first-round win against Neodesha.
Colgan has shown the ability to throw and run with quarterback Dyson Dechant and running back Conner Dayton.
“They have a real fast tailback that you have to keep contained,” Criss said. “They throw the ball well. They’re probably more balanced than they have been in a long time.”
The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the quarterfinals against Rossville (9-1) or Sabetha (5-5).
Girard at Chanute
The Girard Trojans (9-1) will travel to face the Chanute Blue Comets (6-4) for a 7 p.m. kickoff today in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Girard uses its wishbone offense to rush for more than 300 yards per game. Chanute brings a more balanced approach with 167 yards per game on the ground and 144 per game through the air.
Chanute held on for a 13-7 win at Paola on Tuesday.