I’ve been using a term to describe teams this year more and more and I wonder what it means to people when they hear it.
The term is middle class and I’ve used it to describe several teams on both sides of the state line. Mostly I’ve used it to describe teams in the Eastern Kansas League and the Sunflower League, but it applies to teams on both sides of the state line as well.
Some might find this derogatory because it implies a football program isn’t elite. These days if you aren’t elite then people think you are crap. There is no in between for a lot of fans. If a team isn’t going undefeated or suffering only one loss, then there is something wrong.
While professional sports give us the goal of winning a championship as the only measuring stick, high school sports can offer lots of ways to gage the success of a team or school.
One of the great things about high school football in both Kansas and Missouri is teams are put into classifications of like sized schools so even if they are in a conference that may feature teams bigger than them, they play with their own size in the postseason.
Let’s look at the EKL in the 10 seasons PrepsKC has been in existence. In 2010 Blue Valley and Gardner-Edgerton were the elite of the conference. The teams played in a memorable Kansas Class 5A semifinal game won by Blue Valley 45-42 when Bubba Starling was quarterbacking Gardner-Edgerton.
When that game took place Blue Valley North was struggling to win games and Blue Valley West finished with one win. The middle of the league featured a 6-3 St. Thomas Aquinas and a 6-4 Bishop Miege. Here we are 10 years later and it’s the Saints and Stags that are on top.
While Miege and Aquinas are coming off state championship seasons and seem to be poised to do it again the middle class of the EKL is nothing to look down on. Mill Valley isn’t that far removed from back to back state championships, Blue Valley was in the 6A title game in 2016 and Blue Valley North was there last year after winning the 6A title in 2017.
That’s a strong middle class to say the least. Those are good programs that compete all season long and deep into the postseason.
The Sunflower League has seen its middle class grow over the years as well. Lawrence Free State along with Shawnee Mission East and Olathe North have been near or at the top the last few years but those teams right behind them are also strong.
Last year Gardner-Edgerton took a big step forward and now look like a team that can win the league. In the last few seasons Olathe South, Shawnee Mission South and Shawnee Mission Northwest have had success as well.
Just because a school may have two, three or four losses doesn’t mean its crap. It means it plays in a good league and it will be tough at the end of the season.
So if you hear me call you middle class be proud it means you are good. It also means those at the top probably don’t want to play you either.