Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 12/13
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
What a year for Kansas Class 6A
There’s a sign that sits on the end on the West side of Olathe. It welcomes all visitors to the “City of Champions.”
For years, it’s been a beacon for weary travelers and a feather in the cap of Olathe North football fans everywhere. Oh, sure it’s not just about football championships, but for the better part of the last decade and a half, the sign has been for those “other” sports for everyone besides Olathe North. It was for the South soccer team or the East track team or the Northwest gymnastics team.
Until this year.
As Olathe South celebrates its 30th anniversary, they can also celebrate their first-ever football state championship, thanks to an epic 41-37 win over Wichita Heights.
Falcon fans can now drive past that sign with the same sense of pride all of those North football fans have had over the last 15 years.
Yep, South reached the summit, capping one of the wildest high school football seasons I can remember.
When September dawned, no one really knew who was going to be the team to beat.
There were several contenders, but no real, clear-cut favorite.
The names that everyone talked about were the usual suspects. There was eight-time champion Olathe North, perennial power Olathe East, dark horse Blue Valley Northwest and even some thought Shawnee Mission East might make another run. Oh, and there was everyone’s sleeper — Olathe South.
North shot out of the gates 5-0 with a season-opening win over Olathe East. They puttered to the finish line, though, going 0-4 over the season’s final month and missed the playoffs entirely.
East bounced back nicely from their week No. 1 loss and won seven straight before losing the season finale to South. They got a rematch three weeks later for the right to play for the state title.
Blue Valley Northwest had the most up-and-down ride of them all. They hid in the weeds for the first six games before ambushing South in the district opener. Considered one of the hottest teams in the state entering the tail end of districts, they missed the playoffs as well, thanks to a cut-throat district and the tie-breaker system.
Shawnee Mission East cruised along through a relatively easy district and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
All in all, the early-season picks were relatively spot on.
But it was he sleeper that made the most noise.
After that loss to Northwest in week 7, the Falcons won six straight to capture their first-ever state title.
But aside from the amazing Class 6A state championship game, the biggest eye opener in 2011 was the fact that you never knew who might show up each week.
It made for the most exciting season I can remember.
Trying to make predictions about who would win and why was tougher than ever before and it may never be so tough again.
And South finally came out on top.
“It took a long time, but this is why I came here,” South head coach Jeff Gourley said. “Olathe South deserves this and these kids deserve this.”
Well, I guess it’s safe to say they aren’t a sleeper anymore.
And now, the questions begin.
What will 2012 bring?
Who will pick up the 1,700 yards that South’s Jordan Ward ran for in 2011? Will BV Northwest finally break through in Class 6A? Who will be the next coach at Olathe North.
And just when you think you might have a grip on everything, Gardner-Edgerton and Hutchinson make the move to 6A next year.
Man, this is going to be fun.
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