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Newton ventures to Liberal for first round of 5A-West playoffs
The two schools will meet on the gridiron for just the sixth time in history.
For just the sixth time in Kansas high school football history, Newton will take on Liberal, this matchup in the first round of the 5A-West playoffs. The Railers enter as the 14th seed, Redskins as the third seed.
“They’ve had a turnaround this year,” Newton head coach Greg Slade said about Liberal on this week’s Railer Report Coach’s Show. “We know they like to pass the ball on offense and they play solid defense. It’s a good opportunity for us to play a team we haven’t seen yet.”
Newton is 3-5 and coming off a 55-7 loss to seven-win Derby at Riverfront Stadium to close out its regular season. The Redskins took care of winless Ulysses, 57-37, to go 7-1 and clinch their best regular season since 2004.
Here’s what you need to know about this week’s win-or-go-home showdown.
Location: Redskin Field (Liberal)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Weather: 50 degrees. Clear. 0% chance of rain.
Spread (via the Esch Index): Liberal (-18)
What’s at stake?
With a win, Newton would advance in the playoffs for the first time in 21 years — when the Railers defeated Winfield under head coach Brent Glann in 2002 by a 41-0 margin. For Liberal, a victory would see the Redskins move on to the second round of the bracket for the first time since 2004 — when they beat Topeka Highland Park 24-14.
Newton is currently riding a two-game winning streak against Liberal with triumphs over the Redskins in 2008 (37-24) and 2009 (32-9).
As Slade mentioned on the Coach’s Show, how Newton’s secondary holds up against a fierce Liberal passing attack — which ranks seventh across all 5A teams with 214.9 yards per game through the air — will determine how well the Railers can stay within striking distance of their opponent. It’s also worth noting the return of Logan Buchanan to a defensive line that hopes to put pressure on Liberal signal-caller J. Brooks Kappelmann.
Conversely, the Redskins have the 16th-ranked defense in 5A, providing a bit of optimism for a reeling Newton offense. When asked if the Railers are confident in quarterback Colby Gomez’s health: “That’s the plan,” Slade said. Ryder Mapes will also return as the starting running back.
Players to watch
Newton: CB Titan Claussen. The senior has been quiet over the past few weeks for a variety of reasons, but will now be given the chance to step up for a Railer secondary that will be asked to do a lot in this game.
Liberal: WR Zayden Martinez. Kappelmann’s fellow senior has been the quarterback’s favorite target all season, and the Redskins will likely look to establish his presence early and often against a vulnerable Newton backend.
Facts and figures
In five previous games since 1974, Newton is 2-3 against Liberal with wins in the two most recent meetings in 2008 and 2009. … Newton is entering this contest on a two-game losing streak. Liberal enters after a bounceback win following a 48-41 double-overtime loss to Hays on Oct. 13. … In 2023, Newton is averaging 16.63 points per game. Liberal is averaging 36.13.
Newton’s highest Esch Index-rated opponent this season is Derby (fifth). Liberal’s highest Esch Index-rated opponent this season is Great Bend (29th).
Esch Index projection: Liberal 38, Newton 20